If It Takes a Lifetime

Hey everyone, Happy New Year!

How are you? How was last year for you? What’s this year look like, did you make any resolutions?

(He said, half-mocking himself.)

I’m here at my house, eating everything in sight, and drinking carrot juice, and smoothies, and lemon water, and tea by the pot, as I decided to take a New Years break from all my favourite vices, at least for a couple months.

It was just time, you know. The turning wheel of the year provides a great metaphor, and who hasn’t said to themselves, This Is The Year…?

I’ve been a fairly wimpy smoker – but still – since I was a kid. I love good strong coffee, I love beer. All are pretty endemic to musician culture, to Maritime culture, to my family. I used to love making beer for friends who came over. It’s night coffee for an introvert like me, a metered dose of being around other people, or alone with the moon, and common practice when folks gather.

Particularly in music: Everyone knows the stereotype. Worse, I know musicians who’ve quit their habits and found themselves suddenly not getting any calls. Our conferences and festivals move a lot of money around for beer sponsors. It’s a budget line that makes these things happen. It’s part of the calculation of your worth out in the clubs. Business is frequently done over smoke breaks, Caesars in the morning, networking receptions in the afternoon, social beers at showcases, songs-and-drinks-and-smokes-of-all-kinds at 5am in a hotel stairway. And a foot-tall coffee as soon as you get up, quickly followed by another.

Some of us have quietly discussed how the industry eats its young by being so much about us bringing the party everywhere we go. We attract addictive and depressive personalities because the behaviour is normalized. Ask any country song: when times are good, you drink; when times are bad, you drink. We are conditioned to this on simultaneous levels at once (as artists, working class people, entrepreneurs, consumers, etc), and it bears questioning as a norm.

Smokes, well, nobody even needs to question that, anymore. My consumption was low enough that my doc said don’t even worry about it, but still. Enough.

Conversely, I’ve long been interested in developing the running addiction that a lot of my friends have. I’ve been bartering music for hot yoga for a few years, and I’m excited to go deeper into my breath, deeper into sleep, deeper into guitar practice, deeper into productivity, deeper into writing, deeper into fresh-air-more-often, deeper into being well-hydrated, rather than a walking piece of beef jerky.

For a guy who’s been surrounded by addiction all his life, I’ve gotten lucky. I’ve been inspired by many friends who’ve been public about kicking habits; some of them just stopping a thing they rethought, some for whom it came to life-and-death. I’ve seen lots of them hit 1 year, 5 years, 17 years, 28 years. I’ve never seen one regret it.

So, when a friend decided recently to make what was for him a huge change, I decided that I’d do a solidarity-quit and start with a dry January (which I’ve done before, and I find to be a pleasing ritual). My person and I are doing a Whole 30 diet in February, so that’ll be two months. Beyond that, we’ll see. I’ll still have a coffee in the morning with my person, but then switch to my beloved water bottle for the rest of the day.

It actually feels a bit subversive, to go out amongst friends and be the only guy drinking tonic waters with cranberry in an environment that depends on liquor sales to survive and be a place for us to play, but, it’s me-time now. I know exactly what I’m missing, and I still love the characters there. Last night would’ve been a perfect storm: a good friend’s birthday, he owns a terrific venue that might have to shut down soon, other friends were in town to play for the occasion, lots of folks coming out after the holiday break; the atmosphere was both a birthday dance party and an Irish wake and the night certainly went until daybreak for many. I stayed for the gig and escorted myself to bed by midnight. I’ll go back and visit that place in my mind, and my neighbourhood, from time to time. But I’m really enjoying catching up on my sleep, and I enjoy the sense of presence, and not caving at the first really good excuse. It feels like I’m doing something right, for once.

Works in progress: lots of time on the Prairies this Spring and Summer, currently writing for the new record. Practicing like a madman. The better I get, the more I realize I have to learn. I’ve realized I’m starting, as the world seemingly goes crazy, by quieting the hell down.

Just wanted to flip you this little radio show I got from last year’s Western tour, live at Guilt&Co. in Vancouver’s Gastown. We had a lovely time there, and I love talking with with Tonye Aganaba.

(Disclaimer: I’ll be rejigging my first song intro, as I was labouring under a misapprehension. Thanks to the community for correcting the matter.)

Take care, beauties. If anyone needs me, bring jujubes.



Well, That Was Fun!

Hey friends,

I just interviewed on Mainstreet, which is CBC Radio 1’s 3-6pm drive home show that covers mainland Nova Scotia. Thanks to Bob Murphy and the Mainstreet team of Dianne Paquette, Rob Doublett and Producer Alex Mason for being as terrific as they always are. Bob and I had a great talk, and it’s always an honour when someone’s obviously listened to the record and have specific questions. Yay, Public Broadcasting.

I’ve just finished up the first run of dates for the release tour. Thank you SO MUCH: Tonye Aganaba, Guilt&Co., Moksha Yoga Vancouver and Rachel McKinley in Vancouver, my beloved band members from Red Moon Road, Moksha Yoga Kildonan and the legendary Times Change(d) High & Lonesome Club in Winnipeg MB; Jennifer and Andrew and Braegen Miller, Ross Neilsen, Alanna Martineau, Kristin Synnott and everyone at Wine-Oh’s in Calgary.

It takes a village to raise a musician, my friends, and you kept me alive and singing for a few weeks there, almost as far from home as one can get in this stupidly huge country. I had such a great time with you all.

But part of my village died, on the last day of it.

I woke up after a raging last-night gig in Calgary to get the news over Facebook (how else?) that my beautiful friend Emily Ugarenko had died in a house fire the night before.

Neither she, nor the house into which she had welcomed me over and over again, existed anymore.

We were both foodies, so we were thick as thieves, right from the get go when I showed up as a member of my client Charlie A’Court‘s band, for a house show. These things are always a bit rushed and chaotic, but Em and I hit it off and before long she’d booked me for a solo show, and would happily put me up whenever I was on the way past. We would eat and drink famously, she’d fill me in on her dating adventures (I was waiting for the update on the new boyfriend!), her joy and relief at getting a new job she’d be good at and make an adult’s paycheque for, we’d talk about my job(s), my person‘s job(s), her roommate Hannah’s joyful transition from barista to Military Police member, her beloved Pitbull rescue work, gossip, moving her to Nova Scotia, back to gossip, back to the dogs. We’d clink our glasses one last time, and trundle off to our respective rooms, to meet again in the morning, yack more and make something amazing for breakfast together (breakfast poutine! hashbrownwaffles!), maybe I’d order up some of her art for someone before I collected one last hug and took off, grateful to have her in my extended road family.

All gone.

What has been heartening in the week since has been to see Facebook light up with grief, and to realize, of course, I wasn’t the only one. This was just what she did, how she moved through the world. And there’s the lesson. Not that old ‘tell your people you love them’ chestnut, as much as, Wow, she made everyone feel that way. She was a one-gal joy machine who loved nothing more than finding a stray (literally or figuratively) and giving them a home. She loved skulls (they were everywhere in her place); music, food as a metaphor, making shiny stuff, Nova Scotia, and above all, otherwise unloved dogs. A lot of us are really going to miss her, but we know we’re better for her. Our sad will give way to gratitude, and eventually, some grim kind of joy. I call it a #Smorkfest now, when I make something fun in the kitchen, and somewhere, I can feel her snicker. I plan to spread the philosophy to the stray musicians we put up all the time. There’s no more fitting way to remember her.

For upcoming shows, consult my Facebook Artist Page.

I’m doing a quick set at Casino Nova Scotia‘s East Coast Country Night series this weekend, then spending the Summer working on bookings for the Fall. Get in touch anyway you want. If you’re in Manitoba, I will be returning to the Brandon Folk Music and Art Festival at the end of July, and playing dates from Edmonton back to Halifax via VW microbus! Dates TBA, keep in touch!

Bye for now,


This one’s for you, Gramp.

I’m beyond chuffed that the first act of releasing my new CD will be done alongside a passel of my Cape Breton colleagues, unveiling a song I adapted from a poem by the late Slim MacInnis, on the very ground where my grandfather (‘Ed‘ Corbett, 1908-1966) worked with him as a Steelworker and Union leader, and signed the Steelworkers’ Local 1064’s first collective agreement. He would eventually bring Labour support to the building of the Canso Causeway, which he saw as crucial to Cape Breton’s industrial economy. Coming across Slim’s poem ‘Dosco’s Inferno’ was the first window I never had into my granddad’s life, and I’ll be proud to go sing my version on the street where he lived.




If it seemed like I checked out for a while, there, well, yes.

After a few years of touring, I got sick of being Kev Corbett, Solo Acoustic Songwriter. I toured my last record as hard as I could, and then I was: just done.

I took sideguy gigs, I started learning carpentry (which I’d always wanted for myself), waited for songs to come. They always seem to. People came into my life, and went from my life. This site got hacked to bits and I didn’t know what to do about it, so I waited. The only one feeling it was me. (It’s being gradually rescued by my pal Graham Lindsey, whom you should totally hire for your forensic webdudery.)

Until Shandra MacNeil came along.

Shandra runs the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival. She had been watching from afar, and wrote to ask if I’d be interested in coming out to play, based almost solely on my politics on Facebook, which was the fire I needed lit under me to rejoin the world. I had no plan, some half-finished songs, no money, and not a lot of wind in my sails. Nonetheless, I worked, and saved, and chose my pal Jason Mingo to produce this thing. I knew, more than anything else, was that I would rather shoot myself in the face than make a record that sounded exactly like my last.

I’ve been a drummer for 33 years: there would be drums. I have a stellar, highly customized Gibson Les Paul and an amazing mid-80s J-series Telecaster: there would be electric guitars. There would be choruses, and the songs would be more succinct. I needed to get out of habitual forms (generally: verse, verse, verse, verse, verse, verse… kill me now…) and find the distilled essence of the song. I wanted groove, on top of the things that needed to be said. This is what Jay is really good at. I can’t thank him enough, or Shandra for hooking the booster cables up to me, or my pal Meaghan Smith for turning around the art and layout in miracle time.

This is what we’ve come up with. I’ll be touring these songs, mostly solo-electric, but occasionally with a full band, to a town near you as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience. I’ve done some living, gone off, and returned with some stories to tell you.

Being the Ultimate Summer Roadtrip record, or at least as close as I can get, it’ll come out May 1st, just in time. See you out on the road.


Springing Forward

Hi everyone,

I know: it’s been awhile. A year ago this time, I toured from Winnipeg to Nanaimo and back, partly with my favourite House Concert network Home Routes, and partly opening for my pal Stephen Fearing. It was 7 weeks, I think, by the time I got home, and in the process released Canada’s first postcard-album (‘Live in Orillia!’). I’ve done a lot of roadwork with my dudes Charlie A’Court and Kim Wempe, taught at Lunenburg Folk Festival‘s Song Camp, sessioned on Bob Ardern‘s new record, been teaching students around home when I can, and just got back from an epic trip to the North American Folk Alliance, in Kansas City MO, stopping off in Guelph ON on the way home to do some writing and demoing work towards my new record.

Yes, a new record. It’s coming. Soon.

I confess here that I needed a change-up. I’d lost interest. I got some electric guitars. I switched up my writing. The only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to just regurgitate what I’d already done.

And now, the snow’s starting to melt off.

Plans are afoot for business expansion into the States. It looks like my old band Knifey Moloko (we were before the internet tidal wave, so there was no site) might reunite in Vancouver for a member’s wedding. Charlie and Kim have stuff coming up. All is proceeding apace.

Here’s a new tune.

Most of my friends are songwriters, middle-aged, and/or female. I’ve had some talks lately with at least 5 of them, each experiencing some doubt as to how much their music remains relevant in the current pop culture. I decided I might remind them that they (you) are the coolest. Their (your) voice is the one I listen to most. In honour of International Women’s Day, this is for my sisters, cousins, aunties, friends, and moms. Especially Linda. Love you to bits.



Thanks to Jimmie Inch, Glen MacIsaac, and Ian ‘Slim’ McInnis for this. More to come. Keep an eye on my YouTube channel.

Quick news, folks: I’ll be leaving home soon for another humdinger of a tour, about 6 weeks long. That is 6 weeks too long away from one’s Person, but we do it so you don’t have to. I’ll first drive to Toronto for the North American Folk Alliance, playing electric guitar with Roots Reggae band Andru Branch and Halfway Tree. FA is a massive conference. It’s like Old Home Week for folkies.

After that, go West, young man.

I have the insane privilege of doing another Home Routes house concert tour; this time in a loop through northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. It’ll be 13 dates in 14 days. Check out the Dates section above. Then, I fly to Vancouver and meet up with my pal Stephen Fearing, and we’ll work our way back across the frozen Prairie, to Winnipeg.

April, dates around the Maritimes. May, I go to Guelph, Ontario, to begin work on my new studio record, which should probably come out in November. I’m really excited, and writing like crazy right now, to have enough material to pick from.

In the meantime, it’s a slow, stewy, cold winter, and I’m woodshedding reggae and writing. Life is good.

Drop by my Facebook page and let me know how it’s going, yeah?



Does this make me a writer?

Someone just reminded me the other night, I got published in 2 books this year, which seems impossible, but it’s true.

One is linked here. My pal Lana Grant wanted to put out a book where musicians wax foodie (you know me) and it also raises awareness around mental illness. I kicked in my story about my love affair with tacos, and the recipe for perhaps my greatest creation ever, the haddock ceviche taco. I should sell these little suckers at my merch table. Check the book out. They did a really great job on it.

The other book is an anthology, of writers-on-writing. It’s a benefit for the Writers’ Federation of NS, of called Saltlines.

Here’s what I wrote:

Writing. You buy a drafty old house, just to live in, turns out to be a goldmine. Or you discover you’re the goose that lays Ugly Ducklings.

I hatched as a journeyman Musician. Words were for ‘words’ people (whatever they were on about). In the process, began journaling. To call oneself a ‘Singer Songwriter’ might’ve been seen as laughably precious, but the songs came, and it was fun. I never had any intention to sing them. One night, noodling with a guitar after dinner, was cajoled into singing, and embarrassingly, knew only my own stuff. The listener, a writer herself, asked for another, then another, and told me that if I never sang those for anyone else, I was an idiot.

I sent them out into the world, among friends mostly, and was taken aback at the response. In what I’d seen as silly navelgazings, people saw echoes of their own lives. They compared me to artists they liked, or that I liked. I was interviewed on CBC, got letters, was invited to play, to mentor, heard what people say in the Hype aisle of the Music Market (which I try to avoid: synthetic ingredients, irresponsible packaging – give me my garden!).

I didn’t totally get it, but decided to respect it nonetheless. There is a magic in it, and it never fails to amaze me, especially when I doubt it.

It ebbs and flows. The well dried up, for a while. I thought I was done. I took a break, and now I have things to write about again. Art can be a petulant child, often says, You’re Not The Boss Of Me, as if you didn’t already know. But as you may have gleaned, uncertainty and solitude are dear friends of mine.



So, a lot has happened, and you need to know, in order to get what’s been going on over here in the Corbett Inc. saltmine.

When I put out the last record, which is partly the subject of this website, I toured it off and on for the better part of a couple years. It was frantic: Folk-Fest-offered, record done, booking, 2 months on a train to BC and back, drive to BC and back, trip around Ontario, trip to Newfoundland, back to Ontario, it was relentless, fun, tiring, an amazing privilege.

That tour ended, the day I and some friends found a dead teenager floating in a river in Thunder Bay.

(He was a 15 year old named Jordan Wabasse, who had left his town, Webequie First Nation, to go to school in Thunder Bay. He was a hockey player, an artist, a boyfriend, a shy kid. I found out that thousands of Aboriginal kids do this every year: go live in boarding houses 600 clicks away from everything and everyone they know, in a foreign culture, because their schools aren’t funded past grade nine at home. Sometimes they want to, because they dream of life’s possibilities. Sometimes they are reluctantly pushed, because ‘go do something with your life’. It boggles any mind, the weight they must feel.)

For almost a year, I didn’t write. I wasn’t interested in playing. I hated this country, for not giving Native kids the same shake I had. For apologizing out of one side of the mouth to their parents for ruining their lives in residential schools, while simultaneously upholding all the trappings of official colonialism and racism.

This past February, I knew I had to shake that negative inertia off. I jumpstarted myself with a writing project, through February Album Writing Month (FAWM.org), which is a website where songwriters hang, and everyone tries to write 14 songs during the month of February. I got it done! Not all keepers, mind you, but first drafts. Some of them will make it into shows, onto records, some may not, but just needed to be written out, and thereby shut up in my head.

I had a deadline, see.

I’m gonna do another Home Routes house concert tour next March, through northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. It’ll be long past time for a new record by then, and people have been asking for a ‘Live’ record for 3 years, so I need to have it done by then, which means preferably ready to go by Xmas, which means sooner rather than later. So I’m booking a tour across Ontario for August, and recording ‘Live in Orillia’ at a show some friends are hosting for me there. I’ll drive out to Thunder Bay, where we found Jordan, and lay it all to rest. Visit Manitoulin Island, Owen Sound, Prince Edward County, do some camping. I can’t wait.

Then it’s album production, and start booking for next year. I’m gonna release two records, the live one and a new studio project, produced by my friend Lewis Melville, in Guelph. And tour like crazy. Because I can, because I must, because I promised Jordan.


…from what was supposed to be a quiet period…

This is what ‘vacation’ looks like. *sigh*

First, I signed up for February Album Writing Month, where 1700-odd songwriters hang out, and everyone agrees we’re all gonna try to write 14 tunes during the month of February.

That’s a lot. Did it, tho. Also, been booking a return tour out to British Columbia, one to Ontario, and filling up the Summer with trips around the Maritimes. Will apprise. Keep in touch.




A quick little update: last weekend, at the Nova Scotia Music Week conference, I was awarded the Musician of the Year award.

This award is voted on by people in the biz, and is about the jobbing player. I call it the Journeyman’s award, and having come into the biz with the goal of being the ultimate sideman, it is maybe the award I have the most respect for, as it’s not about who’s-cool-this-year or how big your team is, as much as it’s about being versatile, busy, giving every song its due. At least, it is to me.

So, to Music Nova Scotia, thanks for all your hard work, it was a great conference. To the folks who voted, thanks for your confidence. I’ve worked for many of you and I hope to work for all of you before we die. To the folks who hire me, thanks for your trust. To my baby, thanks for everything. I’m insanely lucky, and very happy with life.

Thanks again. 🙂
K ooo