Author Archives: Rob Dice

Peace Train and Year End

Every year as the current calendar year comes to a close, we see all the images and stories that made headlines throughout the year. This year seemed to have violent, seemingly senseless acts from around the world, and in my memory, violence occurring much closer to home here in Canada.

I was watching a TV show recently that featured Cat Stevens music in the soundtrack, and it reminded me of university residence days, sitting around jamming on acoustic guitars and singing his songs. I thought about Peace Train, how it had a cool guitar lick, so I grabbed my guitar to reacquaint myself with it. By the time I was done, I had relearned the entire song.

In sitting with the lyrics, it was clear that the message that Cat Stevens was trying to convey in 1971 (written in 15 minutes while he was riding on a train), was not out of place today. Songs of our yesterday that asked for a better understanding between us as global citizens are as relevant now as they were then, perhaps even more so.

I decided to sit down with my laptop studio and do a cover of Peace Train. I played and sang all the parts and there is no intention to reinvent the song; just enjoying it for it’s elegant simplicity.

I hope you enjoy my cover of Peace Train. I wish each and every one a happy, healthy and more peaceful 2019.

Reflecting on the year that is almost past.

As my ’18 live playing wedding season is winding down, I am reflecting on the great ceremonies, and cocktail hours that I have played for some absolutely amazing couples this year. I have one more wedding ceremony and cocktail hour to play this wedding year, and a couple of new songs to add to my repertoire. Currently working on “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s and “Mr Blue Sky” by ELO. I have always been a huge Jeff Lynne fan, so learning some ELO is a real treat. Another great addition to my cocktail hour music is “Ahead By a Century” by The Tragically Hip. In the year following Gord’s passing, their music is even more relevant.

This year has had some unique challenges; playing outdoors with no electricity (not once but twice), and a Catholic church ceremony with some restrictive music guidelines are a couple that come to mind. I always enjoy a challenge, whether it’s the actual music, or the logistics to make it happen.

There have been 3 wedding shows this fall, and one more to go as I write this. 2019 is shaping up to have some different venues (new to me at least!), and couples with some really unique ways of personalizing their wedding day. It looks like there will be a number of outdoor ceremonies, and many being held in non-traditional locations; family farms, backyards, parks, vineyards and restaurants planned so far.

Something that I love doing is exploring people’s musical tastes, and finding ways of bringing their diverse tastes to their wedding day. There is always a few songs that bridge the gap and speaks to each of them.

‘Rob’s Rule Of Thumb For Selecting Your Wedding Music’

Select songs that speak to you. Songs that mean something in your life. Don’t pick songs to keep someone else happy. It’s your wedding day, and the selections should be important to you. Don’t let someone else’s opinion change your mind if it’s a song that you really want included. Case in point, a few years ago, Kelly and Tom asked for “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers as their recessional song. I wondered about it… however, on the day of the wedding, I simply started the song and the guests all took over from there which lead into a great reception and remainder of the celebration. It couldn’t have been a better fit. Now, whenever couples ask me for a song that goes against the traditional wisdom of what sort of song should fit into specific parts of the ceremony, I have learned to simply go with it. This year I did an acoustic version of
“Highway to Hell” for the recessional. Twice.

July 2017 – Paying it forward

I am rediscovering paying it forward.    Being able to give back is a really good feeling.  And when I am asked why would I do so, my answer is always the same: “I can, so why wouldn’t I?”

When my Mom was still in her retirement home, the staff and other residents found out that I could play and sing, and so it became a bit of a running joke – that I had to sing for my supper!   Once I realized how much the residents enjoyed the entertainment, I started looking forward to it.

Last year, I sang and played for a couple’s wedding, and the groom is the activities director at a retirement facility.   He schedules monthly entertainment for the residents, and I told him to keep me in mind if he needed someone sometime.  Well the call came, and the date I was asked to come and play was on my actual birthday.   So I spent my birthday entertaining, and celebrating the residents whose birthdays were that same month.  It turned out to be a lot of fun for me, and even better, I was asked back for another time to play.

Full disclosure – I do receive a small amount of cash for playing, but it’s not really close to what I normally receive for playing.    It also ties up most of my afternoon with travel, set up, the hour of playing, and then tear down.  It does put gas in the car, and leaves me with some spending money.  The really cool part is the enjoyment I get out of entertaining for these folks!  I play old songs that they can sing along to, I tell some facts about those songs (like when they were written and who performed them) and I tell a few stories.   The songs themselves are ones that I have heard my entire life, although many of them I have never ever tried to play before.

The best part of all, is hearing their voices rise to meet mine as I play songs that they remember from their past.  These folks are from an era when live music was part of their life, and someone who played and entertained for them was very much appreciated.  They do shout out the odd request, and they are very surprised and happy when I can play even a bit of it for them.   The Thanks that I receive at the end are heartfelt, and I know that I brightened up part of their day.

I have been asked back for another visit, and this time I have asked for a handful of requests be sent to me before the date so I can prepare.   Not only am I looking forward to the requests, but I am already planning the other parts of the set I will play.   To say that I am looking forward to the next time I play for them is an understatement.  Over my years of making music, I have played for some huge audiences, but I have to admit, that playing solo for a small group of appreciative seniors is very rewarding indeed.

March 6, 2016 – Wedding season is underway!

The 2016 wedding season is shaping up to be very interesting from my musical perspective.   I have already had my first wedding of the year (cocktails, dinner & first dances), and it was a lot of fun!  The groom was a huge classic rock fan, so I got to bring out material I never usually get to play in a wedding reception format – Beatles, Eagles, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Genesis, etc.

Playing for the cocktails portion of the reception gives me the freedom to stretch out some with the music.   Yes, you want to keep it appropriate for a wedding atmosphere, but you can also have some fun with it, and vary the material.  I want the guests to enjoy what I am doing, and I want to entertain them, but I don’t want to be the focus.   Sounds odd, but I want them to enjoy, without the music being about me.   It’s all about the day, and if I succeed in helping them to enjoy everything a bit more, then I have done my job.

I have some weddings upcoming this year that are definitely going to stretch me both vocally and instrumentally.  There will be some challenging pieces to learn, and a lot of material that I have never done before.  It’s great, because it keeps me learning, and pushing myself to get better at my craft.  I have heard that many live musicians will only work from a set list of songs, and while I understand why they do that, I think that being able to tailor the event to the couple is so important, and a limited list doesn’t allow you to do that completely.

I was recently asked for a list of material that ‘I enjoy playing, and works in a ceremony format’.   I certainly have many songs that I enjoy, but it’s not about what I enjoy for the ceremony.   It’s all about the couple and creating the musical backdrop for their day.  I much prefer hearing a range of styles that a couple enjoys, and working with that.  I have even had clients who didn’t really know where to start, but after discussing the mood they wanted to create, and songs that they enjoyed, I was able to make some suggestions.   Once the flow of songs got started, it was relatively easy to come up with a song list for the day.


For those that are planning – all the best in making your day amazing.   If you are considering live music, then I would love to have a chat with you about it.  Remember, live music is like nothing else; it stirs the soul, and the emotions of life.  For every big moment in life, there is a song that goes with it.

Huge weekend of live music and fun ahead!

I thought that an update on this upcoming weekend was in order!

It’s been a while since I have gotten to wear all my various hats – live musician first, but also production manager, audio and lighting design… a wee bit of everything. I am providing live music for the ceremony and cocktail hour for Steph and Kevin, but it’s not a simple set up. There are a large number of guests, outdoors, covering a huge area, and then that area turns itself into an outdoor cocktail space.

When that’s over, we move to a huge tent where Juno nominee, singer songwriter Peter Katz will be performing a concert for everyone. Peter currently has a song on radio called “Brother” that is a duet he co-wrote and performed with Royal Wood, and I am really looking forward to performing it with him during the concert.

Following the concert, we move indoors to the banquet hall, and there, Peter will perform a song that he wrote for the wedding couple as their first dance. I will then join Peter for duets on the father/daughter and mother/son first dances. We will be performing “Moon River” and “Unforgettable” for those dances. Along the way, my old band days soundman Reiner will be joining me to make sure that Peter and I sound great, and that everything stays on time.

It has been a lot of planning and organizing on the technical side, and I have had a few new tunes to learn, both vocally and instrumentally. I hope to have some great pics and some new video when it’s all over. I am excited to do everything, and I will be happy when it’s over and everything went well, but I also know I will be sorry that it’s over as well.

This isn’t simply a wedding, but rather an event, and events like this kind of become a big part of your life as you are envisioning and working towards it.

My first blog post! Live Music and cool happenings!

Yes, I know everyone says it’s their first blog post… but it’s true!  Here I will let you know about new material I am working on, some audio samples, and some random ramblings.

One very cool happening recently;  I was playing live music for cocktail hour for Agnes & Neil’s reception, and not once, but twice did couples come to me to say I had played their wedding song!   It made me feel great that I had played their songs, and it was totally unexpected.  It’s one of the cool things about playing live – you never can tell who your songs will touch.   The two songs were ‘Forever and Ever’ by Royal Wood, and ‘When You Say Nothing At All’ by Keith Whitley.