Bob Menzies is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter. After several careers including being a railway employee, a vagabond hippie, President of a Steelworkers' Union Local, an Accountant and a Headhunter, he launched a musical career in 2011, writing songs that carry influences as varied as Country Rock, Blues and Folk. He released his debut album Breaking Time January 15, 2013 and his second, One More Highway, December 7, 2013. His songs have been described as collections of Folk-Rock gems.
During the late sixties and seventies Bob travelled a lot, mostly by thumb but also boxcar and freighter ship. From Norway to Morocco, Greece to Holland, France to Germany, the UK and the Channel Islands. He lived in the London of free concerts in Hyde Park, the Who playing the Albert Hall with Chuck Berry and the untimely passing of Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones. It was also the time of the newly minted albums Nashville Skyline and the songs of Leonard Cohen, albums playing in all of the flats in South London.
Back in North America, he worked in the nickel mines of North Ontario and the migrant worker fields of California. That was the California of Sonny Barger and the Black Panthers, the SDS, Angela Davis and Altamont. He jumped boxcars to travel free through the American South, Texas, Tennessee, Mississipi, Alabama and Georgia finally making his way back to Montreal during the 1971 FLQ crisis where he was greeted by the sight of tanks in the streets.
He worked as a hod carrier in Germany, a bricklayer in London, a coal handler for the Jersey Coal Company as well as an accountant for the electricity company. He was a hard rock miner in Sudbury, a migrant worker in California, and a seller of fresh flowers on Highway 101. Finally he settled in Toronto to work in the financial district as an Executive Headhunter.
In 2010 Bob started writing songs and in August 2011 entered Studio 92 in east-end Toronto to begin working on what would become his debut album, “Breaking Time”. He was at a time of life when most people are winding down and thinking of retiring; instead he headed to his garage, re-christened it the Singing Dog Studio and began working up songs on a beat-up old Yamaha that had been gathering dust for 25 years.
Working with Toronto-based producer Mark Nakamura, engineer Brett “Buff Justice” MacMillan and some of Toronto’s finest studio session players, they produced an acoustic-flavoured album with influences as varied as 50’s rock ‘n roll, folk, reggae, Celtic and straight up rock.
The album Breaking Time emerged and in many ways the songs were about escape. “This was my pre-occupation at the time, I kept looking around and asking myself how do I change things up for the future, now that I’m here?”
In fact, the working title for the album was “Wanderlust” thinking the theme was merely about travel. “Then I began to realize it was really about time and all the ways time corrals us and controls us. And how it’s not really time, but other people’s notions of time and how they try to impose these on you. We go through periods in our lives when we are told we are too young to do the things we want to do and then, we are told we are too old to do other things. It’s all just a fiction, time is an illusion and relative to whatever we want it to be we have the choice.”
The song “It’s About Time” talks about a character who is looking at all the things it is now time to do, whatever the consequences.” It’s never clear whether he will actually act upon any of these conclusions he appears to reach.
The song “Happy Birthday, My Friend” was written when he heard about a friend who passed away that he hadn’t seen in years and got him thinking about how the people you meet become part of the refrain with the line “time goes by, we couldn’t change it if we tried, Happy Birthday, my friend.”
The album opens with “Hey Now Joe”, an uptempo folky kind of tune with a hooky chorus that asks the question: where do you go, when you go into that long dark night?
“Crazytown” is almost straight-ahead Rock and Roll about a mining town where Bob worked underground a driller while passing through. It says even when things are crazy around you and you wonder what you’re in the middle of, it’s still one hell of a good time…and getting out of town in a hurry will always be a fun thing to do.
“Bitter Wind” is an anthemic song written in response to a refugee ship from Sri Lanka anchored off the Canadian Coast and the jailing of the refugees when they came ashore. “That’s how the song started, then it went off on its own, and I don’t know if I could tell you what it means. It means a lot of things, I guess. Strangely I sometimes refer to lines in the song – some king of post-modern self-referencing that’s strangely weird.”
The second song on Breaking Time, “I’m Gonna Love You Anyhow” is about a character who loves a woman despite whatever she throws his way and even when he his ironically sabotaging the relationship by staying out all night still holds fast to the love. He says “I’ll be back in the morning, home with the cows, and I’m going to love you anyhow.”
“River Moon” is a hopeless romantic song with a chunky rhythm. A man stands on a bridge not knowing whether love can save him or if he should just jump in.
“The Day You Said Goodbye” is a love song that remembers the day a lover walked out the door and wonders if the loss was felt equally.
The album, Breaking Time is due out Spring/Summer of 2012.