the story behind: “city & country”

I have a cousin who, every time I see him, says, “I don’t know how you can live in Toronto.” And I remember when I went to the University of Waterloo, meeting people from Toronto who would sometimes say, “There’s nothing to do here!” And I would wonder what the hell they were talking about, since I found Waterloo to be exceptionally vibrant. The fact of the matter is, both of those types of folks are missing out.

I love every big city I’ve been to, and Toronto is no exception. I also love just about every small town I’ve been to, so maybe that says more about me than it does about big cities and small towns. There is this idea that they are so different because small towns have a real community and in the big city no one knows anyone. That’s not really true. I mean, I don’t really know the people on my street, but that’s because I travel about 100-150 days a year. The community that I know in Toronto is the folk music community, and it is sort of shocking how often I go out in Toronto and run into someone I know from my community. Not even when I’m going to shows — that’s a natural spot to run into folks I know. Just when I go to a random restaurant for breakfast, or grocery shopping, I run into friends and have one of those “I haven’t seen you in ages!” kind of conversations.

The impetus for this song was the decline of the city, but as so often happens with songs the meaning shifted as I kept writing. This is really a song about my experiences living in a major city and a small town, and the fact that I think there are more similarities than differences. And it’s also a critique on the perceptions around big cities and small towns — those people who say Toronto is cold and impersonal, or those Torontonians who claim small towns have no culture. You have to keep an open mind to hear that “even the cities are calling out“.

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