“It’s a miracle I survived and lived long enough to get to the hospital,” said Carl Dixon when reflecting back on the 2008 car accident that prematurely brought his tenure in The Guess Who to an end. He was in a coma for 10 days and suffered 52 injuries that required him to rethink his approach to life moving forward, but his story was far from over.
With the love and support of family, friends, and a dedicated medical team, Dixon fought his way back to the stage, and, in many ways, is playing and singing better than he ever did before. I had the pleasure of chatting with him this week to promote his upcoming date at The Riviera Theatre and the respect for life with which he speaks is something we should all aspire to.
As a Western New Yorker who grew up obsessed with Canadian radio, I can only hope that Dixon’s musical canon finally gets the respect it deserves.
MNOD: Your latest solo album, “Unbroken,” was released on Nov. 29 of last year. What was the road like to get those songs ready for the studio?
CD: After my previous record, ‘Whole ‘Nother Thing,’ came out in 2017, I was ready to move on to the next project. A German record label actually approached me about releasing ‘Unbroken’ and I had a drummer friend of mine play on the album as well as another guitar player.
MNOD: What was your relationship to the music of The Guess Who before you became a member of the band?
CD: It’s a long history. The first 45rpm I ever owned as a kid had ‘Laughing’ on one side and ‘Undun’ on the other. The first big show I ever attended was The Guess Who at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto when I was about 12 or 13, so I love all those albums. For Canadians, they were our Beatles. I had no idea about Winnipeg as a kid, but we all felt connected to them instantly. They were the first Canadian band to really make an impact on the global stage. They had a lot of songs that were hits in Canada yet never charted in the U.S., so, in the show, we try to mix the set up while still focusing on the most popular songs people remember.
MNOD: How did you assemble the band for the current tour?
CD: The band I’m playing with now actually contains a few of the former members I played with in The Guess Who. Laurie MacKenzie plays with me as well as Bill Wallace on bass, who co-wrote ‘Clap For the Wolfman,’ Lou Pomanti on keyboards, and Mark Santer on drums, who had a group in Toronto with his brother called Santers in the ’80s.
MNOD: Following your accident in 2008, what role did music play in motivating you during your recovery?
CD: The accident was the reason I couldn’t be in The Guess Who anymore, so I knew I had to return to the life I was living before it happened. It was terrible. I was broken, torn apart, and, by most accounts, shouldn’t have survived. I experienced a miraculous result and used that as motivation to return to playing and performing even better than I did before. There was never a moment where I didn’t envision returning to music, because it was my life.
MNOD: When did you decide that inspirational speaking was something that you wanted to add to your repertoire?
CD: After my recover, I had a lot of gratitude towards everyone that helped me get through the worst experience of my life and I wanted to share what I learned about myself. I speak at mostly corporate events, but, the more I do it, the more I find that what I’m saying really strikes a chord with people. I learn a lot about myself in the process, because it’s a different audience than a live concert. People may know me from my musical background, but that’s not the primary reason they’re listening to me speak. I still get that performance high, but it’s in a different way. I’m not hiding behind a guitar, so the intimacy is very real. I do include some music in my speeches, but, if anyone in the crowd is familiar with my bands, it’s purely happenstance.
MNOD: How did you develop your S.T.A.R.T. philsophy?
CD: That’s really an encapsulation of everything I learned coming out of the accident. Something terrible happened to me and I instantly thought ‘How do I get through this?’ Stop, Think, Accept, Renew, and Thank is the process I went through to get to where I am today. Nobody succeeds alone and I had an incredible medical team behind me. I found inner strength and new friendships along the way that I continue to be thankful for every day.
MNOD: How is your relationship with the guys from Coney Hatch today?
CD: We have a long history together and Andy Curran is still one of my closest friends. We met in 1981 and we’ve been through a lot. The band still plays half a dozen or so shows a year and we were actually just in the studio last week working on some stuff.
MNOD: At this point in your career, is there anything that you still want to accomplish?
CD: Probably having a really super successful song would be nice. I don’t even know if it’s possible to have a million-seller anymore, but having a hit would be great. Aside from that, hitting new territories such as Japan or South America is something I’d love to do.
Carl Dixon sings The Guess Who at The Riviera Theatre on Feb. 21 at 8:00 p.m.
For further information regarding Carl’s speaking engagements, visit http://www.carldixonspeaks.com
Carl Dixon’s latest solo release, “Unbroken,” is available now wherever music is disseminated, but do us all a favor and pay for a physical copy.