Rueben deGroot
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Rueben deGroot

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Rueben deGroot’s audacious musical eclecticism has won over audiences throughout Canada. Born and raised in Vancouver, Rueben learned to play guitar after falling in love with the music of Janis Joplin, Steely Dan, and Little Feat. After high school, he spent six years in Edmonton, where he played in bands and started songwriting. Rueben’s chance encounter in 2001 with songwriter Cameron Latimer led to their formation of The Seams, a Vancouver-based roots rock band that also included Steve Dawson and Adam Dobres (later of Outlaw Social). Following his departure from the band in 2005, Rueben continued to refine his craft over the next few years, writing dozens of songs.

In 2007, he settled in Kingston, Ontario, and assembled his current backing band, consisting of keyboardist Josh Lyon, guitarists Jason Euringer and Dan Curtis, bassist Paul Muller, and drummer Rob Radford. The band is rounded out by a killer horn section featuring Bunny Stewart and Benjamin Perosin. They have been joined on many occasions by vocalist Christina Foster, as well as by other guests, including friends Sarah Harmer and Spencer Evans.

Rueben’s high-energy, marathon concerts soon established him as a local favourite. His well-received 2008 EP, The Winter of Our Discotheque, brought him even more popularity. Since then, Rueben and his band have averaged one hundred performances per year, and they’ve shared stages with Sarah Harmer, The Jack Grace Band, Michael Kaeshammer, Hey Romeo, Chris Brown (Bournon Tabernacle Choir, Chris & Kate), and Daniel Lanois and the Derek Trucks Band. Rueben has also produced albums for Kingston performers The Gertrudes and Christina Foster. Rueben’s songs, which have been featured on the television shows jPod and Robson Arms, encompass a wide variety of musical genres, including outlaw country, jazz, soul, folk, boogie woogie, western swing, garage rock, southern rock, and early ‘60s pop. He explains, “I have no respect for generic boundaries. They’re silly. Each of my songs is every genre it needs to be. Sometimes that means cramming a lot of genres into a given song. I want to evoke the whole range of feelings in the listeners, and you can’t do that by limiting yourself to one kind of music.”

The narrators of Rueben’s songs are as varied as the musical genres he draws upon. “I never write about myself,” he notes. “My characters most often originate in overheard conversations. They come from disparate walks of life and cultures. The only thing they share in common is that they’re almost always underdogs. From some perspectives, they’re life’s failures, but not from my perspective.” Whether he’s writing about a forlorn operator of a cement mixer, a rogue Wall Street trader, or a down-on-his-luck con man, Rueben sets himself apart from his songwriting competition by balancing the poignant with the whimsical, the profound with the quirky.

2010 saw the release of his first full length album, Hey!, co-produced by Canadian alt-country icon Luther Wright. Reviewing the album, one critic wrote, “Hey! Contains echoes of John Prine, the Band, early Bruce Springsteen, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam, even Buddy Holly. And yet his music is so much more than the sum of his influences. It represents an ongoing dialogue with them, and through that dialogue, he realizes an artistic voice of singular power. . . For all the strengths of the album, it is chiefly deGroot’s exuberance that wins us over – an exuberance for the musical traditions his songs embody and frequently transcend and for the cast of assorted vagabond who populate those songs. Hey! Is one of the finest roots albums of recent years.

Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, Rueben released Pine in late 2011. He and his band continue to tour, to delight their local fans as the weekly house band at a popular pub in Kingston’s downtown, and to work on the follow-up to Pine.