By Zachary Greco
The lights are dimmed, candles are lit and Terry Tufts takes to the small stage in the corner of the little bar.
The performance has begun, with Tufts singing into the pick-up of his acoustic guitar, producing an eerie echo through the amplifier.
With a hummingbird tattooed on his right hand in a traditional Native Canadian art style with the beak leading up the index finger, Tufts plucks away flawlessly. This leaves the crowd completely enthralled.
Tufts was at the Acoustic Grill in Picton, Ont. Sunday January 22, 2012. For this performance a local sound engineer and videographers were on hand to record Tufts’ performance for a possible live record release.
“It’s British based finger style acoustic guitar for the most part,” said Tufts about his playing style.
Tufts plays at the Acoustic Grill about every six weeks. “He’s one of the best that play this room and he’s kind of what inspires this room,” says bar owner Steve Purtelle. “We set the bar at Terry Tufts.”
Tucked away behind two large buildings at the corner of Main and Elizabeth Streets in Picton, the Acoustic Grill is a small and cozy restaurant/bar that is the perfect environment for independent musicians.
“We have been here for almost six years now and have live music three nights a week, sometimes four of five nights a week. We are a big supporter of independent Canadian musicians and Terry is one of the finest,” said Purtelle.
To try and describe Tufts music is hard to do because of the multitude of influences present in each song.
“A lot of the influences that I was first exposed to was the Beatles,” explains Tufts. “When I got older a lot of the Canadian folk artists were starting to get popular all over the world, so the stuff that came out on record at that point was easy to emulate with little instrumentation.”
His introduction to playing an instrument came about when his father’s job as a Foreign Service Officer had them move to the United States.
“My dad had a hunting buddy who had a corner in his house filled with musical instruments, just all kinds of stuff,” said Tufts. “When my dad got reposted to the United States in 1964 his friend gave me a banjo mandolin. So I started out playing the mandolin, taking a few lessons and just fiddled around with that for awhile.”
When the Beatles came out in North America, Tufts switched to the guitar.
“I found it easier to carry around an acoustic guitar, everybody was doing it so around ’67 I started to play the guitar.”
With his father working as a Foreign Service Officer, Tufts moved around a lot as a child. He had a brief stay in Belleville while attending Albert College.
“I completed Grade 12 American in the high school course that was offered when my dad was posted in Italy,” said Tufts. “I had to come home and repeat Grade 12 and do 13, so for two years I was in residence at Albert College.”
“I was 15 or 16 years old and away from my parents. I haven’t lived with an adult like a parent as of 16 onward.”
“They had a really nice musical system there,” said Tufts of Albert College. “They got us all singing in harmony and learning the ins and outs about how to structure choral work.”
At 57, Tufts currently lives with his wife and daughter in North Frontenac, Ont. On 129 acres of bush, they live off the grid, growing there own food in the summer and using renewable sources of energy for their home.
“I live on the old K&P rail line and have been there since 2007,” explains Tufts. “It’s just the nicest place I have ever lived.”