DIARY - 6 NOVEMBER 2003
FLIES IN ON A JOHN DEERE B AND A PRAYER
"It was a John Deere B/ with a row crop front end/ hand crank and
a fly wheel/ and the original paint." - 'John Deere B' - Fred Eaglesmith.
He can hot
wire your tractor to make it go a little faster on the lost highway or
fix up your ruptured romance without leg roping your departed lover with
Canadian troubadour can also furnish you with a credible cover to
compliment your original songs.
And he can fill a cameo role in your documentaries, rockumentaries,
mockumentaries or theatre plays.
Fred Eaglesmith is a jack-of-all trades and he's coming to a theatre
or bar near you on his third Australian tour.
46 and one of nine children raised on an Ontario farm, is the real deal.
With 12 albums and two tribute discs in his slipstream the seasoned singer
songwriter is sharing bills with Kasey Chambers and Bill & Audrey.
And, having grown up on a 80-acre family farm which was repossessed when
he was just 15, he still has that Southern Ontario soil under his nails.
Although the tarted up tractor that inspired 'John Deere B' from his 12th
album 'Balin' was a decorative decoy for an Omaha restaurant he grew up
riding a later model.
"I was travelling through Omaha when I saw this 'John Deere B' on
the lawn outside a restaurant," Fred told Nu Country on the eve of
his third Australian tour that took him to The Palais on August 28 and
29 with Kasey Chambers.
"You can hot wire a John Deere by hooking a piece of wire to the
governor and make it go an extra 10 miles an hour faster."
Not exactly the same as making John Landy run that extra mile up on the
South Yarra hill but a handy hint for cyber chappies wondering what makes
country music tick.
Eaglesmith has been hightailing it down the highways and byways of the
western world since he was a kid.
And although the tractor he learned to drive on his farm was more modern
than the 1934 John Deere B prototype, which was launched in 1935, it fuelled
His character, an old working farmer, is outbid by a collector.
"He wasn't a collector, he hadn't come for the bargain/ he need that
old tractor, to work that old farm."
Eaglesmith may be not as well known as 'The Tractors,' Joe Diffie and
others for using John Deeres as vehicles for their hits, but wheels are
a constant in his music.
And this is the second sibling to grace an Eaglesmith album in two years
- 'The Old John Deere' was on Fred's live disc 'Ralph's Last Show' in
I only have five Eaglesmith discs but a casual count revealed at least
22 songs about cars, trucks, trains, motor bikes, tractors and that more
traditional form of travel - horseback.
So it's no surprise his music has been featured in short films and documentaries
and he appeared as an outlaw in the mockumentary 'Return To Nowhere.'
And, during a writing stint in Nashville, his songs were placed on hold
by major artists diverse as Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and the late Waylon
"Reba and Garth both had a hold on songs but it didn't eventuate,'
"Waylon was also keen on a song called 'Restless Cowboy' which I've
Instead Fred has earned healthy royalties and exposure from covers by
fellow Canadians 'Cowboy Junkies' and Aussie artists Bill & Kasey
Chambers, Catherine Britt and label boss Audrey Auld.
Kasey recorded two Eaglesmith songs 'Water In The Fuel, 'Freight Train',
Bill did 'Big Ass Garage Sale', Auld covered 'Alcohol & Pills' and
'You Did' and Britt cut 'Drive In Movie' - title track of his 1994 album.
"I couldn't believe it when I heard their versions, it was a big
surprise" says Eaglesmith whose music has also been covered by Chris
Knight and Dar Williams.
"There's a real integrity in all their interpretations, how well
they get it. I was blown away when I heard Catherine's recording of Drive-In
So it's no surprise The Chambers, Britt and Auld also appear on Eaglesmith
"I'm surprised there's one, let alone two, tribute discs," quipped
Fred, "you normally have to die to be honoured like that."
And Fred duets with Audrey on her tune, 'B Grade Affair,' from her second
solo disc 'Losing Faith' and gave her advice after she split with partner
"I suggested she read the Dali Lama's 'Transforming The Mind' as
it helped when I went through divorce and relationship break-ups,"
says Fred, father of three and former partner of Canadian chanteuse Lynn
"I have studied Buddhism for about 10 years and enjoyed the Dali
Lama's writings. I read and write a lot as I'm on the road about 300 days
a year. I sleep with a guitar by my bed so I can write when inspiration
comes. Some nights I have to choose - girl or guitar."
Home on the odd occasions when Fred is not on the road is an abandoned
fishing boat at Port Dover in Southern Ontario.
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