The News (New Glasgow)
Musicians Thomas McCallum, Al Tuck touring Maritimes
Growing up in Six Mile Brook, Thomas McCallum understands the importance of small communities.
Though the folk singer/songwriter has been living in Halifax for seven years, Pictou County is still home – and rural areas like where he grew up are where he is making an effort to perform.
McCallum says the Maritimes have been under threat for several decades and incorporating small communities into his tour with Al Tuck is part of an attempt to show residents don’t have to travel to find good music.
“... We just want to get out in those small places and those places where people will listen to what we have to say lyrically and really encourage them. We just want to do our best to say the small places are important. They’re more important than anyone knows,” he said, adding that “solitude and the interplay of community” is essential to the Canadian identity.
McCallum is playing a series of shows with Tuck, who hails from Prince Edward Island, across the Atlantic provinces this summer – including three shows in Pictou County.
He and Tuck have a similar musical background, McCallum said, and are able to back each other up.
“Al Tuck is an extremely versatile musician – genre-crossing, genre-bending – and (has) some excellent folk songs that lend themselves well to tin whistle,” McCallum said, noting that he learned the tin whistle while at a nature camp years ago.
McCallum got his start in music through elementary school choir, moving on to Pictou District Honour Choir where director Monica Punke had a significant musical influence on him, he said. He was gifted a guitar when he was 15 and start writing songs shortly after.
He released his first recording Crocus Song in 2014 and has been “gigging around” as much as he can since then with hopes of putting out another longer recording soon.
His tour partner has a few more records to his name, the last being Fair Country in 2015, and has earned his fair share of accolades over his more than two decades in the music business.
Tuck and McCallum’s tour has already taken them to Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, with more dates planned for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick – including July 9 in New Glasgow at the Farmers Market in the morning and The Commune in the evening, July 11 at Green Hill Alma United Church and July 24 at St. John’s Anglican Church in River John.
McCallum noted that a third of the dates on the tour take place in churches, hardly an accident considering Tuck’s father was a well-known priest in P.E.I. while McCallum has worked in several churches across the Maritimes.
McCallum says there’s nothing like playing in churches – combining a listening audience (hopefully), a wonderful acoustic setting and a pleasing esthetic.
“... Churches have so much potential as music venues and places where community connections can happen. My real desire is to see more of that.”