Tony Dekker and his band Great Lake Swimmers have long been friends of the Aeolian Hall for more than a decade. Born and raised in Wainfleet, Ontario, Dekker studied literature at the University of Western Ontario. Both of the band’s first two albums, Great Lake Swimmers and Bodies and Minds, were recorded in Wainfleet, in an abandoned grain silo and a Catholic church, respectively. By the time of the band’s third album Ongiara, Dekker and the band were based in Toronto full time, though the album itself was recorded on stage at Aeolian Hall. The Swimmer’s most recent album “The Waves, The Wake” was recorded at Bishop Cronyn Church, home to El Sistema Aeolian.
Tony joined us and a few friends in May to perform on our Box Office Stage. We asked Tony a few questions after his set about life, music and inspiration.
AH: When and how did you know that music was going to be your career?
TD: There was a strong response to the first record but around the time of record #3 (Ongiara) things seemed to start happening for us
AH: Who are your music idols?
TD: I admire the work of Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, and Arthur Russell, to name a few
AH: You’re in the car flipping radio stations… a song comes on and without missing a beat you sign your heart out…. What song is it?
TD: “Jump Into The Fire” by Harry Nilsson.
AH: You know about El Sistema Aeolian. Why is music education important for children and youth? What more can we do to ensure access?
TD: I won’t pretend to have the technical answer to this, but I think the importance of the arts in general in youth development cannot be overstated. Particularly music, which is such a direct channel, and especially for kids who might not have another outlet to express themselves.
AH: That advice do you have for younger musicians who want to cultivate a loyal fanbase? How do you keep it real?
TD: Being professional, working hard and studying the music, and practising every day is a great place to start. The music has to come first.
AH: What is the biggest life lesson learned through a career in music?
TD: As in many other careers, communication is the key. Also being open, honest and reasonable while pursuing excellence is really important. We might not always achieve something excellent, but trying to get there in an altruistic way still puts us in a pretty good spot.
AH: You are not afraid to speak out for and record on topics that are meaningful. What gives your life meaning?
TD: Connection with nature, close relationships with people, and my family are all really important to me.
AH: I’ve got a golden ticket to perform in any city or concert hall in the world. Where does Tony Dekker cash it in… and why?
TD: Honestly, I’m really looking forward to the reopening of Massey Hall in Toronto, and I’d be quite happy to play there again!
AH: The music business can be surreal. What is your most memorable stage moment?
TD: Playing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in the Ontario Pavilion while the Canadian Men’s hockey game was projected on a screen behind us.
AH: Secret to life?
TD: Accept everything.