‘Solitude’ author returns to Salt Spring with musical friends

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Grant Lawrence’s latest book has been sitting atop the BC Bestseller List since late May, and as he returns to Salt Spring to perform and share parts of it, the author, singer and CBC personality made a point to say this was not a “book tour.”

“It’s more ‘an evening of stage and song,’” laughed Lawrence, who certainly has logged plenty of hours in both.

Lawrence will be part of an ensemble performance at ArtSpring theatre Friday, Sept. 9, bringing back a new iteration of a show he brought to Fulford Hall before the pandemic, a self-described West Coast version of the CBC show Vinyl Cafe — here featuring a hand-picked assembly of musicians who will bookend readings from Return to Solitude, the sequel to 2010’s Adventures in Solitude.

“Music is very near and dear to my heart, and I have a great appreciation for original Canadian music,” said Lawrence. “Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of incredible songwriters, and in B.C. a lot of them end up on Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands.”

The lineup includes Kathryn Calder, from the New Pornographers; sometime Salt Springer and current Victoria resident Jay Malinoski from Bedouin Soundclash; Tom Hooper from The Grapes of Wrath, an island resident and childhood favourite of Lawrence’s; and Salt Spring singer/songwriter Phöenix Lazare.

So, absolutely not a book tour.

“I used to do book tours, and they’d be in the back room of a library, or they’d be in some small room in a community centre,” said Lawrence. “But I love the variety show aspect of me telling a story, maybe getting some laughs or gasps — depending on the nature of the story — then switching it up to a song.”

And while the three-year wait between Salt Spring shows might seem long for islanders, it was nothing like the one Lawrence put his publisher through; he characterized Adventures in Solitude as a “surprise bestseller,” and a follow-up needed time to come to fruition.

“Nobody really expected the first book to be a success,” said Lawrence.

But the central themes seemed to resonate — small communities, living with ferries, going to a family cabin, rejecting certain parts of family life before coming back to them — and the book took off, short-listed or winning several nonfiction awards and cementing his position as an author.

“So the publisher said, ‘Quickly, write another one!’” said Lawrence. “But not enough had happened yet.”

Eventually he collected enough stories from the wellspring of Desolation Sound — new characters, some returning and some passing away in suitably eccentric style.

“I write about the tragedy of Bernard the German,” said Lawrence. “I won’t get into spoilers, but the way he left this world is something I would never have predicted.”

Lawrence hopes readers will agree it’s all been worth the wait. Smugglers fans will be pleased to hear he will sing next Friday — at least a little.

“In the finale,” said Lawrence. “It’s not a Smugglers song, but it’s a really great song, and a great way to end the show; I think everyone on Salt Spring will love it.”

Tickets are available through ArtSpring.

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