When Morgan MacDonald closes his classroom door a few weeks from now, he’ll hit the road-less-travelled to gauge how far an alternate career path might take him.
The 32-year-old math, science, social studies, and health teacher at Del Van Gorder School in Faro is also a burgeoning singer-songwriter, about to embark on his second Canadian tour.
“I really enjoy performing, and it’s something I’m really looking forward to,” MacDonald explains. “I have financial and business goals and things like that, but what it really comes down to is the opportunity to perform for more people.”
MacDonald will fly to Vancouver with his fiancée, Sarah, before embarking on a road trip with Montreal vocalist and banjo player Corinna Rose.
The tour has 13 gigs confirmed between Vancouver’s Railway Club and Toronto’s Dakota Tavern. From there, he’ll venture eastward for several solo engagements in his native Nova Scotia.
The tour winds up with an appearance August 9 at the Harbour Folk Festival in Lunenburg, near his home turf of Chester Basin on the province’s south shore.
MacDonald’s parents were both music fans, but while his mother favoured Carol King and the Beatles, his guitar-playing father leaned more toward Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot.
“Between the two of them, I ended up listening to lots of different kinds of music.”
While studying chemistry and child development psychology at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, MacDonald played with an alternative rock group.
“We didn’t really record much or travel anywhere, we just had a weekly gig at a bar,” he says. “You know, free beer and a party every week. That was sort of the end goal of our ambitions.”
After graduating and teaching for a year in Thailand, MacDonald picked up a teacher’s degree from the University of Maine and headed home.
“When I returned to Halifax, the friends I used to hang out with in university were playing music for a living,” he says. “Some of them had even been to Europe and the States playing music. I thought that was pretty cool.”
As a substitute teacher in Dartmouth, MacDonald hung out with his musician friends, “looking longingly at what they were doing while I was teaching.”
Absorbing himself in music was his way to deal with the stress of working with marginalized populations in inner-city schools.
“Instead of going to see rock bands play until 3:00 in the morning, I started going to see singer-songwriters at coffee houses and things, because it was more in my schedule,” he explains.
“I started trying to listen to more folk and roots rock music, and I started writing music in that style.”
MacDonald took a stab at songwriting as early as Grade 11, with a piece about running shoes made with child slave labour.
“The self-righteousness you can only get from a 16-year-old,” he admits with a chuckle. “That’s definitely in a locked drawer in my mind somewhere.”
A turning point came when Nova Scotia band Caledonia invited him on a road trip to Toronto and back.
“The first show on our tour, the place was sold out and we had a great show. Almost immediately, I decided that I wanted to do that as part of my living.”
Two years ago, MacDonald released his four-song EP album, Back to the Wilderness. The title track came from his grandmother’s death-bed declaration that she was going back to the wilderness.
“It’s probably one of the most upbeat songs on the album. It actually has very little to do with wilderness, and a lot more to do with celebrating her life and her legacy, I guess.”
MacDonald’s newest single, “I Surrender”, is set for commercial release June 10, just before his cross-country tour begins, although he previewed it at a recent performance with Yukon songstress Sarah MacDougall at Paddy’s Place in Whitehorse.
“The place was packed. I’m not sure what the fire code was, but I think we were approaching it. I was really happy with the show,” he says.
For more about MacDonald’s music, or to download his songs, go to www.morganmacdonald.ca.