Ian Tamblyn


Photo credit: Jeff Hardill










Ian Tamblyn has been a musician since 1972. He has released 37 albums and cds of his work as well as acting as producer for dozens of other artists.  Over the years Ian has written too many songs and has given up on counting them. He has also written thirteen plays and over one hundred theatre soundtracks.  His most recent play is called Nun of It.

Mr. Tamblyn has received a number of awards and nominations.  In 2012, Ian was made a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society for his guiding work in the Canadian Arctic. He has been awarded the Estelle Klein and Helen Verger Awards for his contributions to Canadian folk music; he has a honourary doctorate from Lakehead University, a Distinguished Alumni Award from Trent University and was voted English Songwriter of the Year in 2010 by the Canadian Folk Music Awards, amongst other awards and nominations in the music and theatre world.

In the spring of 2014 finished work on his CD, The Labrador, the last of his “Four Coast Project” CDs.  The Labrador.

Currently, Ian is writer in residence at Carleton University and is about to release a CD38 celebrating the Group of Seven, Walking in the Footsteps, a project commissioned by the Art Gallery of Sudbury.







The Creative Well- The Fountain of Sorrow?



I have been thinking about Jackson Browne’s song, Fountain of Sorrow for the past few days, since a friend of mine sent me a video of him singing the song recently. The song stands up for the most part, though there is something about the California philosopher who is too aware that it is also a pop song. I have always admired Jackson Browne however, I amazed by his lyric line length , his rambling lines  that comes into focus and his courage to write a politically charged song knowing it might cost him his career. It did.

“I’m just one or two years and a couple of changes behind you

In my lessons at love’s pain and heartache school

Where if you feel too free and you need something to remind you

There’s a loneliness springing up from your life

Like a fountain from a pool.

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light…”

– Jackson Browne- Fountain of Sorrow


With no empirical evidence to back me up other than   gauzed experiential recollections, it seems to me that as a child, everything was sort of vague up until about age four or five. I lived in a fuzzy newness. I can sort of remember my father and his friends taking me down a ski hill on their shoulders when I was very young but I am not sure if that was not triggered by some photographs taken at the time that I saw later.  I can remember my grandfather’s liquor cabinet, not a foreshadowing of an alcoholic future, but because the tops of the bottles had Corby’s parrot beaks on them .When they dispensed a jigger of rye or scotch the beak filled up as you tipped the bottle. Squawk!- here’s your drink.  I loved that. I remember the silver airplane ashtray and the glowing lights on the inside of the plane in my grandmother’s den. I remember my great grandmother and the terrible fright she gave me when I went upstairs at my “Nan’s” and surprised her without her hair on or teeth in. We both recovered later over milk and oatcakes but I actually think I was older then.

One day I found a stray dog in the park near our house. It was beagle, quite young, crazy and rambunctious and when I found it, it was running around the park with a broken leash. Somehow I caught it and we became fast friends.  We played together all afternoon. I love dogs and I have a soft spot for hounds. Later in the afternoon, I took it home and asked my mother if I could keep the dog as was clearly lost and I had clearly found it. My mom was not sure about this impeccable logic and said the dreadful two words – we’ll see.  She asked me to put the dog out in the backyard which was surrounded by a white picket fence. I was playing in the back yard with my new friend when unexpectedly the dog leapt over the fence and ran onto the road. As I looked through the fence , the dog ran straight into the grill of an old car that was driving down Franklin Street. . Things slow down here.  I can see the white and spotted dog, its head now twisting backwards in the grill of the car. The grill of the car sloped backwards, perhaps a 1937 Dodge, and the dog then flipped away from the grill and flew through the air, like it had jumped over the fence only this time twisting and twisting – out of control .Contorted. I can’t remember any noise, for me it is silent and in slow motion. The dog hit the side of the road and I was there, holding it in my arms. I was beside myself. My mother ran out of the house. There was nothing to be done.

This recollection is my first ordered conscious memory and I also remember saying to myself – I will remember this forever and I have. I have never lost it and it has stayed with me though many other things and people have faded. It is imprinted.

In some ways I would say this event is my fountain of sorrow. By that I do not mean that I am sad person or that I am near tears at all times.  I am not. But I would say that this event  profoundly affected the way I saw things after that , it affected the way I see things now, it affected my perspective , it shocked me into life – and death , at a very young age.  Other events were to happen there after but I would contend that this event gave me the eyes to see them. This event may have tripped off a way, or ways of seeing things that has affected me the rest of my life.

Now this small tragedy could have simmered there the rest of my life but it did not. It was compounded by other events that left me a very confused, unhappy and disaffected person by the  time I was teenager – along with much of a generation.  I would like to have seen myself as an Outsider in Colin Wilson sense of the word but I was not – I was just unhappy and fucked up and very much at the side of life’s football field. Through some mysterious process I had gone from being a participant in life’s pageant to an observer. But I didn’t know that until I discovered music and books.  I found my soul mates in the grooves of records – everything from Richie Valens  to Johnny Cash , The Cascades to Bob Dylan. In books it was of J.D. Salinger of course but it was also, William Saroyan, Kerouac, Steinbeck , Hemmingway ,Faulkner-  and as I read them  I saw that these others singers and writers were observers as well .The difference was  they held the tools of expression. I did not. However, such was my conceit at the time,  I dreamed could hold them in time. . Such presumption- And so it begins .







Arctic 2013













Arctic 2013








This self-titled album won a Juno Award and has the first ever sleeve to feature a cutaway revealing a photo on the album sleeve and inside cover.



Japanese Folk Award – For the album When Will I See You Again


Juno Nomination – For the album Magnetic North


Jackie Washington Award – Northern Lights/Festival Boreal


Tapa Dora Award Nomination – For the play Whale


Honorary Doctorate – Lakehead University


Victor Tolgesy Award – Ottawa Council for the Arts


Jessie Award Nomination – Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards, Vancouver


Helen Verger Award – Ottawa Folk Festival


Estelle Klein Award – Ontario Council of Folk Festivals


Award for Outstanding Achievement – Association of West Quebecers


Best Album Nomination – Canadian Folk Music Awards


Distinguished Alumni Award – Trent University


English Songwriter of the Year – Canadian Folk Music Awards


Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society


OCFF- Songs from the Heart – Best Political Song


Writer in Residence Faculty of Music, Carleton University



Credit: Lee Naraway



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