Singer-songwriter Indio Saravanja is excited about his return to Fort Macleod on Saturday, Sept. 6.
Saravanja, who performs at 7:30 p.m. at the Empress Theatre, is fond of the town and its people.
“We almost bought a house in Macleod a few years ago, believe it or not,” said Saravanja, who at present lives on a houseboat in Yellowknife. “We were enchanted by it in many ways.”
The concert was arranged by Empress Theatre executive director Tim Ranson and Fort Macleod musician Maureen Chambers.
“Indio is one of those songwriters that creates a painting within a song,” Chambers said. “Each poetic note is a stroke of the brush that creates colour and imagery of the finest form.”
Saravanja and Chambers have a small mutual admiration society.
They met several years ago when in her role as artistic director Chambers hired Saravanja to perform at South Country Fair.
“She is a treasure to so many artists across the country,” Saravanja said. “She is one of the most special people I’ve ever met in my life.”
Saravanja said he has been a musician and writer most of his life and until he was in his early 20s was heavily involved in song, dance and theatre.
Saravanja was recently in a professional production of Othello in Victoria, B.C., but it is songwriting and music that is his true passion.
Born in Argentina and raised in Canada’s north, Saravanja started busking in Montreal subways at the age of 15, was a street musician in Spain at 17, and played his first real gig at age 19 in New York.
“I’ve done everything from wait on tables, work in mines, drive 18 wheelers, hang off tall buildings,” Saravanja said. “I never cared as long as I could pay for my growth through poet school.”
Saravanja released his first album Indio Saravanja with Caribou Records in 2005 to critical acclaim.
He followed the first album with The Caravan Sessions in 2009, Songster in 2010, Little Child in 2011 and Travel On in 2012 — all with Del Norte Records.
Saravanja has performed across Canada and abroad in concert and at festivals, and has opened for artists such as Bruce Cockburn, Buffy Sainte Marie, Sylvia Tyson, Fred Eaglesmith and Blackie and The Rodeo Kings.
His music continues to garner acclaim, and in 2012 Saravanja placed first in the Calgary Folk Festival songwriting festival.
“Indio is the real deal,” Chambers said.
Saravanja said despite having lived in huge cities that are considered cultural centres, he is at his creative best in the north.
” The Canadian North is where I have done my best work,” said Saravanja, who has a 10-minute walk from his houseboat to downtown Yellowknife. “It’s my secret weapon.”
The open skies of the north promote an open mind for the songwriter.
“There is an electricity there, a wave current,” Saravanja said. “Plus it’s so easy to access your connection with your higher self, or your maker, the Creator . . . all of it, through the isolation that you are forced to endure at times, or perhaps consciously choose because you know it’s so accessible. All that is best in a person can thrive under conditions where they can access that.”
Saravanja, who considers himself a songster-minstrel, said his writing and music is influenced by his Latino-European heritage.
“There is a high respect for the song poet in those countries that is beyond belief as well as a deep respect for the sadder or more melancholy sides of things that is truly beautiful,” he said.
Saravanja has drawn favourable comparisons to legends such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Mark Knopfler, and also lists as influences artists such as Joni Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson, Tim Hardin, Phil Ochs, Eric Anderson, Bruce Cockburn, Nick Drake, JJ Cale and Georges Moustaki.
“There’s a trace of Zorba the Greek if you really listen,” Saravanja added.
Saravanja earlier this year released his new album Hotel Kiss Me, which is composed of two new songs and 16 from his catalogue.
Creating the new album helped Saravanja deal with a difficult period in his life.
“I went into a storage box one day and found these gems from my past, some of them 20 years old, and could not believe how much they spoke to me, and I knew right away they could get me through what I was up against if I sang them, and let them come to life in the studio and honoured them,” Saravanja explained. “It was very interesting. Why would I have tossed these songs away then? And need them so much now?”
Saravanja will be on stage alone in Fort Macleod, accompanying himself on guitar, charango, harmonica, omnichord and grand piano.
“The songs will be deep, easy to relate to and hopefully touching, moving,” Saravanja said. “The banter will be the usual Indio confabulation. A mixture of dry wit, self-deprecation and stories.”