C.R. Avery: all guns loaded

When C.R. Avery takes off his pants, it's poetry. At least that's what the rock n' roll, beatbox poet-cum-singer claims. Avery is doing this interview via cellphone while standing in line at a Vancouver bank. So I have to take his word for it.

When C.R. Avery takes off his pants, it’s poetry.

At least that’s what the rock n’ roll, beatbox poet-cum-singer claims.

Avery is doing this interview via cellphone while standing in line at a Vancouver bank.

So I have to take his word for it.

Which isn’t hard to do, since the rest of the interview is also poetry.

“I went to the Lou Reed school of arts,” says Avery. “I can’t be anything else.

“From Frank Sinatra live at the Sands with Quincy Jones conducting, to Mohammed Ali thrashing reporters with his tongue, I take it all in.”

Then it’s Avery’s turn at the teller.

He calls back 10 minutes later.

Now, he’s talking about solo acts and rock n’ roll.

In Whitehorse tonight, Avery is performing solo.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a quiet evening.

“The guns are loaded,” said Avery. “You’d be a fool not to come to the show.”

Sometimes he plays with a rock n’ roll band, sometimes he performs with whole symphonies and sometimes he’s all by himself on the stage with only a mic and a keyboard.

“I’d love to see Ani DiFranco with a 10-piece band,” he says. “But I’d pay a lot more money just to see her with a guitar.”

The good thing about solo performers who also play rock n’ roll, is that when they play rock n’ roll, it’s dynamic, says Avery. “It doesn’t have to be crunch for an hour.”

“Jeff Buckley can slay a room by himself,” he says. “But then playing with a band, he’ll bring it down to just him on the guitar and then boom, set off explosives and kick the band in.

“So it’s good to be able to stand on your own two feet but always be open for somebody to bring in the troops.”

It all depends on the song.

“If you listen to the demo version of Subterranean Homesick Blues, it just doesn’t work, it doesn’t sound good,” he says, referring to an early acoustic version of the Bob Dylan hit.

“Before that, Dylan has four albums of him just playing acoustic guitar and harmonica and it sounds killer,” says Avery.

But now, “he was at the mercy of the song, and it didn’t work acoustic. It had more balls and it had an alleyway running through it and when he put it with a rock n’ roll band, boom it sounded at home.”

It’s the same with Avery’s poetry.

Everything has a soundtrack, he says.

“Every time you watch a movie, you hear something. If it’s a piano, a radio in background or just the noise of traffic, it just sounds better,” he says.

“The same goes for anyone who writes words. If it’s going to be spoken, it actually sounds better with something underneath it. It could just be a freight train in the background, or a dog barking, or it could be a full band.”

Or it could be a whole symphony.

Avery just finished recording his most recent album with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

“My goal is to bring orchestras back to the day when singers would sing with orchestras and tell jokes between songs,” he says. “It just got too bourgeoise and too expensive, but I hope to bring it back to the rock n’ roll band.”

Avery grew up with a country singer for a dad and a classical musician for a mom. He was beatboxing by the time he was 11.

Then he got into the blues, and poetry, and anything else that caught his fancy.

“By accident I watched Guys and Dolls and loved a couple songs from that,” he says. “I was always open.

“I’m inspired by Louis CK and George Carlin as much as I am by Keith Richards.”

Avery’s a self-described outlaw hip-hop harmonica player, beatbox poet, punk piano player, string quartet raconteur, rock n’ roll matador and playwright.

He also paints.

“And I’ve slept with a few dancers,” he says, with a laugh.

But Avery doesn’t take the rock n’ roll lifestyle lightly.

He remembers living in utter poverty in East Vancouver and getting booked at one of the best venues in Seattle as part of a poetry slam.

“We were in this gorgeous old-school theatre in Seattle,” he says. “I mean look where our art has taken us. It is the greatest passport you can have.

“People go on vacations and get stuck in these tourist calligraphy traps, but with us, we get taken right to the bohemian centre, to the arts community, and it’s on from the get-go.”

These days, Avery is on the road a lot.

Last weekend he was in Memphis, the weekend before he was playing on the Gulf Islands and the night before his Whitehorse show, he was in Ottawa for Versefest.

Sure it can get tiring, he says.

“So can being a single mother living in the city working as a waitress. I mean, come on, I live a pretty good life.”

But Avery works at it.

“Destiny is a three-legged horse,” he says. “You got to give it its fourth leg.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has announced 30 new COVID-19 cases on June 21 for a total of 100 active cases. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon experiencing community spread among unvaccinated: Hanley

Territory logs 30 new cases on June 21, for a total of 68 new cases this weekend

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read