No Gun For Hire
- Source: Melbourne Tribe
- Date: 01-1-2000
You'd think Bob Egan would be a little sick of the "gun for hire" tag by now.
Regularly used in interviews to describe the multi-talented instrumentalist who has worked alongside Wilco, Freakwater, Souled American, Billy Bragg and Blue Rodeo (with whom he recently toured Australia), the term brings to mind a ruthless mercenary with an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder, playing for bucks.
"No, I think it's a marvelous term. To be playing music and making a living is the best life one can have - whether you're performing solo or with a band," he explains from his new home in Toronto.
"I've always had strong connections with the bands I play with. Like with Wilco, I knew and respected them as musicians. I was with them for two years and it was understood that I would tour with them for Being There. After that, they'd go another direction - other than steel guitars. So at the second year, I thought, "What am I gonna do now?"
Egan next found himself playing steel guitar on the Grammy-nominated Mermaid Avenue (the collaboration between Woody Guthrie, Wilco and Billy Bragg). He moved to Mississippi to write his first record - but not before being "interrupted" by a summer Mermaid Avenue tour with Billy Bragg.
His self-titled album, released last year to widespread critical acclaim, showcases his exquisite lap steel and guitar playing - as well as some surprisingly strong songwriting, on tracks like Comin' Down Hard and Take Me Back Again.
Now based in Toronto, Egan has recently worked with Canadians, Neko Case, Blue Rodeo, and the Tragically Hip. "I actually worked on a record last night for a band called the Northern Pikes, named after a feisty fighting fish. There's no more a Canadian name than that," he jokes. "I enjoy the people I've worked with in Canada. I find them a lot like Australians, actually."
During the recent Blue Rodeo Australian tour, Egan found time to play some solo shows, during one of which Melbourne blues legend Chris Wilson joined him on stage for an impromptu jam.
"I didn't know anything about it, he just kind of got up on stage. Chris is a pretty burly and intimidating character though, so I wasn't going to argue with him," jokes Egan. "I had a lot of fun that night and I look forward to playing with Chris again."
Norway is another country where Egan is well-received - he launched his solo career there and has collaborated with local band Madrugada, and produced an album for Bonkers.
"Norway's quite a bit of fun, actually. I had a girlfriend there who really wanted to see me. So she got her promoter friend to book a couple of weeks' worth of gigs, not realizing I hadn't played solo shows before. I learnt pretty fast," he jokes.
Norway is also the connection between Egan and Blue Rodeo - the legendary Canadian roots band. "On my solo tour of Norway, I brought Basil (Donovan - Blue Rodeo's bassist) and he later introduced me to the Blue Rodeo guys.
Donovan will again be joining Egan on his upcoming Australian tour, where they'll play a mix of Egan's own songs - and a few old favorites. "We plan to have a different drummer and a guest musician at each show. It should be a lot of fun."
Catch Egan with his own posse of hired guns @ the Continental Café, September 10. Also the Corner Hotel on September 13.