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Indio Saravanja asks for help
To learn more about Indio's funding drive and hear recent music clips, check out his website at www.indiosaravanja.com
By Daron Letts
The young roots musician built his career by playing night after night in clubs like The Cave and The Gallery alongside visiting talent, such as Winnipeg blues legend Big Dave McLean, and with a who's-who of established local musicians.
He busked in Montreal subways and sang without pay in New York coffee houses, befriending the likes of Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright and other contemporary recording stars during his various travels around the continent.
"Indio is a prolific songwriter. He has to write otherwise he'll lose his mind," said friend and fellow musician Pat Braden, who backed Saravanja on his first album. "I regard him as a master craftsman when it comes to songwriting in that he's gone through the whole mentorship of studying people like Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson - really iconic songwriters. In that respect the quality of his songs is right up there with a Ron Sexsmith or a Daniel Lanois."
Saravanja achieved national acclaim in 2005 with the release of his self-titled debut album, which he followed by booking 75 gigs a year during a marathon tour that travelled through many of Canada's biggest festivals. Songs off his first disc, such as Northern Town, Burn the Ships and New Kid in Town, still air regularly across the country on CBC and campus radio.
"I always thought Indio was really talented, but when he released his first CD I was blown away," said songwriter Laurie Sarkadi. "He has a lot to say and the songs are really meaningful. I think it's really important that he gets another CD out."
Saravanja has two albums started enough material for 10 more. However, with competition for federal grant money and flagging CD sales worldwide, cutting a new disc in today's economic climate isn't easy – even for a talented musician with momentum.
"It's becoming more challenging for everyone," Braden said. "It's tough trying to get grants. The pie is only so big and there's a lot of people who want a piece of it. You make your money by playing your gig and selling your CDs from the stage to pay for gas and put food on the table."
Having been turned down for Canada Council grants two years in a row, and without support from his old label, Caribou Records, Saravanja is producing his next album on his own, but with some help from fans.
Saravanja is appealing to hometown friends and fans for support and is asking businesses for sponsorship. His website features a PayPal link that allows visitors to prepay for the second album, which he vows to complete by summer. Anyone who helps out will be recognized with a nod in the album's liner notes, he said, and commercial sponsors will be listed on his website.
He raised $3,000 so far, but his budget requires another $9,500 before he enters the studio this spring. His last album cost $25,000 to produce, which a federal grant helped fund.
The next album will be a parred-down expression of Saravanja's craft, with less rock influence and more folk and country flavours, he said. Saravanja's distinctive voice, a lyrical blend of the styles of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, will be accompanied by intimate arrangements of steel guitar, fiddle and piano.
"It's about loss – the loss of my mother, friends, relationships," he said. "It's an album about moving on and getting through a dark time in my life. It's about getting through a two-year period of life-changing experiences and being on the road as a musician."
Saravanja is now based in Armstrong, B.C., where he works for Caravan Farm Theatre, a professional outdoor theatre company that stages original work and plays by Shakespeare, Brecht and other classic playwrights. He composed music and played pump organ for an adaptation of Anatole France's The Seven Wives of Bluebeard at the farm last year.
He rides shotgun on a horseteam and cares for the farm's Clydesdales. In his time off he works as a house painter and truck driver.
"I'm doing the best I can doing what I do," he said. "I'm doing everything I've done for years – some theatre, composing and performing and a little bit of everything to get by. Whatever I need to do to survive."
On Feb. 28, Saravanja is scheduled to perform for the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver as part of the preamble to next year's Olympic Games. He said he plans to return to Yellowknife in March to crash the stage at the Snow Castle.