Floating in a Sea of No Cares

By Ruth Davenport

Even through the static generated by a temperamental phone mike, Darrell Power’s zeal for his hometown, his day job and his country are clear.

"I don’t think any of us are about to go paddling off to buy a condo in Florida," affirms the thirtysomething native of Outer Cove, Newfoundland. "We’re too enamoured with the fogburn."

Fogburn? Was that a garble I should attribute to interference? Nay, says Power.

"Fogburn is that lovely tone your skin gets in too much fog-makes your cheeks really red," he confirms, and through the loud hum I distinctly hear a chortle. It occurs to me that I’m being had.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise. Power is one-fourth of the greatest thing to come out of Newfoundland since cod tongue, as a member of the unadulteratedly exuberant folk band Great Big Sea. Since their formation back in 1993, the band has released five studio albums, with the latest, Sea of No Cares, due out on Feb. 19. Throughout their busy nine-year career, GBS’ various undertakings have always been punctuated
with a trademark whimsy, to say nothing of old-fashioned whoopin’ hollerin’ just-plain-fun music

"We want to play music that makes people feel good-that just makes people feel," says Power firmly. "That’s our first and foremost job. And we all totally love what we’re doing."

It’s the fun, says Power, that keeps them going and makes GBS what it is. He even demonstrates a solid grasp of the "fun" concept by offering to sing all his answers to me. I reluctantly decline, in light of both technical difficulties and my own desire to pick his brain a bit more before he zips off to his next interview. Our conversation swiftly turns to the latest album, a landmark for GBS for a number of reasons.

"Other projects, we’ve managed to crank out in three weeks," says Power. "This one, we were able to start when we had time to record in the winter, do a lot of touring in the summer and finish in September. It was really nice to get that second look, to have time to do what we wanted."

Along with the increased time taken for recording, Sea of No Cares features a slightly different, more experimental sound.

"There’s a little electric guitar, some electric bazouki [[what kind of instrument is this?]] and some mandolin for some different colour," explains Power. "In a sense, it’s a bit more experimental, but at the same time, we’re still playing music that makes people feel good."

GBS will soon embark on a whirlwind mini-cross-country tour-nine shows in 10 nights-to promote Sea of No Cares. Once again, I discover that the boys of GBS no know bounds when it comes to enthusiasm for their music. They’re so keen to get touring with the new material, Power informs me, that they’re sneaking out this very night to perform in a downtown St John’s bar.

"We sort of called the owner and said ‘we’re going to turn up,’" laughs Power. "So we’re getting the chance to give a lot of the new material a test drive tonight on George Street. We’ll have a little bit of an audience, I think."

As much as Power is a home-town boy, he says that touring is still a thrill.

"When we tour, we’ll do some 30-odd cities, and I enjoy every single one of them," he says. "One particular show that stands out is that two years in a row, we shut down Portage and Main in Winnipeg. That’s something that I won’t soon forget."

His first awareness of "making it," he says-after thinking hard because I finally managed to stump him-is a tour-related memory.

"The show that really made me so glad to be doing what I was doing was Canada Day in Ottawa, where we played to nearly 100,000 people," he says (the actual year he’s referring to gets lost in a particularly nasty burst of static). "When you look at Parliament Hill and you see that area just jammed with people, to look out at that many people is just unbelievable."