Stephen Fearing, singer, songwriter, guitarist (born 12 January 1963 in Vancouver, BC). Stephen Fearing is a singer-songwriter known for his poetic storytelling, rich vocals, skillful guitar playing and deft blending of folk, rock and country. His solo and collaborative projects, including the alternative country trio Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and the folk duo Fearing & White, have brought him critical acclaim and a cult following. He has won two Juno Awards, a Canadian Folk Music Award and a West Coast Music Award.
Early Years and Career
Fearing was born in Vancouver, BC, to an Irish mother and an English father. His parents divorced when he was six years old and he moved with his mother to Dublin, Ireland, where he lived for the next 11 years. While attending Mount Temple Comprehensive School, he was encouraged to pursue music by his history teacher, Donald Moxham, the same teacher who helped the band U2 get their start.
By 1982, Fearing had returned to Vancouver via Minneapolis. He immersed himself in the local music scene and released a self-titled, self-produced cassette in 1986. Fearing signed with Vancouver’s Aural Tradition label in 1988 and released the albums Out to Sea (1988) and Blue Line (1991), both of which showcased his Celtic influences and his leanings as a political singer-songwriter. In 1992, he received a Juno nomination for best new male vocalist.
True North Records, 1991-2009
Shortly after the release of Blue Line, Aural Tradition folded. Fearing then began working with manager Bernie Finkelstein and in 1991 signed with True North Records, joining musicians such as Bruce Cockburn. Fearing’s first new release with True North, The Assassin’s Apprentice (1994), featured guest vocals from Sarah McLachlan and garnered a Juno nomination for Best Traditional and Roots Album.
In 1994, Fearing moved to Guelph, ON, where he and blues musician Colin Linden bonded over an idea to record a tribute album to Willie P. Bennett, a little-known Ontario singer-songwriter who had a deep influence on Fearing’s music. Fearing and Linden teamed up with Tom Wilson of Junkhouse and, taking their name from Bennett’s 1979 album Blackie and the Rodeo King, released High or Hurtin’ (1996) as Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. The record earned critical acclaim and a Juno nomination for Best Roots and Traditional Album.
Fearing returned to solo recording with Industrial Lullaby (1998). Influenced by his work with Blackie and produced by Linden, the album garnered a Juno nomination for Best Roots and Traditional Album and the single “The Upside Down” reached number 38 on the Canadian adult contemporary chart.
Fearing also continued to record and tour with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings; the group gained acclaim and popularity, and won the Juno Award in 2000 for Best Roots and Traditional Album for Kings of Love (1999). Fearing and Linden co-produced his next two solo albums: the live record So Many Miles (2000), recorded at Toronto’s Tranzac Club; and That’s How I Walk (2002), which earned Fearing another Juno nomination in 2003.
In 2006, Fearing self-produced the first album since his 1986 cassette debut. The stripped-down and soulful Yellowjacket featured collaborations with many prominent Canadian folk and country musicians, and won the 2007 Juno Award for Best Traditional and Roots Album. Also that year, Fearing’s label True North was sold, prompting him to leave both the label and his manager of nearly 20 years, Bernie Finkelstein. Fearing’s last release with True North was the compilation album, The Man Who Married Music (2009).
In 2011, Fearing released the album Fearing & White, a collaborative project with the Northern Irish singer-songwriter Andy Whitethat brought together 13 songs the pair had written together over a 10-year period. It was the inaugural release of LowdenProud Records, a Calgary-based label started specifically by a friend to distribute Fearing’s recordings.
Fearing released his first solo album in seven years, the intimate and sparse Between Hurricanes, in early 2013. He continues to tour on his own, with Fearing & White and with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, throughout Canada and internationally.
Traditional/Roots Performer of the Year, West Coast Music Awards (1991)
Best Roots & Traditional Album: Group (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Kings of Love), Juno Awards (2000)
Best Songwriter (English), Canadian Folk Music Awards (2006)
Record of the Year (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Let’s Frolic), Hamilton Music Awards (2006)
Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Solo (Yellowjacket), Juno Awards (2007)