A guitar player and woman with an immense horn playing onstage

Michael Keith (Part 2): on Cortes Island 

Michael Keith was ‘blown away’ when he visited Hornby Island twenty years ago.

“I was like, ‘Wow, imagine living in a place like that.’ I remember going back to Toronto and telling my friends, ‘they don’t even lock their doors there. It’s incredible!’”

He was enamoured by the spectacular seascapes at Tofino, when he played there a few years later. 

Keith went through a divorce, sold his house, and then hooked up with a professor at the University of Toronto.  

“My new partner who I’ve been with for 10 years,  introduced me to Cortes because she would come here for getaways from Toronto. I was gigging two or three times a week, and teaching in Toronto. She wanted to move here. I came, checked it out and just fell in love with the land. We were fortunate enough to get a tiny little place.”

submitted photo

“I felt kind of quasi-retired when I came here because of a few health problems. Part of the reason coming here was it would just be good for me, physically and mentally. Same with my partner. I feel blessed that I was able to do that.” 

“It’s a big change, as you can imagine, but I’ve done quite well. In the six years I’ve been here, I have really felt welcomed by the community. I’m sure it’s added years to my life being here and I feel reinvigorated.”

“Some of the summers in the past six years, I’ve made more money than I did in Toronto for some entire years. I was playing six or seven times every summer at the Gorge and it was a really good paying thing. I miss that.”

He both teaches and sells music online.

“I also will go play for people that hire me. There’s not a lot of people like myself that have done it professionally. There’s a few like Rick Bockner. There’s some of what I call the weekend warrior types here that get together and play the Eagles. I’ll play a wedding doing Van Morrison or some stuff that really isn’t me, but I can do that. I don’t say no too much.”

“Just before the pandemic, I was set to relaunch my career. Then the pandemic happened. Both my parents passed away. I had a cancer diagnosis and it was one thing after another, but I’m doing well now, with a pretty good bill of health,  just monitoring stuff. I had a kidney removed last year, probably not the stuff that people want to read about, but these are just things of life.”

“I’m just starting to get reestablished again.” 

CC: Where have you played recently? And where will you be playing?

MK: “Amazingly,  I’m busy on Cortes.”

“I recently did a gig here at the museum.  It was mostly seniors. They’re used to someone with the guitar singing the lovely song. I realized for a lot of them it was probably pretty experimental. Most of the music I’m doing lately is instrumental, and there’s so many influences from so many different types of things coming in, but  they stayed. I felt, wow,  that’s good. I was still able to hold them with something.”

A woman commented, “My husband and I were like, ‘this isn’t music we’re used to, but we knew it was good.’”  

And I said, ‘Well, thank you. I’m glad you didn’t just leave because then I feel bad.””

“I played at Manson’s Hall a couple of times, and that’s always been successful for me.”

“I’ve helped curate a series outside the Co-op for this summer. Every Saturday they have music out there, and I helped organize that as something I could do for Manson’s Landing area, and the island in general, mostly as a response to no music at the Gorge. This coming Saturday, July 15th, I’m going to play with a bass player and a percussionist.” 

He’ll also be playing at Smelt Bay as part of the Cortes Day celebration.

MK: “Cortes Day (Saturday, July 15), I always play that.”

“Then I have a thing at the Chameleon Restaurant on Quadra at the beginning of August, which I’ve done before and that’s a lovely thing.” 

CC: You’ll be playing at Lovefest on August 12th.

MK: “Yes, that’s a great gig. I’ve done two of them, and it’s so much fun.”

CC: You were among the first first musicians to play at the Village commons, in Mansons Landing, on Friday afternoons.

MK: “Yes, that’s right, another great one.  You know what I’m really grateful for is that I have been contacted,  unlike Toronto years ago where I had to do everything.” 

Michael Keith will also soon be doing more off-island concerts.

“I let my driver’s license go a number of years ago, and I’ve finally gotten it again. So now I’m looking forward to doing some Vancouver Island gigs and traveling a bit. A lot of my music is going more towards an ambient kind of music for meditation, contemplation, and I really like that.”

You have been listening to the conclusion of an interview with Michael Keith. In part one, which you can still find at Cortes Currents.ca, he talks about his inspiration and we play three of his songs.

Top image credit: Michael Keith playing onstage in Mansons Hall – submitted photo

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