STEVE POLTZ at C’est What (67 Front East), tonight (Thursday, August 23), 9 pm. $20. 416-867-9499. See listing.
"I have no plan in life and no plan onstage," admits San Diego-based, Nova Scotia-born songwriter Steve Poltz, on the road on the East Coast touring his ninth solo album, Noineen Noiny Noin (Arrival).
He's talking about his unconventional, often hilarious performances, which include storytelling and stream of consciousness in addition to songs and have earned him a cult following.
But he could just as easily be referring to the spontaneous approach to recording that saw the former Rugburns frontman and Jewel collaborator working in Halifax with Joel Plaskett on his last album, 2010's Dreamhouse, and with producer/drummer Malcolm Clark in Perth, Australia, this time around. (Noineen Noiny Noin is a reference to the first year Poltz toured down under.)
"I was on tour opening for Bob Evans, and [Malcolm] asked me to come in and do a couple of songs," Poltz says. "Next thing I knew we were making this record, and it's a double record."
The album covers the spectrum of psychedelic rock, folk, country and soul, employing rhythmic drums, backup vocals, organ and a touch of horns.
A prolific songwriter, Poltz didn't stop there. "I actually have a whole other record done from Austin," he says. That one was recorded during SXSW earlier this year with Lars Goransson, who mixed and mastered Noineen Noiny Noin.
It should come as no surprise that travel is a recurring theme in Poltz's songwriting (he sings about Slovenia and Croatia on the new album), but he can also spin a great yarn or get deeply personal. He calls it "truth mixed with bullshit" (his word for fiction).
That said, Poltz's wild and unpredictable shows aren't for everyone.
"I'm kind of awkward about the shit I talk about [at shows]," he says. "There are no boundaries, and what I say can be offensive to some people. But for me, no subject is off limits."
Case in point, at a recent gig in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Poltz scared away a fan's friend after going on a tangent about pot-smoking, ball-scratching guys delivering a waterbed.
"I say a prayer to whatever my idea of god is before I go onstage," he explains. "And I pray to just be myself. I don't pray to be good. I pray to let me be totally honest. So when I come onstage being honest and myself, naturally it makes people uncomfortable.
"Art is not for everyone. If some people are actively not liking what you're doing, you're probably on the right path."