By Brittany Rudyck
CALGARY – The notion of sacrifice is vast. To choose routine is to sacrifice adventure. To choose art and passion is to sacrifice normalcy. At least, this is what Toronto’s Eamon McGrath is scrutinizing in his debut book, Berlin-Warszawa Express. The 104-page novella fictionalizes events throughout McGrath’s substantial experience as a traveling folk punk musician playing, drinking, partying, and being broke around the world. At the same time, it explores the heavy questions this lifestyle forces artists to confront: is a life of artistic freedom a fulfilling substitute for stability?
BeatRoute: You share a lot of intimate, dark moments with the reader in the book. Were you nervous to share these details?
Eamon McGrath: A little bit. More so in the sense that they might kind of overshadow the story. There’s a lot of gratuitous drinking, for example. I didn’t want it to be like the drinker’s handbook or something like that. It is a really dark tale, but it comes back to the people working on the book who were giving honest feedback. At no point making this book did they want to send me to rehab. There was always that separation. I think part of that is because I’m not living that way anymore. That was a time in my life and now it’s over.
BR: The last time we spoke [personally], I remember you telling me the book was meant to be a sort of open ended question: is it worth it to suffer for your art? At this point in your life, how would you answer that question?
EM: I think it’s totally worth it. I’ve always been fortunate to play worthwhile shows and have great experiences despite the tumultuous ones. So maybe I’ve had a different experience than somebody who has to deal with band politics or egos or something. So, in my personal experiences, yes… but I don’t think everybody has the same kind of positive outcome if they just stick with something long enough. And I didn’t want my personal opinion to come through by the end of the book. I want people to come to their own conclusion.
BR: There’s a point in the book where someone asks you how much money you had and you answered, “nothing.” How do you think people who have chosen a formulaic lifestyle (school, house, marriage, etc.) will interpret your book?
EM: Both of those choices come with their own slew of sacrifices. Someone who’s always wanted to play in a band but never did because they went to med school. You have to sacrifice passion and experience for routine and comfort. I sacrificed routine, comfort, relationships, and money… I’ve sacrificed a lot. I’m not trying to say one is better than the other…. But no matter what there will always be some kind of price to pay.
BR: In Edmonton you’re doing a reading at Audrey’s Books and I’ve heard you’ll have Darrek Anderson of the Guaranteed joining you with his guitar. Is that true?
EM: The idea was to incorporate more acoustic stuff into the reading, so he’ll probably play some pedal steel. I never wanted it to be this thing where I’m not considered a musician because I have a book out now. I do want to treat this as more of incorporation into what I’m already doing musically. I don’t want it to be seen as different art forms. The songs on the records are similar stories to the stories in the book. This is just another way of telling them.
Berlin-Warszawa Express is released on May 10th. McGrath kicks off his Canadian tour at Audrey’s Books for an afternoon reading followed by a louder performance at The Buckingham with Counterfeit Jeans and the Betrayers (Edmonton). You can catch him May 11th at Nite Owl with Cold Water (Calgary) and May 13th at the Owl Acoustic Lounge (Lethbridge).Berlin-Warszawa Express, Cold Water, Counterfeit Jeans, Eamon McGrath, Nite Owl, Owl Acoustic Lounge, The Betrayers, The Buckingham