A guitarist with Canadian rock band Finger Eleven since they formed in 1990, James Black is travelling down three musical roads these days.
"Finger Eleven, Blackie Jackett Jr and doing (Moon) Boot Cocoon," said Black, who last Thursday was on the road to London, Ont. for a pair of shows - an outdoor afternoon patio set with Blackie Jackett Jr, and an evening show finishing a three-week run with Finger Eleven at London Concert Theatre.
"Blackie Jackett's a country band. Four of us are resident members, and sometimes it's bigger, sometimes seven people. It's just good drinking songs and an excuse to have a good time. Doing country was just sort of my escape from the 'big thing' of rock n roll, I guess."
It wasn't a genre of music he grew up loving. For Black, it was an acquired tasted.
"I think it was more about the storytelling part of it, being able to be the voice, and the words, and be the narrator of the story moreso than the genre. But then when I started to listen to old country, like Hank Williams, you start to hear that, yeah they are just little stories. What is traditionally country is something I like to do anyways - I like to tell jokes, I like to tell stories."
Black will be sharing some of those stories and music in Tillsonburg on Saturday, June 2nd at Sammy Krenshaw's. It will be a jaw-dropping night of music with local openers The Anti Delicates, followed by solo Black, then Brad Roberts from Crash Test Dummies.
But it won't be a country-exclusive set from Black, he also draws heavily from his own solo album, Moon Boot Cocoon. He'll throw in a variation of a song he wrote with Finger Eleven (but didn't sing on the album), as well as a handful of Blackie Jackett Jr songs that hold up solo.
"It's just me and a guitar, so a lot of it is picking the songs that feel right and energetic with just one guy. Some songs I'll alter them to be more fun that way."
His career with Finger Eleven is still going strong.
"We just do it in a different way. We've been doing it for so long that it sort of lives on its own."
Getting back on the road was a thrill, said Black, enjoying the road-trip camaraderie after a recent stretch at home in Toronto.
"We just did three weeks across the country, and for that whole stretch at home we didn't realize how squirrelly it was getting till we got out on the road and realized, 'yeah this is where we belong.' I love being out on the road, the road trip. I don't like just sitting in a car... but I guess I do, because it's just part of it. Everything about the lifestyle of a touring musician, I love it."
The solo trip to perform in Tillsonburg is a bit of a different animal, he added.
"There's nothing else to hide behind. And then you go a little bit off the handle, in a different way, because there's no one there to keep you in line."
He still loves all three musical journeys. Playing guitar with Finger Eleven, he has fewer responsibilities - it's just play guitar and have fun.
"I love that, it's sort of an escape."
With Blackie Jackett, he gets to be the loudmouth front man with a band behind him.
"There's a certain false courage that comes with that which I love. I love to be obnoxious and have permission to do so.
"And then with the solo stuff, it's a lot about saying whatever I want without collaborating and someone saying 'what about this' or 'what about that...' You just do it and live or die by the sword.
"I think there's a place for all of it. I made the solo stuff different from anything else, it doesn't really overlap with anyone.
"I don't know... I can't explain to anyone what I want to make..." said Black, suddenly changing gears to point out a roadside attraction on Hamilton Road.
"We just drove by a Bigfoot holding an electric guitar. How cool is that?! That's why the road is awesome."