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