New chord for a new decade 

Acoustic rootsman Gordo celebrates 10 years of live shows in Whistler

By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: Gordo

When: May 21-23

Where: Portobello in Upper Village

Admission: Free

Just over 10 years ago, a drunk driver hit Gord Rutherford of Toronto during the a.m. hours. He walked away from the accident unscathed physically, but mentally the incident was the last straw; he threw his car keys into traffic, ready to travel a new route at a different pace.

From six-lane highway intersections to a single road winding into the mountains, the nine-to-fiver salesman left his suit and tie and his spacious illegal warehouse residence for a small, rented home in Whistler’s Alpine Meadows, cramming himself, his wife, a dog and cat, and three roommates into the building.

Rutherford didn’t know what he would find in Whistler, but to his surprise one night, living room jams with a friend led to an audience at the Citta’ patio. The tent cards on the table read "Live music with Gordo." And despite still crinkling his nose at the name, 10 years later both his music and name have stuck.

"It wasn’t until I came here that I played shows," Gordo said before a gig at the Portobello Restaurant.

"A performer Wednesday night cancelled so a friend of mine, Colin Pine, who was a bartender at Citta’ at the time, asked me to fill in. I spent three days trying to learn enough songs to fill up one night."

The classically trained cello player, who performed in junior orchestras in Toronto, no longer armed himself with a bow. The political science student began strumming Zeppelin and Neil Young tunes on a guitar left behind at a dorm party.

"I soon discovered you can’t get too many screaming 18-year-old girls to come to a cello concert," Gordo laughed. "I picked up the guitar so I could sing."

The instability of the profession, and a new wife, a home to build and a family anticipated, restricted Gordo’s performance range to sporadic shows over the years. A property management position was his mainstay.

But with support from his wife, Gordo eventually unfolded a different map and charted a course into the land of a full-time performer. That courage has paid off, with Gordo making a full-time living at his music over the past year.

His music travels Whistler’s live music circuit with intermittent shows at the Chateau Whistler Golf Course, Mallard Lounge, Portobello, Westin, Pemberton Hotel, Citta, Crystal Lounge and Roundhouse, just to name a few.

"I am constantly writing and learning new cover tunes," Gordo said. "Summer patio gigs are not too eclectic while the Crystal Lounge’s late night crowd lets me get a little wilder, rockier and louder. I like that about playing at such different places. I have to play all different kinds of music."

However, his original music is stripped down to roots – a man, his guitar and harmonica, straight up and from the heart.

"Now I have a notebook to write with," Gordo says of his new eight-track home studio. "I can advance myself as an original artist… I am figuring out where to go next. I don’t know. It is a big music industry. I’d like to record soon. I’ve got tons of songs written. I’ve been so focused on the creative. I’ve got to get back on the phone for new gigs and figuring out the who’s who of the recording industry."

His Toronto days of selling industrial doors and landscape products may be a blessing in disguise as Gordo gets ready to open the business chapter of his music career.

Even if Warner hasn’t come knocking, Gordo is still a rock star to many – or at least in the eyes of his eight-year-old daughter Santana, who is never afraid to tell her dad so. Her brother Max, 5, is always quick to correct, however.

"He calls me a ‘mini’ rock star," Gordo laughs.

Mini proportions maybe, but the lifestyle payoffs reach epic heights.

Gordo performs May 21-23, from 6-9 p.m. at the Portobello and May 26-27, from 9 p.m. to midnight at the Crystal Lounge.


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