Entertainment

Singer-songwriter to turn tides in Steveston

Chris Ronald was in the midst of a teaching assignment, which included schooling kids in the art of ukulele, when tragedy struck in Newtown, Conn.

Twenty children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012—one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. A front page newspaper photo the next day of a flag at half mast moved Ronald to write “Twenty Little Stars,” a ukulele-backed song that appears on his newest album.

“To write the lyrics, I imagined transplanting my house and fathering my three elementary-aged kids in Newtown in the aftermath of the tragedy,” he said. “Of course, I know the stars represent the 50 US states, but I imagined 20 of them missing to represent each dead child, and I wondered how long before the remaining 30 disappear.”

The Vancouver-based roots-folk singer-songwriter, who plays the Steveston Folk Guild next Thursday, also offers warmth on Timeline—his third album, released in March—which shows his gift for soulful songwriting that captures the ebbs and flows of life. Two of his Timeline songs advanced as far as the semi-finals in the International Songwriting Competition. His songs are also being recognized in Austin, Texas, as the only Canadian to be named a finalist in the Kerrville New Folk competition.

A native of England, Ronald’s songwriting talents began to emerge at age 15. He developed his voice into something smooth enough to find similarities with David Gray, Ron Sexsmith and Martin Sexton.

His music merges British roots with North American folk, and features his multi-instrumental talents on guitar, harmonica and ukelele.

Ronald’s Steveston Folk Guild show is May 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chinese Bunkhouse, Britannia Shipyards, 5180 Westwater Dr. Tickets, $8, at the door.

Where does your love of music and storytelling come from?

“I think my love of music came both naturally and from my family back in England. My music-loving parents and three older brothers exposed me to a wide variety of music by the time I reached my teens. I remember loving the Carpenters at some point in my boyhood. I recall unwrapping the Carpenters’ greatest hits album one Christmas and being so excited in a Willy Wonka golden ticket kind of way.”

What inspired the song “Timeline,” and how true to life is it for you?

“I wrote ‘Timeline’ in 2012 when I was going through a mid-life crisis, at least I think that’s what it was. I began to see my life as a timeline that you might draw in history class and was pondering what it might look like when complete. I found myself torn between the security of the day job and the prospect of following my heart with a music career, especially since the release of Turning Tides and the positive reactions that followed. I recall reflecting on wise words I’d read or heard that had stuck with me over the years, and each verse is centred around a particular snippet of wisdom.”

What’s a recent memorable performance?

“The show at Char’s Landing in Port Alberni was pretty memorable. Half of the people were there because they’d seen me perform at Char’s in the past, and half were there because of John (Ellis, producer). John is a phenomenal multi-instrumentalist, and the grand piano in the room made for an extra special treat. The house was full and the vibe was fantastic. That said, the audience at Steveston Folk Guild is one of the best I’ve encountered. Performing in front of attentive and appreciative people in a venue where I can play entirely unplugged is probably my favourite thing to do.”

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