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Former Barenaked Ladies frontman starts a new Page

of the Oakland Press

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Steven Page is not in Barenaked Ladies anymore, but he still wears the “clothes” of that long association.

“Oh, I do a lot of BNL stuff,” says Page, who’s in the midst of touring to promote his new solo album “Page One.” “I do any of the singles that I sang, so ‘Jane,’ ‘Brian Wilson,’ ‘The Old Apartment’ and stuff.

“With a new band, it’s really nice to rearrange those songs after playing them in a certain way for so many years. I’m still proud of them, and they are my songs, you know, even if we did them while I was in the band.”

Mostly, however, Page is enjoying being clean, sober and liberated — and, with “Page One,” getting back on track after pulling his personal life out of a downward spiral.

Things began turning sour for Page — who co-founded BNL during 1988 in Toronto with schoolmate Ed Robertson — during mid-2007, when he and his wife, Carolyn, divorced after 14 years of marriage and having three children. Then on July 11, 2008, he was arrested and charged with felony drug possession with his girlfriend, Christine Benedicto, and one of her friends in Fayetteville, N.Y., near Syracuse, where Page and Benedicto reside. The charges were later reduced to misdemeanors and subsequently dismissed entirely after Page submitted to six months of probation and drug screening.

The ill-timed and high-profile bust, coming just after the release of BNL’s children’s album “Snacktime!” certainly contributed to his split from the band in February 2009, but Page says his relationship with the rest of the group had deteriorated “probably over the last 10 to 12 years, gradually.”

“In being a five-piece band, my experience was at any given point in time there’s always somebody who’s on the outside, that everybody else is talking about behind their back,” explains Page, 40, who maintains cordial to friendly relationships with the BNL camp. “I was frustrated on stage. Things weren’t going well at home. It was difficult, and (the band) didn’t talk about stuff like that, really. We’d have one of our band meetings and I almost expected them to fire me or something, then it struck me that nobody had ever thought about that happening, about me not being in the band.”

After his arrest, however, Page felt his bandmates “were more (angry) than they were supportive at that point, and I don’t blame them, ’cause they were scared. There were worried about immigration stuff and whatever else. They thought it reflected badly on them.

“I totally understand it, but I couldn’t really make it up to them, and it didn’t bring us closer together. It could have, but it didn’t. But it wasn’t some dramatic, ‘Hey, you got arrested, you’re out of the band.’ It happened over time.”

Page acknowledges that the aggregate situation “was awful,” and that his sons, “who were awesome through it,” and the help of “a few really fantastic friends” got him through. “My focus was getting rid of those charges and making sure my kids were OK,” Page recalls. “I wasn’t doing that to prove anything to anybody else. I was doing it for myself and the most important people in my life, which I think I did.”

Now he’s hoping to prove to fans that he’s still the same clever pop craftsman who sang about “lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did” and all the things he do if he had a million dollars. Even before leaving BNL he’d written music for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and teamed with sometimes songwriting partner Stephen Duffy as The Vanity Project. Immediately after the split, he worked on another Stratford production, recorded the covers album “A Singer Must Die” and played a series of acoustic shows.

“Page One,” however, hews closer to the kind of melodic pop he made with BNL.

“I have to be myself,” Page says. “I didn’t know what this record was going to be like; in my mind it could’ve been something arty or indie rock or something else, but it wasn’t. I just made the music that came out. I tried not to overthink it.

“I think a lot of people probably expected some kind of mopey, woe-is-me record. But that’s not how I feel now. I feel like I’m on a trajectory that I’m really excited about, both career-wise and personally. Maybe in some ways it might be cooler to be negative, but that’s not how I feel, and I wanted to be honest about that.”

Page plans to put a lot of push behind “Page One,” with touring plans into 2011. But there’s more he wants to accomplish, too — a lot more, though Page says he’ll be judicious rather than glutting the market with music.

“Y’know, there’s always the Neil Young in me that wants to make every record totally different,” he says. “A part of me wants to put together a three- or four-piece rock band and go make a straight up rock ‘n’ roll kind of thing. And another part of me thinks maybe something more like a cabaret kind of record, a dramatic thing.

“I will get all that stuff taken care of. I’m ready to work, and there’s a lot I want to do. This feels like just the beginning.”

Steven Page and Kate Miller Heidke perform on Friday, Nov. 5, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.

Web Site: www.royaloakmusictheatre.com

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