Jody Raffoul: Looking Back on Life at 9 Wigle Street in Leamington

Jody RaffoulJody Raffoul is and will always be the pure definition of Leamington. A home-grown rocker loaded with tons of talent and a unique passion for the little municipality he calls home. It’s fitting that the release of his first album in 10 years will get its official release at a three-day party at The Bank Theatre Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.

The album, simply called “9 Wigle St., Leamington Ontario”, is a testament to the last 10 years. It was recorded inside his home and tells tales of love, divorce, children and life in and around 9 Wigle Street.

“Everything that I am is Leamington,” he told 519 Magazine. “I am beyond proud to be from Leamington. 9 Wigle St. is where I grew up, and when my life took a crazy turn in 2008 I ended up back at 9 Wigle St. again for a few years – actually five of them. We always grow and change with the times, at least somewhat, but my albums have always been autobiographical. So, to be honest, it’s not all that different this time out. I have never been able to separate my music from my life or vice versa. I have learned to come to grips with that and actually celebrate that because there’s no bullshit. Here it is, this is me naked and not afraid…you know?”

His Leamington pride shines through when asked about what his hometown means to him.

“Leamington humbles you,” Jody said. “It is a melting pot in the truest sense. When I was a kid I was forced to understand how Germans and Italians and Portuguese and French and many other cultures did what they did because there were so many of us living in the same neighborhoods. Most of us were labourers most of us worked for farmers who supplied Heinz with their tomatoes and their pickles. We came from different walks of life. So, if you got to coexist you better learn about other cultures and we did and for that we became more understanding of each other and to me that’s real education and all that comes out in the music and in the way I approach what I do when I am on stage or when I am writing songs or when I am in the studio. It’s true working class. So, that’s how it affects me as a performer and a writer.”

At the peak of his career 25 years ago he was in Los Angeles living his rock and roll dream when he decided to pack his bags and come back to Leamington to be there for his firstborn son Billy.

“What keeps me here now is wisdom and experience, but what kept me here 25 years ago was the birth of my first son – I made a choice,” Jody recalled. “When I was my first son Billy’s age I was in Los Angeles chasing a dream like a lot of people do. He was in his mother’s stomach at the time and my choice then was to do what I knew best and that was to be with my family. So, I said to myself music has always been my life and it can go with me wherever the fuck I am. I will not forsake at least trying to give my family the best I can for chasing rockstar dreams. So that’s what I did.”

Raffoul did get to live out one of his rockstar dreams when he shared the stage with Bon Jovi for a concert at Giants Stadium in New Jersey in 2005.

“We got to the stadium and one thing I remember was that there were about 1,000 people there to see our band from the Detroit/Windsor/Leamington area and there were 81,000 people looking at us like who the fuck are these guys? Now get the heck off the stage so we can scream for Bon Jovi please! It was a harsh reality, but of course we were happy to be there.”

Jody will perform at The Bank Theatre in Leamington for three nights, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 with his son, Billy opening. Friday night is already sold-out, but some tickets remain for Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $35 and include a copy of the new CD.

Here’s the full interview:

You have a new album coming out. Tell me about the album?
The album is called 9 Wigle St., Leamington Ontario and it’s my first studio release in 10 full years and every bit of the recording was done inside my house. Like every other album I’ve had, it’s my life from the last album to the current. You know, like this is me this is what happened this is our life this is where I’m at and I’m sharing it with you.

With a title like 9 Wigle Street, it must be firmly rooted in Leamington?
Everything that I am is Leamington. I am beyond proud to be from Leamington. 9 WIGLE ST is where I grew up and when my life took a crazy turn in 2008 I ended up back at 9 WIGLE ST. for a few years…actually 5

How does this album differ from your previous ones?
Well we always grow and change with the times at least somewhat but my albums have always been autobiographical. So, to be honest it’s not all that different. I have never been able to separate my music from my life or vice versa. I have learned to come to grips with that and actually celebrate that because there’s no bullshit. Here it is, this is me naked and not afraid…you know?

Why did it take 10 years for this album?
A lot of things have happened in the last 10 years. I was divorced then had three more kids, and got married and that’s where a lot of the material on this album comes from. The blessing or the silver lining if you will in not having a major record label behind you is that you can actually be real when you are writing, there are no fucking deadlines you know what I’m saying? Working on rebuilding my life with my two older children and keeping food on the table for all five children and making ends meet, paying the mortgage, all the things with real life… It all comes out in the songs I don’t have to listen to some label head tell me what to do. I’m not bitter though, my two older sons are signed to major record labels and they have great teams behind them, but I am very happy with where I am at.

Is there a song on this album that means a lot to you?
Honestly out of 14 songs on this record there are probably 11 that are equally important to me. Off the top of my head a song called I’m So In Love With You is one that is truly important to me.

How did/does Leamington shape you as a performer?
Leamington humbles you. It is a melting pot in the truest sense. When I was a kid I was forced to understand how Germans and Italians and Portuguese and French and many other cultures did what they did because there were so many of us living in the same neighborhoods. Most of us were labourers most of us worked for farmers who supplied Heinz with their tomatoes and their pickles. We came from different walks of life. So if you got to coexist you better learn about other cultures and we did and for that we became more understanding of each other and to me that’s real education and all that comes out in the music and in the way I approach what I do when I am on stage or when I am writing songs or when I am in the studio. It’s true working class. So, that’s how it affects me as a performer and a writer.

How did/does Leamington shape you as a person?
It goes hand in hand with the last question. In my opinion because of growing up in a town like Leamington, again a melting pot, I grew up understanding that nobody is better than anyone else. Nothing is fucking better than that. If my children understand that then they’re going to be happier. It is so unfortunate but there are too many fucking people around the world who think that they are more entitled than others. It’s everywhere! In the media on big stages in life, in politics. Shit, it surrounds us really.. we eat sleep shit and put our pants on the same fucking way, we come into the world and leave the world the same fucking way but people think because they might have more than someone else or they might look a little prettier than someone else that they are better.

You could have left the area at the peak of your career, but you’ve stayed around. What keeps you here?
Well what keeps me here now is wisdom and experience. What kept me here 25 years ago was the birth of my first son. I made a choice. When I was my first son Billy’s age I was in Los Angeles chasing a dream like a lot of people do. He was in his mothers stomach at the time and my choice then was to do what I knew best and that was to be with my family. So, I said to myself music has always been my life and it can go with me wherever the fuck I am. I will not forsake at least trying to give my family the best I can for chasing rockstar dreams. So that’s what I did.

One of your career highlights has to be opening for Bon Jovi. Recall that experience for us.

Back in 2005/6 Bon Jovi put on a competition called have a nice gig. So, in all major cities across Canada and the United States they held a competition for bands to have a “sing off” if you will and the winner got to play in their hometown or closest to their hometown opening up for Bon Jovi. Each regional winner was then placed into a competition for the chance to be the national champions and perform with Bon Jovi at the meadowlands in New Jersey. We won in Detroit, then we won the national competition and opened for them at Giants Stadium. It was truly an incredible experience and although I am not really a fan of 80s rock ‘n’ roll I met the fellows in Bon Jovi and I have so much respect for them. They work hard and they give back. We got to the stadium and one thing I remember was that there were about 1000 people there to see our band from the Detroit Windsor Leamington area and there were 81,000 people looking at us like who the fuck are these guys..? Now get the heck off the stage so we can scream for Bon Jovi please! It was a harsh reality but of course we were happy to be there.

Your CD release party is a family affair. Billy is opening. You must be proud of what Billy has accomplished as well.
Of course I am beyond proud of what Billy has accomplished, but to be honest I am more proud of the young man that he is. He is a humble hard-working respectful young man. He takes nothing for granted and he is a great learner. Yes he is super talented but I could give a flying fuck about talent. His happiness is what matters to me first followed by those other things. He’s taking advantage of all of his brakes and again he takes nothing for granted. It was totally Billy‘s idea to open the show and I said absolutely, and quite frankly I am humbled because he is badass.

 

 

Photography by: Maureen Stewart, K&M Photography