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With new “Rubber Tramp” video, singer-songwriter Tennyson King captures solitude of living out of a van

Tennyson King by Jen Squires
Canadian Folk Music Award nominee Tennyson King sings in English and Mandarin. Photo by Jen Squires.

Canadian singer-songwriter Tennyson King has pursued a nomadic lifestyle for several years. And his just-released video for his new single, “Rubber Tramp”, will resonate with anyone who has lived in their vehicle or spent time at Spanish Banks in Vancouver.

“It’s a song about being alone a lot—and that can have sad and happy connotations and feelings,” King tells Pancouver over Zoom.

“The point of it is just to be in touch with all these feelings,” he adds. “It is a true perspective of my life and how it’s been for five or six years.”

The “Rubber Tramp” video opens with an image of an empty van facing Burrard Inlet. The doors are all flung wide open when King suddenly appears, seated in the back, with his legs dangling over the bumper. That’s when the magic begins.

“Spent all my money on a moving bed / With my whole life in the back,” King sings plaintively. “I’m coming up on empty / I’m a rubber tramp / Burning time alone.”

He hopes that “Rubber Tramp” inspires others to spend time on the road away from their hometowns.

Watch the video for “Rubber Tramp”.

Asteroid City inspires “Rubber Tramp” video

Directed by Cesar Barbosa (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), the video shows King in his many guises watching the world unfold in front of his eyes. Barbosa and King are both big fans of filmmaker Wes Anderson. They deliberately riffed on Anderson’s imagery in his latest movie, Asteroid City, by maintaining a fixed and completely symmetrical frame of the van.

King stays in the same position even as his outfits change, suggesting the passage of time. Different folks come in and out of the frame, including Spanish Banks volleyball players and an older man and woman dining at an outdoor table.

“That was a German couple who were travelling across Canada,” King reveals. “They were just parked across from us in a camper van eating.”

King can relate to the couple’s experience. Born in Hong Kong, he immigrated to Mississauga with his family at the age of four. Over his career, he’s toured Australia five times and China on three occasions, where he sang songs in Mandarin. King has also performed in Southeast Asia, Brazil, New Zealand, and countless locations across Canada.

Meanwhile, his next Vancouver gig will be at the Blarney Stone on August 31.

King spends part of the year in Vancouver, where some of his videos have been shot. And he spoke to Pancouver from the B.C. Interior town of Creston, where he’s writing his next album.

“I am alone and I am moving around constantly,” King says. “I see people and I leave people. You make connections and you leave connections. Sometimes, those connections continue and oftentimes they don’t. And that can be sad, as well.”

Tennyson King’s “What Am I Doing” video shares insights of what it’s like spending time on the road.

King rearranges song to add sparkle

“Rubber Tramp” was produced in Toronto by Dan Kosh and includes understated background vocals from King and Rainey Smith. This injects some harmony and sparkle.

King reveals that he and Kosh initially wanted the acoustic guitar to drive “Rubber Tramp”.

“I ended up rearranging the guitar part to have that strumming percussive aspect to it that you hear in the song,” the singer-songwriter says. “That was a completely new arrangement that we decided literally the day before we went into the studio to record it.”

It’s not his first song about his vagabond lifestyle. “What Am I Doing” (see above), which is on his 2022 Good Company album, also offers insights into what it’s like living on the road. Good Company earned him a Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for New/Emerging Artist of the Year.

He recently performed “Rubber Tramp” at the Vancouver Island Musicfest and Mission Folk Festival, where it received a warm reception.

“A lot of people tell me it’s one of their favourite songs in the set—and they’re just really connected to it,” King says. “Especially at the festivals where there are so many travellers and people who live out of their vans.”

Tennyson King plays the Blarney Stone on August 31. For more details and tickets, visit Vtixonline.com. For more information about Tennyson King, visit his website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia. Follow Pancouver on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.