Fairmont welcomes new house musician
It’s funny how quickly your life can change.
For years, British Columbia’s Neil Harnett played gigs all around the Vancouver region, and that’s exactly how he thought the rest of his musical career would unfold.
However, one night during the summer while playing one of his usual venues, a man who had been dining at the restaurant approached Harnett.
That man was Ken Hall, general manager at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (JPL).
“He came up to me afterwards and told me that he really liked my voice and diversity,” Harnett said. “Then he asked me if I would ever consider moving to Jasper.”
Struggling with a failing marriage and spending the past several years caring for a daughter that had been severely injured in an accident, Harnett said he’d been hoping for some kind of reset button on his life, and pursued the offer, eventually accepting a two-year contract as JPL’s new house musician.
His first show is set for the evening of Jan. 7 in the hotel’s Emerald Lounge.
“I see this as a potential rebirth in some ways. I never thought I would end up being an Albertan, but I’m really excited for this new step in my life,” he said. “I’ve developed a stable fan base here in B.C., and I’m sad to leave them, but I’m also looking forward to building a new fan base in Alberta.”
Before signing any contracts, Harnett paid a visit to the lodge in October and said he fell “completely in love” with the place.
“My family has been through a lot in the past few years and I need some space to heal. I can’t think of a better place than Jasper,” he said. “As soon as I drove away from the lodge (in October) my heart actually hurt. That feeling told me that this was going to be a good place for me.”
During the peak summer season, Harnett said he’ll be entertaining JPL’s visitors and guests six nights a week, showing off a diverse blend of country, blues, folk and rock covers with a handful of original tunes thrown into the mix.
“When I’m performing I put out a lot of energy and just do it for real. I’m a passionate singer and I draw people in and create a musical experience for everyone,” he said. “That’s exactly what I intend to keep doing in Jasper.”
The musician also added that none of his shows are ever the same.
“I’m very good at feeling out my surroundings and morphing the show to the audience so the show really changes from evening to evening,” he said. “However, it is a lounge situation so I really have to find that perfect balance between keeping things interesting and not being too loud and invading people’s space.
“I intend to create this wonderful ambiance.”
Despite jumping into Canada’s music scene back in the 1970s, Harnett said he’s never had a gig like this—where he actually lives and plays all in the same place.
“In the 70s I did some touring and played around the Maritimes, but for a long time I’ve been playing local bars and restaurants, spending a lot of time driving in and out of the city,” Harnett said, adding that he was living about an hour outside of Vancouver.
“Because I won’t be driving all the time I’ll have more time to focus on the music—really hunkering down and developing new stuff and learning more covers that I think people will enjoy.
“I feel with this move that I’m going to grow into this new musical stage of my life. Jasper is a whole new chapter for me.”
The time for Harnett’s first show at JPL has yet to be confirmed.