It could be the best band name ever. It’s cool and mysterious, vaguely unspecific and, of course, time tested. It’s the kind of name that, even if you don’t know exactly what it is, you’ve probably heard before—or, at least you think you have. And the funny thing is, it was kind of random.
“We had our first gig already booked at a place on Queen Street in Toronto and we didn’t have a name yet,” Margo Timmins, lead singer of said band told us. The club’s owner, meanwhile, needed a name to promote. “So one night before rehearsal, we started throwing a bunch of different ideas out.”
Timmins thinks it was Alan Anton, the band’s bass player, who suggested Cowboy Junkies. “That sounds cool,” she remembers thinking (though she doesn’t recall any of the rejected names), “Let’s go for it.” Thus, the Cowboy Junkies were born. And more than 30 years after devising that now-iconic name, they’ll be playing the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, April 6 at 8 p.m.
Before we get too far, those of you in the know will be aware that the first leg of the Cowboy Junkie tour was cancelled after songwriter and guitarist Michael Timmins broke his wrist while playing hockey. Did we mention Cowboy Junkies is a Canadian band—inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame in 2015, no less? That part of the tour, across Ontario, Canada, has been postponed until October. For now, Margo Timmins say, “he’s been working with his physiologist and he says he’s ready. And if he’s ready, I’m ready.”
Michael and Margo Timmins are brother and sister. Add them to their other brother, Peter, and Alan Anton and you have the alternative country/folk/blues band, Cowboy Junkies. While Margo has never been in a band in which she wasn’t related to at least two other members (in the earliest days, another brother, John, was also in the band for first six months or so) she says that having her brothers in the band made it easier for her personally.
If ever a dispute arose or the band was not working well together, she said, “we solve the problem before it turns into something ugly because there’s a larger family than just the three of us. I’m the auntie to their children.” She also notes that in the early days, her brothers always protected her, specifically from an otherwise exploitative media. “My brothers were always there to say ‘no, that’s not Margo.’ And that was great because it was hard for me to say no.”
But back to the present. The Cowboy Junkies have recently finished a new, soon-to-be-released album. Margo knows full well, though, that when fans come out to Cowboy Junkies shows “they want to hear the old stuff, the stuff they know.” In that regard, she sympathizes with her fans: “I’m the same way. When I go see Springsteen I want to hear ‘Born to Run,’” So, they won’t focus too much on the new album. “We were just discussing it the other day and I think we’re going to have four or five new songs in the repertoire—that doesn’t mean we’ll play them every night—because we change the show every night.”
No matter what they play, WHBPAC will far outshine the Cowboys Junkies strangest performance space. It took Margo a second to think of what that space might have been. “We’ve performed on trains, in train stations, on buses.” Strangely, never on a cruise ship, though. “We’ve never really said no to a gig,” she said, before remembering, “We played the lingerie department of The Bay (a Canadian department store)”. They didn’t even pull aside the racks for the band! “And this wasn’t the early early days,” she confessed with a laugh, “this was recently—it was really weird, but fun.”
Cowboy Junkies perform at WHBPAC on Friday, April 6 at 8 p.m. 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. 631-288-1500, whbpac.org