SameDiff BNL

'Ladies' man

By MARGI HERWALD, Cleveland Jewish News, October 12th, 2000.

Steven Page enjoys his success as lead singer of Barenaked Ladies.

Steven Page is sitting at a table littered with half-eaten sandwiches and empty bottles of Aquafina water discussing his plans for Rosh Hashana. His round, friendly face, casual slouch and easy sense of humor would make him seem just like any other guy ... if it weren't for the fact that he's sitting in the Green Room at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum with legions of fans waiting outside the door for his autograph.

At age 30, Steven Page is a rock star, the lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies who performed at Gund Arena on Sept. 27 in support of their new album, "Maroon." The once-obscure, Canadian quintet of fully clothed men have risen to international fame on the back of their 1998 number-one single, "One Week," from their platinum album, "Stunt."

"I'm not that recognizable, so I can kind of walk around anywhere and no one bugs me," Page says of his newfound fame. "I like that I can just exist in the world. I can go up on stage and do my show and it's great and there are 10,000 people there. But, I walk off the stage, and I'm still the same guy I was."

Even so, Page, who appreciates his fans' feeling of "connection" to his music, knows that some fans can get "possessive."

"People do choose the worst times to come up to you," he explains with a smile. "For me, it's like my kid is having a tantrum at the zoo, and someone goes, 'Excuse me, Mr. Page? I just want to say I'm a really big fan.' You know what? Bad time. My kid is running toward the elephants right now. Can I go and get him?"

Page formed the Barenaked Ladies (or BNL, as they're known to fans) with singer/guitarist Ed Robertson in 1988 while the two childhood friends were at the Scarborough, Ontario, board of education's summer music camp. The current BNL line-up teams Page and Robertson with drummer Tyler Stewart, bassist Jim Creeggan and keyboardist Kevin Hearn. In addition to his lead vocal duties, Page also plays guitar and flute.

In 1991, BNL's first independent cassette, "The Yellow Tape," brought them acclaim in Canada, including winning Page the CASBY (Canadian Artists Selected By You) award for most promising songwriter.

The band's first full-length CD, "Gordon," introduced their intoxicating pop sound and Page's clever lyrics to American audiences in 1992. But, it wasn't until the popularity of the Grammy-nominated "Stunt" that BNL became a radio staple.

Barenaked Ladies shows generally run two hours and are probably best known for the fans throwing uncooked Kraft macaroni on stage during the finale song, "If I Had a Million Dollars." (One of the lines in the song says, "If I had $1 million, we wouldn't have to eat Kraft dinners.") The band's unique concert style, filled with song improvisations and silly banter, developed naturally, according to Page.

"It's just the way Ed and I related to each other, the way we enjoyed making music together," he says.

During a concert, Page has been known to bring a fan up on stage to sing with him, make up songs and rap about subjects ranging from corn dogs to Chanukah, and belt out his own versions of "Memory" from "Cats" and "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion.

The most important element of the BNL concert is the band's original songs. Page is proud of his newer pieces like "In the Car," a recollection of a high-school relationship from "Stunt," and "Sell, Sell, Sell," a cynical look at Hollywood from "Maroon."

However, it's the old classics from BNL's first album, some of which Page wrote as a teenager, that elicit the strongest fan response.

"Songs like 'What a Good Boy,' 'Brian Wilson' and 'If I Had a Million Dollars,' we've done so many times over the last 10 years, every show," Page explains. "But, to see how much they mean to people I've never even met, that's pretty cool."

The band's grueling tour schedule and full slate of media appearances to promote "Maroon" keeps Page away from his hometown of Toronto, where he lives with his wife, Carolyn, and two young sons, Isaac and Benjamin.

"We fly the kids out here and there. I'm going home for Rosh Hashana. I try to make the effort to do those kind of things and stay connected with the home front," he says.

The family belongs to Temple Sinai in Toronto, where Page has long admired the compositions of his congregation's musical director, Ben Steinberg.

While Page has sung in synagogues, including at a service to honor one of his best friends upon becoming the rabbi of Congregation Or Shalom in Chicago, his true musical love is rock and roll.

BNL is now firmly ensconced in the world of rock stardom with their single "Pinch Me" climbing the charts and their concert documentary "Barenaked In America," directed by former "Beverly Hills 90210" star Jason Priestley, showing in select cities. Perhaps the most telling sign of BNL's rock star status is that they will be the subject of an episode of "Behind the Music" on VH-1 this month.

Despite the attention and adulation, Steven Page remains Steven Page. When asked by a disc jockey about his experience touring the world, he simply replied, "Everywhere you go Big Macs taste the same."