PORT HARDY—If winning multiple Juno Awards didn’t convince David Francey he’d hit the big time, his hockey teammates brought the point home.
For much of his adult life, Francey worked on a construction crew by day and played beer-league hockey in the evening.
But while attending festivities at the 2002 JUNO Awards after his second album, Far End of Summer, won the award in the Root and Traditional – Solo category, Francey was pressed into service for the JUNO Cup celebrity benefit game as goalie for the NHL alumni team that included the likes of Brian Skrudland, Paul Coffey and Lanny MacDonald.
“They were a little better than the boys,” Francey laughed during a recent phone interview from Saskatoon, where he was touring in support of his ninth studio release, Late Edition.
That tour arrives on North Vancouver Island Saturday when Francey takes the stage at Port Hardy Civic Centre to kick off the North Island Concert Society’s 14th season.
Francey will be joined by Mark Westberg on guitar and bass and by Chris Coole on banjo for an evening of folk music that spans the gamut of Canadiana.
“We’ll do quite a few songs off the new album, and also a lot of the old ones with a new approach,” said Francey, who was born in Scotland and emigrated with his family to Toronto in1966 as a 12-year-old.
“The tour’s been going extremely well. We’ve been playing to full houses and having a ton of fun.”
Since leaving carpentry behind to launch a full-time music career in 2002, Francey has amassed a collection of hardware that includes three JUNOs and a SOCAN Folk Music Award.
He has become in that time a Canadian folk icon, despite not beginning his career well into his forties.
Unlike most singer-songwriters, Francey is not an instrumentalist, though on occasion he will strum a bit of rhythm guitar to accompany his accompanists.
Rather than honing musicianship, he spends all his spare time observing and recording facets of contemporary life, from people he’s met to places he’s visited to, in the case of Late Edition, the news he’s read and watched.
“I write all the time, wherever it strikes me,” Francey said.
“I don’t write on an instrument so I’m not confined by that. I can write in a car, on a plane. When the muse strikes, I can write three or four (songs) in a night.”
After his breakthrough with Far End of Summer, Francey followed with JUNO-winning albums in 2004 — Skating Rink — and Right of Passage in 2007.
The song Skating Rink, infused with poetry and startling imagery, was used as the theme for CBS’s Hockey Day in Canada, and Wonder, from Late Edition, was used in a recent episode of Degrassi.
Late Edition, which Francey describes as being on the “roots” side of the folk spectrum, was recorded in Nashville live off the floor, with Francey backed by four musicians.
In this traditional recording format, rather than mixing and overdubbing the song is recorded “live” with everybody playing together in one room at one time — much like what the audience will experience Saturday.
“We were all in one room, on each other’s mikes,” he said. “If anyone blows it, someone will say, ‘Who screwed up?’ Then someone else would raise their hand and we’d do it again.
“It wasn’t exactly a hardship; it was pretty immediate, and pretty exciting.”
Tickets for the show are $25 and are available in Port Hardy at The Hobby Nook, Cafe Guido and Port Hardy Museum; in Port McNeill at The Flower Shoppe; and in Port Alice by calling Gail Neely at 250-284-3927.
Season tickets good for all five shows in the 2011-12 season can also be purchased for $120; $100 for seniors and students.
For more information, visit niconcert.ca.