Cy­cling Celebrity

In­die rocker takes ‘mu­si­cal re­treat’ across the U.S. by bike

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by David Mcpher­son

Rich Au­coin’s big ride

Fif­teen gigs. Sixty-two days in the sad­dle. Five thou­sand kilo­me­tres ped­alled alone on a Can­non­dale Tour­ing 2 equipped with pan­niers from one coast of the United States to the other. Sun­burns ga­lore. One cat res­cued. Sev­eral al­bums worth of new songs writ­ten. It all hap­pened on an anti-de­pres­sion cross-coun­try bike tour called Press On that Cana­dian mu­si­cian Rich Au­coin suc­cess­fully com­pleted this past spring to pro­mote his EP, Hold.

The tour be­gan March 23 in Los An­ge­les with a gig at Bar­dot in Hol­ly­wood and con­cluded June 29 in Brook­lyn, N.Y., at The Knit­ting Fac­tory. From the foothills of the City of An­gels to the Ari­zona deserts to the moun­tains, rivers and lost land­marks in be­tween (such as the statue from Easyrider, the Cadil­lac Grave­yard, and the world’s best pre­served me­teor crater), Au­coin’s ad­ven­tures had him nav­i­gat­ing ev­ery­thing from traf­fic-con­gested free­ways and an­gry truck­ers to ped­alling down dusty, de­serted back­coun­try roads and the his­toric Route 66 be­fore reach­ing the Big Ap­ple.

Au­coin ad­mits he’s not a bike “geek.” If you start talk­ing tire types, gears and cy­cling com­po­nents, you quickly lose him, but that doesn’t mean the mu­si­cian is not an

“Rid­ing a bike is most peo­ple’s first un­der­stand­ing of the need to have bal­ance in your life.”

avid cy­clist. When not tour­ing or writ­ing songs, he en­joys cy­cling around his home­town of Hal­i­fax.

All of this tour’s pro­ceeds went to a pair of men­tal health or­ga­ni­za­tions: Men­tal Health Amer­ica and the Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion. Why men­tal health? “I felt this char­ity is in a cul­tural shift at the mo­ment,” Au­coin ex­plained. “So­ci­ety is re­an­a­lyz­ing how it views men­tal health and the stig­mas around it. Peo­ple also com­ment that my shows feel like a nat­u­ral an­tide­pres­sant.”

The mu­si­cian says he’s lucky there is no his­tory of men­tal-health is­sues in his fam­ily, but he’s seen many of his friends in the artis­tic com­mu­nity af­fected. “It feels nice to do some­thing for peo­ple af­flicted, with­out it be­ing per­sonal,” he said.

Au­coin’s first cy­cling mem­ory was rid­ing by his nextdoor neigh­bours and not hav­ing to put his feet down as he passed in front of their house. “I’m sure ev­ery­one re­mem­bers that mag­i­cal feel­ing,” he said. “We all share that mem­ory of try­ing to ride for the first time and lop­ing to one side or the other be­fore you sud­denly un­der­stand the con­cept of bal­ance.”

“Rid­ing a bike is most peo­ple’s first un­der­stand­ing of the need to have bal­ance in your life,” he added. Bal­anc­ing his days be­tween times on his bike, be­ing a tourist and join­ing his band­mates in ma­jor cities along the way for nightly gigs, the artist av­er­aged 100 km daily. He ped­alled at a leisurely pace and chron­i­cled his jour­ney for Paste mag­a­zine.

“I wasn’t in a su­per rush,” he said. “I treated it like a mu­si­cal re­treat. I made in­stru­men­tals of the songs I’m cur­rently work­ing on, lis­tened to them on the bike and sang melody ideas and lyrics over the in­stru­men­tals dur­ing the day. Then, I could work on those songs each night. I would fin­ish bik­ing each day around 6 p.m., so I could have three hours of work be­fore go­ing to bed around 9:30 or 10 p.m.”

Pre­vi­ously, Au­coin av­er­aged an al­bum re­lease ev­ery four years. Af­ter his lat­est cy­cling ad­ven­tures, his am­bi­tion is to make five al­bums in the next year alone. It seems cy­cling is an in­spir­ing sport, on many lev­els.

above Rich Au­coin per­forms at the Truck Stop Con­cert Se­ries in his cy­cling jersey

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