Jevon Rudder- The Singing Soldier With A Country State Of Mind

Jevon Rudder

Story:Lenny Stoute

 

Some folks are born to the hard road and some seek it out as a soul-building experience. Then there are the ones like Jevon Rudder, who, for better or worse, have it both ways.


 First, try being a black Country singer. Now try being a black Country singer from Scarborough in Toronto. Now try black Country singer from Scarborough enlisted in the army and proud to wear his uniform. 


Can you say walking target for ignorant yobbos? 


“I’ve been called a baby killer, a waste of space. One guy in Tim Horton’s even told me I should get out of Iraq. Where the Canadian army has never been. But for every one of those there have been other people that offered to buy me a coffee and expressed their gratitude.” notes the soft-spoken Rudder.

 

This rain of bullshit and bad mouth might have embittered many another man; what kept Rudder on the good foot was his family, his music and his belief in doing the right thing for his country. 

 

One day in 2004, Jevon Rudder walked out of a high paying job consisting largely of strategy meetings that would morph into bitching sessions by a bunch of overpaid trough-feeders. Educated, idealistic and accustomed to sticking up for those ideals, he promptly went down to a recruitment centre and enlisted in the reserves.


He’d been playing music since a teenager, starting as a drummer and thereafter learning a bunch of other instruments. By the time he signed up, he was fairly well along in his songwriting, singing and production skills. 

 

From the outset of his drumming with a rock band, the stereotyping and hurtful remarks started.


“ Guys would say, what you doing in a rock band? You should be in a r’n’b band or playing with a hip hop group. You’re a sellout. Well, you know what? The r'n'b people and the hip-hop people weren’t interested in me; they didn’t want to play with me. So I went and made music with people who were interested in playing with me."


“ Now that I’m a country singer. I have to prove myself all over again. You know the clichés; You can’t be black and be a country singer."  In the finest Canadian musical tradition, Rudder’s message is being more eagerly embraced in the US where he’s logging radio play on 62 stations and ‘Country Style’ currently sits at #4 on the Country Downloads chart.


Another catchy single  “ I Feel Country” was penned as a wry reminder that you don’t have to drive a pickup or wear a cowboy hat to uphold certain values.


“ It’s all about the values you live by and the values of family and love of country that Country music puts forward is fine by me.”

 

It gets even more interesting when doubters hear the music, since the ones who know a thing or two are expecting Charlie Pride and Rudder doesn’t do Charlie Pride-type Country.


Rudder’s Country is rough hewn, sweaty, hand on heart and just a little bit rock’n' soul.

 

Soul music was the genre closest to the songs Rudder was writing in this period. So it came as a considerable surprise when a close confidant listened to him do a short set at an event for his parents and then told Jevon, “You know you’re ac country singer?"


Once Rudder realized his pal wasn’t kidding, he refused to have anything to do with it. Eventually and with great reluctance, he cut a 10 song demo ’just to see what we come up with”. 


The results are 10 of the songs on The Good, The Bad and The Lucky. As demonstrated on the album, the Rudder sound is a little more aggressive than traditional country, more Steve Earle/Waylon Jennings that Charlie Pride/Keith Urban. Not that he can’t bring an Urban touch or a hint of Brooks & Dunn when the occasion warrants.

 

All of this puts him much closer to Darius Rucker than to Pride and Rucker has done very well for himself since crossing over from pop singer with Hootie & The Blowfish to solo Country artist. In 2009 Rucker became the first African American to win the New Artist Award from the Country Music Association  At a glance, the potential US future of Jevon Rudder looks very bright indeed.

 

“ Moving into being a country singer was easy, as I was doing it my way. I felt comfortable with the values and ideas and the basic approach. I was able to put into my music tastes from the other types of music that has influenced me. This is what I work from in crafting a Jevon Rudder song. It just has to sound like me; if you can hear it in my voice it doesn’t matter what colour I am”. 

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While ‘Country Style’ is the feel good hit bound single, the equally autobiographical ‘What Am I To You?’ is more revealing of Rudder’s deeper feelings. In it he asks us to take another, closer look at all the people around us, as the faces of war veteran have changed. 

 

They're no longer the over 65 gang but today’s veteran, freshly home from a tour, is more likely to be in his early twenties. He might be a school teacher, the local mechanic, the building contractor down the street, all having done their service proudly and quietly and now back on civilian street.

 

Jevon on the jobJevon on the jobThe new logistics of Rudder’s life; music, school and the Army, dovetailed perfectly in Guelph, Ontario, home base of his artillery regiment and ground zero for a vital and creative music scene. Not only could he continue his studies for the degree needed to enter Officer Training, but his musical skills allowed Rudder to supplement his income by gigging around the city and surrounding areas, upon occasion roving as far as Oshawa.


 “ Oh yeah, there’s such a demand for live music I quickly found out I had to learn a wide variety of covers. Seems like every bar has its own genre of music and if you play there, you’re expected to know the favourite hits they’d want to hear."


“ I found I couldn’t just get up and do covers. I enjoy learning the songs but when I do them in public, I do them my way. I wouldn’t feel right getting up there and doing a note for note cover. I bring a little something different to each and more than a few times I’ve had people come up and express their pleasure with the way I had played a song”.

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The army has been equally welcoming to Rudder. " The guys in my regiment are amazing, they welcomed me right off and made me feel part of their family, because that’s what it is, your regiment becomes your second family and that’s a nice feeling for me."


“ I’ve twice volunteered to go overseas, specifically Afghanistan. But it’s not as easy as you might think, especially for a Reservist. Why would I go? Because I believe in what Canada is doing in Afghanistan. I strongly believe that we’re making a difference in the lives of some Afghan people. I like it that the Canadian Army is as involved in rebuilding Afghanistan as it is in a combat role”.

 

“ If I were sent overseas I would be very confident in my role because of the very high level of training Reservists receive. You look at things differently; you look for a solution that overcomes the obstacles; there’s no thought of losing. You’re not trained to lose.”


Rudder’s expected to stage a full-on launch of the album next year, ahead of a national tour but he’s in no rush to get it going.


“ A lot of things have to be in place before that happens. Throughout this project I haven’t settled. Once I have a clear goal in mind, I set out to accomplish it, not to settle for something else. So far I haven’t had to do that and I doubt that I will”.

 

www.jevonrudder.com