Interview with MUDMEN
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Our Mother was the one who got us interested in music and there was always music in our house. Even to this day Mom is always singing a song or has one in her head. She had a small band with our brother-in-Law Carl McVicar and they would perform Piano, Fiddle and guitar at seniors’ homes. We had fiddle players over at the house performing live music with Mom accompanying them on piano and we listened to a lot of traditional Scottish and Irish music. The Irish Rovers were Mom’s favorite band and the first band we ever performed with outside of Pipe Bands. Sandy was supposed to learn the fiddle but was offered bagpipe lessons from Don Webster. Don is 94 years old now and was out to see the Mudmen perform just a few weeks ago.
If we didn’t get into music, things wouldn’t have changed all that much in regard to work except we’d still have some of our construction money. In our teens we started working as Mudmen for bricklayers and that’s where the name came from. The person who mixes mortar “mud” is the Mudman. Even when we were signed to EMI Records with professional management, we still worked construction the whole time. We still do some fences, brickwork, cement, etc but the band is now financially successful enough we do not have to do day jobs anymore. It’s amazing when you become your own manager, record label and booking agency, there is actually some money left over.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
We enjoy socializing and hanging out with family and friends. Hockey and Wrestling have both been very good to us and Robby goes to a lot of OHL Hockey Games and Indy wrestling events. Life experiences definitely influence our creativity but likely the people we hang around with influence us the most. We’ve met so many great characters from young to old telling us jokes, advice and their life stories we have a lot to draw from. We’ve made a lot of friends through work had a lot of fun on job sites because of the people we’ve worked with.
We’ve also had our share of highs and lows experiencing the good the bad and the ugly. You can hear lyrics in our songs talking about friends, hard work, sleeping in cars and so many things we have lived and experienced. It is definitely easier to write about something that you are passionate about or you have experienced in your own life.
How long has your band been around?
This year 2023 we are celebrating 25 years not missing 1 year ever of touring and playing shows. Even during Covid we were able to get a few in.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We are originally from Alvinston Ontario population 800 where everyone knows their neighbor’s. Living in a farming community surrounded by great neighbor’s has certainly influenced our music. People are friendly and usually willing to help one another and there are a lot of stories that come from growing up in a small town. Currently our band Mudmen is based out of the Cambridge/London Ontario area.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Originally, we were called the Campbell Brothers but when we signed to EMI Records, we changed the name to Mudmen. Robby and Sandy used to be Mudmen for bricklayers mixing Mud (mortar) and carrying bricks. We thought this was a suitable name for us since it is a big part of our history and story. Also, we came so close to making it in 1998 in a Mirvish Production, then playing “Walk of Fame” ceremonies, the Leaf Jumbo Tron at a Leaf Boston Game, etc, etc but then had to go back to construction it really made sense.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
The Mirvish production of “Needfire” in 1998 – This was our first big opportunity which led us to being signed to EMI Records. What really made it special was that very few people believed in us until we walked onstage and we got a standing ovation from 3000 people that night and every night. It was a great moment and we felt like we had arrived. There were a lot of great people in the production as well as stars including John McDermott, Denny Doherty from the Momma’s and Poppa’s and John Allan Cameron.
Walk of Fame Ceremonies – We performed at several of these just as bagpipers but around 2000 we performed at Roy Thompson Hall with Guido Basso’s Orchestra backing us up. Martin Short, William Shatner, Eugene Levy, Paul Shaffer, Kurt Browning, Gordie Howe were some of the names on this event either presenting or receiving a Walk of Fame. We also performed for Celine Dion, Nancy Green, Bobby Orr, Ferguson Jenkins, Ronnie Hawkins, Neil Young, Donald Southerland, Walter Ostanek, John Beliveau, Rush, The Guess Who, Trajically Hip, etc,etc. Every star we met were great.
Canada Day Parliament Hill on The CBC 2010 -This was a very memorable moment with Ron MacLean announcing us as a couple of his pals when we performed with Johnny Reid. The Barenaked Ladies, Christopher Plummer were also on the event and The Queen of England was on stage and we got to meet her and shake her hand televised.
The Edmonton Oilers 84 Stanley Cup re-union Gala – This was a televised event hosted by Ron MacLean with Wayne Gretzky and full team present. Red Ryder and Sarah MacLaughlin also performed at this event and gave us a lot of time backstage. Ron MacLean gave us his per diem for food and drinks and was awesome as always and Wayne Gretzky gave us 45 minutes of his time. We met almost every player from the 84 team and we had a lot of fun after the show with Gord Redel and Gord Marriot. Gord Marriot is a voice over actor and very funny. He was doing voices all night and we had him call and prank some friends of ours.
Sarnia Bayfest – It was great to open for the Guess Who to 30 000 people near our home town. We had a lot of friends out and even a few high school teachers.
Special Olympics opening ceremonies Sleeman Centre Guelph – This event was televised hosted by Evonka Osmak from Sportsnet where we got to perform for all the special Olympic athletes. Suzie MacNeil was also on the card
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Favourite Venue would be The Market Hall in Peterborough Ontario or The Roxy Theatre in Owen Sound Ontario. Massey Hall in Toronto is a venue we would like to play as Mudmen someday.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
It would be great to open for Rod Stewart, Mumford and Sons, Alan Doyle or Flogging Molly.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Stay positive and learn from everyone what to do and what not to do. Find a path and stay on it, don’t flip and flop with the trend of the day. Keep believing in yourself and continue to release new product as you can afford to. Remember you are the only one working to build that fan base every band needs. You will most likely need your day job to support your musical career. This is going to most likely be hard. Watch out for all of the snakes and weasels and be careful who you get involved with.
To my younger self I would say you did everything right up until you met a crooked record producer in 1997. I’d say, run away as fast as you can and don’t work with that guy. Also, when you make a bad investment do not be afraid to walk away losing say $20 000 instead of waiting till it reached $60 000 like we did and then walking away with nothing anyway. Do not over spend and put yourself in the poor house. Do not fall for the dream the managers and record labels and industry people sell and do not fall for the “get it on the back end” promises.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Be cheap, a dollar saved is better than a dollar earned. Don’t fall the big hype and false promises. Record your albums in small studios & small towns don’t over extend yourself digging yourself a big old debt hole. Remember your fans don’t care if you record your album in New York New York or in little old Newbury Ontario.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I Know Who My Friends Are. This song is a Mudmen original song and is self-explanatory basically telling a story about people and our experiences with people and how loyal they are to you. You find out who your real friends are when you hit Rock Bottom those are the ones that count.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
“Dropped on a Country Road” is always fun to play and the banjo gets a huge reaction. The most requested song that depends on the town, the venue and audience. A rowdy party crowd wants “Drink n Fight”, the theatre crowds want “Where I Came From”, the farming communities love “Farmer’s Tan” and the female Mud fans which is 70% of our fan base these days like “The Rose That Never Dies” or “May You”. We are fortunate that everyone walks away loving a different song.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Most songs come from the Campbell Brothers and then the band helps to polish them. The inspiration for these songs come from life lessons, experiences every day adventures and such. We have always been good to talk and visit with people and we’ve seen so many real life situations that could have made Saturday Night Live or the Trailer Park Boys it pay’s to live these experiences.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Most of our songs have positive messages while telling stories that we have learned and or witnessed. Some songs talk about family, friends and community, some are comical, some are auto biological and some are just fun. Some songs like “Good Guy” are sending a message about never giving up and that the Good person always wins.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Most bands, families, couples, groups, clubs & businesses have disagreements that’s a way of life. We are lucky that we the Campbell Brothers founded and funded Mudmen so we get to make the final call and have the final word. In our early years and with different line ups we have tried very hard to cater to different band members and we have recorded songs just to keep people happy. We have had some bad eggs over the years but we’ve also had some really great ones. Our current line up with Andy Gingerich, Alex Showdra, Colin Amey and Jordon Brosseau are great and they are professionals.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We are currently working on a memoir book/documentary 20 plus years in the Mud the story of The Campbell Brothers of Mudmen. The book n documentary has many celebrities giving video content. Stars we have worked with and or are part of our story I think people will be surprised to learn our story the highs and lows. Ron Maclean has forwarded the book with video blurbs from Glass Tiger, Johnny Reid, Don Cherry, Walter Ostanek there are too many too mention. As for Mudmen Albums we are talking about a Live Album and a Christmas Album and touring as much as possible.
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
Our website www.mudmen.ca is the best way to stay up to date with All Things Mud. Sign up for our Mudmen newsletter, buy music, watch and like videos, buy t shirts or a video message. The official Mudmen on Instagram, The Mudmen on Twitter, Mudmen Bands In Town, Mudmen on Reverb Nation, The official Mudmen page on Face Book or Mudmen group on Facebook are all great ways to support Mudmen.