Submitted by Joyce Beaton Singer-songwriter Ian Tamblyn is headed to Qualicum Beach, performing at a house concert Friday, April 21.

A sonic passion hewn from four coasts

Folk musician Ian Tamblyn coming to Qualicum Beach

Singer, songwriter Ian Tamblyn has been a musician since 1972 and he’s written so many songs that, when he plays, he doesn’t bother with a set list, he says.

“The ones that are sort of in the front of the brain come forward,” Tamblyn said with a small laugh.

That’s the plan for his upcoming house concert at Qualicum Beach. The event takes place Friday, April 21 and will be hosted by Joyce Beaton.

He’s a prolific artist, having released 38 albums. Every once in a while, at concerts like this one coming up, he’ll get a request for one of his older songs — one he can barely remember. But it comes bubbling up, and, sometimes, he said, it feels really good.

“That happened last week,” he told The NEWS in an interview Saturday.

“There’s a song of mine called Tiger Lily Road, which is a very long song. I had given it a rest, and someone asked for it last weekend,” said Tamblyn. “It turns out the song was renewed for having kind of put it at the back of the shelf for a while. Like a sweater,” he said with another laugh. “You go, ‘Hey, I always liked this sweater. Why did I put it at the back of the cupboard?’”

Though based in Quebec, the West Coast is a well-worn and enjoyed sweater for Tamblyn, who said performing in B.C. and on Vancouver Island has become a bit of a spring tradition, which he hopes to keep going for as long as he can.

Tamblyn’s musical interests, however, began in Thunder Bay, Ont., and would grow to include the whole country.

“I actually started with piano in high school, and then took to the guitar shortly after that. That’s around ’66, ’67,” he said, adding the local band, Neil Young and the Squires, had an influence on him.

“I was influenced as much by American pickers as I was British folk singers like Richard Thompson and John Martyn and Nick Drake. Also early Cat Stevens and Van Morrison,” he said.

But his passion for his work came from Canada.

“At some point, as a sort of quiet Canadian nationalist, I thought there was a lot to explore in looking around Canada for stories, and I’ve spent most of my career doing that,” said Tamblyn. “I just finished doing an album called the Four Coast Project and that was basically songs from all the sort of coastal regions, whether it was the B.C. coast or the Arctic coast, the Labrador coast or the coast of the Great Lakes.” With each section of the project, Tamblyn worked to express the dominating story of each place.

“The West Coast is dominated by its verdancy, by how bountiful it is in so many ways. Whether it’s what you get from the oceans or from the forests, it’s just so rich, whereas the story of the arctic is how people survived in an environment that is much, much harsher.”

Tamblyn has a distinct style for each area, using his instruments and his production of each song in particular ways. “In the arctic, in my piano playing, I’d heard a story that sort of says that the arctic is no place to be romantic. It doesn’t suffer romantics easily, because you can’t make mistakes,” he said. “And so when I went to play the piano… I tried to take that notion of romance out of my playing. So my playing became much colder and then, in terms of production values, I mic’d the piano differently. I had a longer reverb on it. I was going for longer chord-holdings so that I could reflect the sense of space in the arctic. In other territories, I apply that differently.”

Audience members will be hearing a range of songs in Tamblyn’s music, including his reflections on various parts of the country. He’ll be leaving his hammered dulcimer at home and bringing two guitars and his voice to the performance, which takes place Friday, April 21. The performance is being hosted by Joyce Beaton. Tickets to his upcoming performance are $25 and seats are limited. For tickets, email Beaton at or call 250-752-1162.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m.

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