SOMEWHERE IN CANADA – Les Stroud is one of the most iconic stars in the history of the television survival genre. But there is more to him than most fans know.
Besides his long lasting Discovery Channel show, “Survivorman,” he’s been a guest star on hit shows like “Modern Family,” and “The Office,” as well as virtually every talk show on air. He’s an author of four books. He’s even been pitted in a humorous internet spoof of a “who would win” death match between Stroud and Bear Grylls (it’s not real).
He’s won 21 awards for his television shows, which include a documentary about transforming an old farmhouse into an off-grid home for his family. And he is an activist, fighting against illegal fishing nets, whaling and anything that is essentially destructive to the planet.
Besides surviving in far out places, Stroud also makes music. A Toronto native, Stroud enjoys the fact that his home country is the land of rock legends Neil Young and Rush (among many others).
There is so much to report on Stroud’s life that there isn’t enough space or time here to tell it all. So, for more, check out Stroud’s website.
In the meantime, while reporting on his Stroud’s latest musical release, Paratus Business News seized on the opportunity to ask Stroud to go a little deeper than the biography pages of his website. What we learned was key parts of Stroud’s life that you won’t find virtually anywhere else. And to no one’s surprise, Stroud is truly as nice and responsive as he seems on TV.
Paratus Business News: When I began learning about survival and preparedness, your book “Survive!” was the first I purchased and read. What are your initial thoughts for someone who is just getting into survival?
Stroud: Get into it for the skills sake. For the life skills. For the confidence of being prepared and knowing how to handle an emergency, which in turn makes you able to help others. Don’t get into it because “the end is near,” or because otherwise “the terrorists win.” The shit can go down anywhere anytime. In your car during a blizzard. In another terrorist attack. And in every possibility in between. Know this stuff for the ability to live life with confidence.
PBN: Fans of yours are certainly familiar with your shows and books, and now your music. But I’m confident few know the real you, how you became the Les Stroud we all know. Tell our readers, in your words, about your childhood. What was it like growing up in Toronto? What was your childhood like?
Stroud: The answer to that question might make for quite the snore. My life growing up was boring. Cripplingly so. I grew up bored in a west end suburb drinking beer and listening to Led Zeppelin and Neil Young. My earliest years were formed by watching Jacques Cousteau and Tarzan movies which influenced me heavily for I had no real access to anything to do with nature and adventure. I did have a cottage we would go up to in Muskoka but for the most part that revolved around drunken games of horseshoes and card games at night. Although fishing and as well my own exploring “in the back bush” certainly played a big role in my own enjoyment of cottage life. So other than the cottage, my love of nature came from watching 70’s TV. And in the end, what is “Survivorman” if not a hybrid of Cousteau and Tarzan? But I had zero mentorship. Zero guidance. A dysfunctional family life. I had to find my own passions in life and find my own way to live them out. Once I discovered music as an early teen that was it for the next ten years until finally going back to my first love of nature. Everything I have ever achieved I did so with the only mentorship and motivation coming from my own soul and my own sense of the world.
PBN: You started as a young adult in the music industry. How did you get to be a survival expert? What training did you receive? And was your desire to take this path a slow burn or an epiphany?
Stroud: It was definitely an epiphany. After years of delusion unabated by any kind of guidance from anyone, I gave up on music. I hated the music of the 80’s for the most part and just thought one rainy Tuesday: “That’s it, I’m done with this.” But the next question was answered immediately. “Well, what do I do now? The wilderness!!”
I didn’t even really know what I meant, I just knew I wanted to go and discover nature. Maybe become a National Geographic photographer, who knows. The first thing I found one day was a two sentence advertisement for a survival course. I knew instinctively this was for me. I was thrilled, and from then on I never looked back. I took all of those courses, bought some crappy films, read all the books, travelled, and learned from great teachers such as John and Geri McPherson in Kansas.
PBN: You’re a writer, a producer, a musician, a TV star and actor. Clearly, this turned out to be a successful career path. Did you expect it to go so well? What have been some of the specific challenges you faced going down this path?
Stroud: I’m not sure I ever did any of it with “expectations.” I tried to not have expectations but rather to go after my passions for their own sake. I knew I had a great idea. A new and unique idea. No one was doing anything like this and I just believed that wilderness survival skills were cool as hell, and I wanted to show that to people. Many of the challenges come in the form of other people nay saying your idea, even when you’re asking their advice. (Some of those people have since asked me for jobs!) The challenge of an artist to stay the course and stick to his path is a tough one and its not meant for everyone. I think you kind of have to make a choice in your life which kind of artist you are. Will you cater to whatever the market wants – giving you a great job and potentially lots of money? Will you fight for all your artistic ideas and keep your integrity for those ideas without giving in to outside pressures? Will you find a hybrid somewhere in the middle where art and commerce meet? You MUST decide WHY you are doing anything before taking another step.
PBN: Tell our readers how you manage all this? It is a business, so how do you describe your business strategy?
Stroud: I have had no strategy. I’m not a business man. I’m an artist. A content creator. A story teller. A performer. An adventurer. But if I had to think of any business move I have made and always advise it would be this: Always re-invest in yourself. Your career. Your profession. Your art. You can buy fancy cars later when you can drop down the cost in cold hard cash. At first you must re-invest in your purpose. And the truth is you must always re-invest in your purpose. Big homes and fancy cars will follow, they are not the end goal or reason to be. And even if they don’t, you will be having so much fun doing what you love in life, that you won’t care.
Just be money smart. Spend it when you got it, don’t when you don’t. And if you consider visualization a business strategy, then visualize.
PBN: Quick switch to your music. When I listen to “Artic Mistress” I hear elements of progressive rock (of course, your home country is home to Rush), and I like that. Describe your music, your musical influences, and poetic influences. Are you going on tour?
Stroud: It’s all over the map in terms of musical influences, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to the fact that I will always be a slave to classic rock. That said I listen to the Silk Road Ensemble, and classical music. I let the radio play whatever is on on lots of occasions. My first release this year is called Les Stroud (with the Campfire Kings and Queens) Bittern Lake and it is a roots rock album with a healthy dose of killer covers. Including Joni Mitchell, JJ Cale, Ben Harper and Bruce Cockburn. All the music is focussed on celebrating nature. Some of it is a call to action and a warning.
I love strong lyrics. Lyrics, the poetry of song writing, has always been a very big part of the love for me. The next album is the ambitious Survivorman’s: Mother Earth. It’s more of a full rock/art rock album ala Dave Mathews meets Tool. It’s epic and at times bombastic – but I like it that way.
Definitely progressive rock and it’s produced by none other than Mike Clink. Both Slash and Steve Vai play solos on it.
We are building tours now and launching both albums early in 2017.
PBN: Survival-focused bloggers, retailers, manufacturers, inventors, TV shows: where do they go from here, what’s the future? What are the opportunities and challenges?
Stroud: They should get outside. That is where the opportunities are. That is where the challenges are. That is where survival is at its best. They should remember that a person’s individual ability is far more important than any gadget or invention.
PBN: This movement to self-reliance, survival, DIY, seemed to be growing steadily, and there is debate about its growth today. What are your thoughts on the state of this movement?
Stroud: I think I answered it by pointing out that no one should be getting into it for political reasons. All the same skills can be learned due to a desire to simply be more skilled and gain a strong base of confidence. I don’t do politics. I want people back outside and if practicing survival or even building prepper-type shelters in your back 40 get you out there, then good. At least you’re not inside playing a video game.
That said – what do I actually do about prepping? In fact not much. I, perhaps foolishly, choose to believe that when it hits the fan, I have already been amassing enough skills and abilities to handle it, to know where to go and what to do.
I, as always, choose to rely on myself. Not on a supply of food or ammo I have buried somewhere. I figure if it really hits the fan then much of what preppers or Mormons save up will be destroyed anyway. And if it does happen, I’m going north with the hope that the game and the water are not tainted.
PBN: And, finally, what advice do you want to give to our readers (most of which are consumers) in closing?
Stroud: Get outside. Master fire starting in the toughest conditions with the minimal equipment.
Do NOT watch all those other set up and staged survival shows, and believe you are getting useful information.
And, get ready to subscribe to my own TV Channel online March 1, 2017: SMTV. For the price of a cup of coffee you will get Survivorman (me) bringing you all the content you want and may ask for.
Photo Credits: Lauren Bombier