‘I’m not on the road, I’m in the valley’

Dirt Floor musician Sean Cameron sits down with the Star.

Slocan Valley musician Sean Cameron is one of the members of Dirt Floor

Slocan Valley musician Sean Cameron is one of the members of Dirt Floor

He wasn’t sure it would work.

For the closing number of their church concert at the Tiny Lights Festival in 2013, the members of folk band Dirt Floor were planning an elegiac cover of Tom Waits’ “Come on up to the House” and they wanted the audience to learn the lyrics.

“We had this idea where we wanted everyone to sing along,” frontman Sean Cameron told the Star.

“We were playing this stripped down, acoustic set inside the church house. It seemed like the audience was really responsive, so we said ‘why don’t we take this outside?’”

It was the middle of the afternoon in Ymir, and the small crowd ambled out into the sunlight and gathered around the church while Cameron played alongside fellow frontman Peter Reed and bassist Jesse Lee. Pretty soon the audience had picked up the words, and Cameron listened as their voices rose choir-like.

Thinking back on it now, it’s the moment he realized they really had something special going on.

“Everyone gathered around the church and we were singing ‘come on up to the house, come on up to the house, the world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through, you got to come on up to the house,” Cameron said.

“It was a real moment, such a cool feeling. We had this whole crowd singing harmony in the middle of Ymir.”

And it’s moments like that which keep him motivated. The 33-year-old Slocan Valley farmer had dabbled in music with a former band called The Pine Years not The Pioneers, as some confused audiences thought and had originally booked the gig after party-jamming with Tiny Lights’ directors Carla and Shawn Stephenson. He was a new father, and looking to throw his weight into his creative pursuits.

“It was one of those things where I was sitting in the bush tree-planting and I just thought to myself, you know, I better do something about this.”

Now, four years later, Cameron finds himself fronting a Kootenay band that has ballooned in size to five members, recently picking up drummer Eddie Thomas and keyboardist Brian Kalbfleisch. And along with Nelson band Party on High Street, the quintet plans to debut their latest incarnation during a concert at Spiritbar on Friday.

“I think of music as a medium to connect people,” Cameron said.

“It gives you this platform where you can touch on subjects that aren’t always easy to talk about like environmentalism is important in this day and age, and even mental health is a big one.”

But don’t expect things to be dour, or preachy.

“Our stuff can be fun too, and playful. Like I’ve written songs about vampires where I just want to get inside a vampire’s head and I ask myself who are vampires to me?”

But he doesn’t want to put out work that’s too easy to digest.

“You don’t want to lay things out in a way where you just say ‘the apple is red’. I like the idea of leaving things open so you can have multiple angles, multiples ways of looking at it. I want people to ask ‘what is he talking about?’ and get those gears going.”

They have one song based on his experiences of visiting a close friend who had been admitted to the psych ward in Trail.

“My son Otis and I went to visit him there and bring him some food while he was trying to recover. I wrote a song about the experience called ‘The Ward’, and it’s also kind of like a letter where I try and put myself in the shoes of my friend.”

The opening line: “These halls are strangely lit, some toxic kinda glow, the view is filled with cancer, I think I need to go.”

Cameron is a Selkirk College grad he studied with Eddie Thomas, their drummer but making music is about more than making his post secondary education pay off. He also composes film scores, and is working on developing his musical repertoire.

His goal is to have a meaningful impact on the listener, and to create community through his music. And he couldn’t be more stoked about his current lineup.

“These guys, a lot of them have tons of projects going on. Jesse Lee is our rock, then Eddie and Brian are just cream of the crop. We couldn’t ask for better guys. We’re going to put on quite a party.”

And though he may sound like a traveling minstrel, he’s feeling pretty at home on his Slocan Valley farm these days.

“I’m not on the road. I’m in the valley.”