On the first day of snowfall of Canadian wintertime, I cozied up at the Richmond Tavern and watched and met with celebrated folk icon, cosmic Canadiana singer-songwriter and #sadadult superstar Ivan Rivers.

What is the best part of your day?

I went over to my friends and visited their new baby named Ivy, not named after me! But, I visited them, had a nice cup of coffee and had a great day.

Aww. That sounds lovely! I feel like that is usually the best thing is to connect with people. I could definitely hear that in your music. Folk music for me is a perfect harmony between people and nature, is that similar to you?  

I guess my experience with music and nature is by urban happenings and I guess rural happenings too. Whether it’s a scenic drive through a small town, or past last call in the big city… I guess I’m inspired by everyday ventures.

I can see that in your music, especially with the scenic drives, since you grew up in the beautiful town of Clinton! What do you think of your hometown?

The Home of the Radar! Yeah, it was nice living in a small town. You find your excitement in yourself, you don’t take things for granted, and the cities are always down the street! However, I did move from Clinton to Toronto.

How did that move influence you, especially moving from a small town like Clinton, to a big city?

I always felt that when I was in a small town I was a city kid, and when I was in the city I was a country kid.

Cosmic Canadiana folk icon, Ivan Rivers performing at the Richmond Tavern.
Cosmic Canadiana folk icon, Ivan Rivers performing at the Richmond Tavern.

It’s always a good balance between the two. I like living in the city, but I always like coming back home.

I find that you express your heart in every song you create, and I really respect that.

Thank you. I feel like there is emotional intensity, and there is emotional honesty. I think I try and find the balance between the two without trying to drag myself between the coals and not trying to sell my sad story as a commodity.

I remember my therapist telling me to not bleed on people about all your problems, so I understand about finding the balance between the two.

Yeah, you know being a singer and a songwriter, you gotta sing from experience, and it just so happens that I had a rollercoaster ride!

I’m always interested in how musicians start, because I could never play an instrument, so it’s always a mystery to me. So how did you get started?

I always dreamed of starting a band. As I turned to high school I  started to listening to a lot of Bright Eyes, and that inspired me to try and write songs on my own. And after getting dumped at school that motivated me to write songs and sing them in local coffee houses. From them it progressed and snowballed, and 12 years later I’m still spitting them out.

I feel like it’s courageous of you standing up and sing your heart out to pretty much a group of strangers. How to do you even do that? That’s like my worst nightmare!

Well, I used to do it with booze, however I’m sober now. I just love the feeling of crafting a song and sharing it! You just get up there and go for it. I’ve been performing live since I was in elementary school, and I was always being a jokester and an entertainer.

I guess it came naturally.

You call yourself a cosmic folk artist, what made you chose that sub-genre of music?

Yeah! Cosmic Canadiana. It comes from a term given to the American country artist Graham Parsons from the 60s and 70s. He called himself a cosmic Americana musician and I sort of adopted that term. It’s the feeling of spacey, colourful and sort of spiritual.

The case says it all - folk icon Ivan Rivers lives up to the label.
The case says it all – folk icon Ivan Rivers lives up to the label.

There is folk music that is storytelling, and there is folk music that is more impressionistic like paint strokes. In some of my music I can be pretty direct, but I like to also be an Impressionist.

I love the juxtaposition of the lyrics from the song Boy in the Void from your first album Mystic Keg. You sang: ‘I want someone to find me and fuck me, and tell me I’m beautiful, and I know I’m not.’ It really contrasts the folk guitar with your jarring honesty.  

Yeah, I wanted to write a really beautiful song that could be heartbreaking as it could possibly be. I wrote it in a really honest space, and it’s about a year my Dad died. I was living in a basement in Toronto, and also managing my house back in Clinton, so I was back and forth between the village and the city. I sort of came up with that lyric and I was like ‘God that was the most depressing fucking thing I ever heard!’

I never heard anyone be that brutally honest before! I mean, I’m sure some artist somewhere said that in some metaphoric way, but you just said it flat out! And I think that’s really cool to hear.

Yeah! You gotta be frank sometimes!

You did a music video for your song Confidante in London  with the mysterious legend David Liebe Hart. I went to see him live and it’s the most bizarre thing I ever saw in my life. I couldn’t remember what I saw that night, can you tell me is it an act? Or is him?

It’s him! He’s a classic performer, a true Hollywood gem though and though. He was telling us that he had a cable television show for 20 years in LA. He’s amazing performer, and a little bit of a space cadet, saying that from the nicest way possible.

He did have a lot of bizarre request when we met him though. He wanted us to drive him around town and hand out sheet music to all of the churches since he writes contemporary Christian music. He also wanted us to find him some licorice tea, since his voice was hoarse, and he kept gargling his tea and spitting it out while he was talking to us.

He was a strange cat, but he was being himself. He was entirely comfortable singing his heart out in the streets of London during the filming of the music video.

How did you meet him?

Just from the director of the music video Danny Dunlop. He just came up with the idea of (Liebe Hart) being in the music video, since he knew he was coming to London. And I was like ‘Yes, please!’ since I’m a big fan of him, and a big fan of Tim and Eric on Adult Swim, and it came together naturally!

Since you’re from Clinton, I gotta ask: What is your opinion of the legendary Bartliff’s Bakery?

The best restaurant around! I’m a big fan of the two egg special, over easy with a marble rye. The rye is the clutch, with a nice hot black cup of Coastal Coffee! Black as a moonless night as they say.

Do you have any recommendations in London?

Early Bird is a pretty good spot for breakfast. I like to go into the Bag Lady especially, it’s fantastic! Locomotive Espresso is a great place to get coffee as well!

I feel like there is a lot of negative around London. A lot of people I find wants to escape it, and move to Toronto. What do you think of London itself?

I had a confusing experience in London. I liked it. I was walking around town a lot, and I like to go to the open mics and to the cafes. But, I lived about an hour away and I was going to school for radio at Fanshawe College for awhile.

Ivan Rivers - cosmic Canadian.
Ivan Rivers – cosmic Canadian.

Then I got pretty sick, I got bipolar disorder and last year I got a bit manic and I spent a lot time in London roaming the streets much like David Liebe Hart singing in the streets in my music video. Since then, London seems like a very surreal place for me. It used to be ‘the’ experience going to London when I was a kid living in Clinton.

I used to go to the mall and spend three hours there with my friends, and going to shows. And then when I was living in London, I feel like I didn’t want to run away from London, and I ended up moving to the country for awhile. I liked that a lot more than London, but London isn’t that bad as people say. I don’t like the London club scene, but I love the London punk rock scene. It’s pretty thriving, a lot of wasted potential.

I gotta be honest, this my first interview, and listening to your music really calmed me down, so thank you!

No, thank you for listening to me!                

Get more Ivan on Bandcamp and check him out on Facebook right here.

Feature photo by Andyy Scott


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