Hillbilly Highway – Toronto Troubadour shares Bookworm with the Fringe

by Sheldon Birnie

Bookworm is the one-hour, one-man show written and performed by Toronto’s Corin Raymond. An engaging meditation on reading, childhood, family, school, the Twilight Zone, and Ray Bradbury, Bookworm has been drawing crowds during its run at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, and is totally worth seeing if you have time before the Fringe winds down on Saturday. Being a bookworm myself, and a young acolyte of Bradbury, Stephen King, and the Twilight Zone, Raymond’s monologue had me laughing, moved, and goosepimpled throughout the whole hour. Stylus sat down with Corin after his Monday afternoon performance for a couple beers at the King’s Head to talk about the play, his music, and to nerd out on books for a while.

“This is my first show without music in it,” Raymond explained over a pint of Fort Garry Dark. “It couldn’t have happened without watching TJ Dawe. He’s got a show here at the festival, Medicine. TJ Dawe is a master of the monologue, he’s a master storyteller. As far as one guy standing and delivering, there’s no one like him.”

Raymond explained that Dawe saw the potential for a one-man show in the stories he would tell about his father, books, and the joys of reading both the Greek classics and the Adventures of Spider-Man. After talking about doing a one-man show for years, Dawe provided the final push for Raymond to make it happen; first providing him with a cabin on the Sunshine Coast to write in for a week during 2010, then forcing his hand to complete the play and perform it last year at the Hamilton Fringe Festival.

“[Dawe] said ‘Can you commit to the Hamilton Fringe? I need you to do that.’ I said, ‘Ok man. I did it. I called them.’ I got in the Hamilton Fringe. Then the fear cranked up. I had less than two months before I had to be on stage with this thing, and I hadn’t even finished writing it. I mean, I didn’t even know how the show would end at that point. I was terrified. But I got the show done, debuted it in Hamilton, and it has changed my life.”

Since then, Raymond has been invited to perform Bookworm at Fringe festivals, theaters, high schools, public libraries, and people’s homes.

“I’ve been invited to do it in the fall in a youth detention centre,” Raymond tells me. “There’s talk of me doing it in the Joyceville Penitentiary in Kingston, where they have a program for the inmates where they are encouraged to read books on tape for their kids, which are then sent home to their kids. So I mean, the show has totally changed my life.”

Raymond’s day-to-day life, before and notwithstanding Bookworm, is that of a singer-songwriter in Toronto, with a couple highly acclaimed album’s under his belt and a weekly gig at the Cameron House. Recently, Corin’s gotten some interesting press around his upcoming live album Paper Nickels, slated for release in November, and what Corin refers to as “The Great Canadian Tire Caper of 2012.

“It started with Rob Vaarmeyer, who used to play bass for Andrew Neville and the Poor Choices,” Raymond explains. “Last August he was at my place and he was like, ‘Hey Corin, I got this idea for a song. It’s got Canadian Tire money in it.’ It goes, ‘Don’t spend it honey, not the Canadian Tire money! You saved it so long.’”

“I was like, ‘Man, this is genius! What if we said, ‘We saved it so long’?’ So we made it into this trailer park love song. We wrote the song and just thought it was a hilarious song. We wondered why Stompin’ Tom would leave that for us, you know? And then I started singing it, and it made everyone so happy.”

“I went on a tour of Alberta and the Yukon and I came home with $22 in Canadian Tire money that people were just giving me for singing the song. I was collecting it up until the end of last year, and I’d be collecting CTM at the Cameron House in Toronto where I play every Thursday with my band. People just randomly have it on them. I’d be singing the song and of course people have it in their wallets. So by the end of the year I had just over $60, I mean that’s a lot of Canadian Tire Money!”

From there, Corin discovered that the studio he was working with in pre-production for the album that has become Paper Nickels had been accepting Canadian Tire Money on par for 20 years. The gears got grinding into overdrive, and the idea to pay for the entire costs of the album with CTM was born. To date, Corin has raised nearly $4,500 in CMT, towards an ultimate goal of $10,000CMT. Paper Nickels is now in the rough mixing stage, and is on track for a November release.

“It’s 20 songs. 17 songs by 17 writers,” says Corin. “I’m one of them. 17 writers from across the land, the album’s called Paper Nickels. A quarter of the material is Winnipeg material.”

With songs by Rob Vaarmeyer, Winnipeg’s Scott Nolan and Andrew Neville have tunes featured on Paper Nickels. Raymond says another quarter of the album features Toronto songwriters, with the other ten tunes coming from songwriters from New Brunswick to the Yukon and back again. Based on the amazing experience that producing the album with Canadian Tire Money has been for Raymond, he’s already planning to turn the tale of the Great Canadian Tire Money Caper of 2012 into his next one-man show. Like the album, he intends to title the next one-man show Paper Nickels.

“In the same way that you see Bookworm and maybe you walk away thinking about reading differently,” Raymond explains, with obvious excitement. “With Paper Nickels people will walk away thinking about money differently when they walked in. They’ll think about music differently than when they walked in. And they’ll think about community, the power of community. Those three things combined: money, music, community.”

It’s clear that Corin Raymond is a guy who likes to keep busy, and the enthusiasm he shows for his projects is contagious. If you haven’t checked out Bookworm yet, do yourself a favour and hit it up. It’s showing at the Planetarium Theatre Wednesday, July 25, 2012 @ 5:30, Thursday, July 26, 2012 @ 12:00 PM and Friday, July 27, 2012 @ 10:45 PM. He’s also performing his tunes at the Times Change(d) on Tuesday, July 31st.

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