Michael Bernard Fitzgerald revisits his past while looking towards the future

Musicians: they’re just like us!

When we track down Calgary’s beloved (or hearted) pop-rock master Mr. Michael Bernard Fitzgerald he’s beeping his way through a grocery store self checkout till, the automated voice filling some early pauses as he tries to find the barcode or is a little slow on bagging an item.

It’s a concession you’re more than happy to make when MBF’s time is as precious as it is, between the writing, recording, rehearsing, performing and planning yet another extravaganza for his hometown fans.

Prior to that gig, an evening retrospective of his decade-long career taking place Friday, June 8 at the Bella Concert Hall in Mount Royal University’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, MBF spoke with theYYSCENE.

Here are excerpts from that chat.

Q: How’s your summer going?

A: So far, so good. I just got home this week …

Q: I’m sorry that I don’t know this, were you just on tour?

A: Not a tour formally, but I’ve been playing a lot. I just came back, well, last week I played in New York and Toronto, but lots of one-offs — they’re every week so I’ve just been playing a lot. And in between that I try to make sure that I’m making new songs and doing that side of things, too.

Q: So you’re finally in songwriting mode for working on a new album?

A: Well, I’m in songwriting mode, I’m feeling, maybe just in general. I think that it’s shifting in a way that maybe — I hate to use the word “singles,” but maybe it’s just more, more often. I feel like it’s kind of the trend … The new music starts coming out on the 16th, by the way. There’s a new song that I’ve recorded called Heat of the Night. I recorded it with (producer) Dennis Herring, who did all of the Modest Mouse stuff.

Q: Before that you’re playing the gorgeous Bella Concert Hall. Your concerts, especially local ones are always special events, how is this one special?

A: This one we’re calling The Request Line, it’s a retrospective, basically it’s songs from the last 10 years of touring and being a full-time artist, and band members from the last 10 years as well. I think there’s like 16 or 17 in the band and it’s people of all eras of touring and travelling and recording — so it’s a nice mix of everybody, and they’re all so enjoyable to be around, too. And then we opened up a cell phone number that people could text their requests into, so we’ve been getting all of these text messages, people saying their favourite song or asking for dedications or whatever — it’s wild.

Q: You’ve got fans everywhere, so is this the kind of thing people are travelling for? Have you heard of anyone coming in for the show?

A: The last dedication request, this 10-year-old-girl … from Northern Alberta, (she and her parents) are making the trek in. She sent me a handwritten setlist that she was hoping for. (Laughs) How could we turn that down? She’s 10 years old, her parents are bringing her, she’s ready to go. So I just swapped out my setlist for the one she sent in …

Q: Will this be tough for you, because I’m guessing some of these songs you haven’t played in a long time?

A: Well, there are a few we haven’t played in awhile, but I don’t think it will — I forgot to tell you one part (of the concert). It’s meant to be a laid-back approach to it. The idea is that a bit of the set will be acoustic, just me and a guitar, and then we bring up these guest musicians for a couple of songs here, a couple of songs there … to revisit some of those orchestrations or lineups. And in between, we partnered with (local restaurant, bar and hospitality company, the Concorde Group) and we built a bar for the stage, so all of the band and their people will be up on the stage at these tables just having a laid-back time, and then they get up and do the tunes. So for that reason I don’t think anybody’s feeling the pressure, like I think it’s just meant to be this come-as-you-are kind of night.

I’m not worried about playing these old songs, I’m excited. We’re playing one of the first songs that kind of kicked things off, this song called Maxine — it’ll be fun to play that again. It’ll be fun to play a bunch of them.

But the bar’s going to be great. What we’re going to be doing at the intermission, as well, we asked the wonderful people at the Taylor Centre to make this intermission longer and we are going to open up our stage bar to the house. So at intermission you can come up on stage and get a beer and the band’s going to stay out onstage and we’re just going to enjoy the intermission until we play the second half. It’s a theatre, but I’m trying to do what I can to make if feel like a big ol’ living room, you know? Which feels fitting for playing at home.

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald performs Friday, June 8 at the Bella Concert Hall. For tickets please click here

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Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at He likes beer. Buy him one.