Strong Roots (Profiles in Roots Music): Tim Ewing, Grand River Ramblers

by Krlmagi

I talk with Tim Ewing of Grand River Ramblers about collaborative song writing, surprising successes and where the band finds inspiration.

The roots of the Grand River Ramblers were set down by Tim Ewing when he asked Rusty Enns (the band’s guitarist) to jam with him. He also brought Bill Moorehouse (the band’s bass player) as part of the jam sessions. The band’s current lineup solidified one night in a garage in Kitchener. Tim explains, “Bill, myself and Rusty were jamming and Tim Turvey (the band’s drummer) was playing an empty beer box with brushes. We all looked at each other, thought it was pretty cool and decided to see if we could take this somewhere. “

Grand River Ramblers: Rusty Enns (centre), Bill Moorehouse (back left), Tim Ewing (back middle), Tim Turvey (back right)
Grand River Ramblers: Rusty Enns (centre), Bill Moorehouse (back left), Tim Ewing (back middle), Tim Turvey (back right)

The diverse musical backgrounds of each band member have contributed to the unique sound of the Grand River Ramblers. Tim says, “Rusty Enns brings a psychedelic rock influence, Tim Turvey adds a gypsy punk flair to the music, I bring in the folk, roots, bluegrass influences and Bill Moorehouse is kind of a rock guy with a little bit of everything under his belt.  I’m not sure how we’d classify ourselves but maybe ‘outlaw bluegrass’ works. If you add a drum kit to a bluegrass band, you’re no longer a bluegrass band!”

Song writing is a collaborative process for the members of the band. Tim points out, “All of us write songs and all of us have ideas that we bring to the table. It’s all about open communication, so we have the ability to critique one another’s ideas.Whether it's lyrics or a progression, with everyone’s input, the next thing you know we have a song.”

The biggest challenge for the band is finding a work/life balance. Tim says, “Three of the four members have very heavy family, work and music commitments. We try to find a balance between making music and keeping ourselves content and happy. It would be nice to make this music thing happen permanently, but the biggest challenge is getting the time commitment from everybody.”  

The success that the Grand River Ramblers have experienced has come as a surprise to Tim. He explains, “We’ve turned a lot of heads! We’ve gotten into some festivals that we’ve impressed ourselves with so we’re realizing that it’s a little more serious than we’d anticipated it would be. We’re not young bucks any more, we’re definitely seasoned, so it’s a lot of fun. We just wanted to put some smiles on faces, but now we can put bigger smiles on more faces!”

The folk/roots music scene was once underground and focused on a smaller, older demographic, but Tim feels that it’s in a period of growth. He elaborates, “I feel the roots scene is stronger than it’s ever been and is gaining popularity day by day. There’s something to be said about the sound of wood and strings. My personal feeling is that roots and bluegrass music creates a calming, natural feeling. It seems to bring people down to common ground and allows people to be themselves, so to speak.”

In his experience with the Grand River Ramblers, Tim has found that their music blurs the lines between tradition and modernity. He says, “We attract younger folks who are into rap and hip hop as well as people who are more traditional. There are so many roots bands popping up and I think it’s going to go a long ways.”

One of the band’s (and Tim’s) personal sources of inspiration is the positive audience reactions that they receive. Another source of inspiration comes from the full lives that each member of the band leads.  Tim continues, “Our adventures lead to stories that lead to songs, so we just have to keep living life to the fullest and making note of those special adventures and unique experiences. The music keeps finding us so we have to keep making music!”

For more information on Grand River Ramblers, please visit their website here.

This profile of Tim Ewing is based on a telephone interview conducted and recorded on August 22,2016.

Updated: 09/22/2016, Krlmagi
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