Greg Ball says he “never really wanted to do the starving musician thing,” especially now that he has two children living in his adopted hometown of Kingston. But for intermittent periods of time over the coming months, he’ll definitely be doing the “musician” side of that model (but hopefully not the “starving” side).
Ball — a native of St. Marys who first started performing his music in front of audiences at the Boar’s Head Pub in Stratford before moving on to Vancouver and eventually Kingston — brings his band to London’s Harris Park on Thursday, July 25 for that city’s annual Rock the Park festival. He has just released an album of material he wrote entitled “Mr. Rightplace” — his second full-length release. And though the upcoming concert and the album are promoted under his own name, he stresses that both are collaborative efforts, with frontman Ball being joined by three bandmates with whom he has well-established musical relationships.
“We got some advice early on (in the band’s tenure) to go with the singer/songwriter based name, because it’s something Canada is known for,” he explained.
It was his own prominence as a songwriter, though, which essentially gave Ball’s band the break that led to next week’s prime Rock the Park gig — as an opening act for Canadian indie rock icons The Tragically Hip.
After a benefit show for the Kingston Salvation Army, Ball was approached by a member of the Hip, Paul Langlois. “He really liked my voice, both as a singer and a songwriter,” the son of Frank and Mary Jane Ball recalled. On the heels of that conversation came an invitation to join something called “The Campfire Liar’s Club,” now a four-member collective which has developed into a Kingston staple for music fans seeking authentic, rootsy creativity.
The connection with Langlois developed from there, and “Mr. Rightplace” was soon released on the Hip member’s independent record label. Langlois has a solo project of his own, and Ball’s band is set to be the opening act for its cross-Canada tour later this year.
It’s all taking Ball into a realm he thought he might have left behind when he settled into a life of kids and assisting with the operation of two well-known Kingston businesses — the Chez Piggy restaurant and Pan Chanco Bakery — operated by his kids' mom, Zoe Yanovsky.
“I’ve played for 1,000 people before,” he said of the Rock the Park show. “But this has the potential to be a whole lot more than that."
Still, Greg Ball has that busy life back in Kingston to come home to. So, without any pressure to avoid the "starving musician" fate, he's confident the band will take next week's London show in stride, and use it as an opportunity to display their love of well-crafted music and songs to everyone who's waiting to hear The Hip.
“We’re just going to play it straight, keep our eye on the prize, and try and play as much music and get as much exposure out of it as we can.”