Sofa Sessions

About Justin Rutledge

Justin Rutledge

He has always felt the forceful pull of poetry, from schooling at the University of Toronto, studies abandoned, to a decade of music, a quintet of records whose titles themselves are much like the haunting dirges that emerge from hands of Justin Rutledge. No Never Alone, he began. Then he found The Devil On A Bench In Stanley Park. Later, Man Descending, evoking the prairie dreamings of Guy Vanderhaeghe. His fourth, barely thirty, The Early Widows. Valleyheart, and its first offering “Amen America,” almost something like a lullaby for an electric country so often at war with itself: “Little darling, I’m along for the ride/ You’re the one I want to be quiet beside.”

He is a songwriter, a musician, a performer: but he is, most of all, a writer and a poet. His collaborative work is a testament to the foundation of his art, such as with Michael Ondaatje on The Early Widows, which led to Rutledge’s role in the staging of Ondaatje’s Divisadero. There is, too, Rutledge’s music for the stage – not his own – recently for a Toronto production of The Arsonists, a Swiss post-Second World War comedy. Through it all – two Juno nominations, twice long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize, sharing stages with the likes of Blue Rodeo and Dolly Parton – Rutledge is a man of craft. He speaks of powerful calm: “I understand that my strength lies in writing songs that don’t exceed the speed limit.”