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Driving solo: Steven Page and his Prius Add to ...

Steven Page

Profession: Singer

Age: 40

Hometown: Scarborough, Ont.

Notable achievements: Barenaked Ladies won numerous Juno awards, were nominated for several Grammy awards, won two Billboard Music awards and one World Music Award for the World's Best-Selling Canadian Group in 2000.

Currently: He has a new CD, Page One; he's touring across North America in November and December

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Steven Page was Canada's first Prius customer.

He gained fame with the Barenaked Ladies and for headline-making drug charges back in 2008. Shortly after, Steven Page split with the band he co-founded.

But he's back on track with a new CD and a jam-packed touring schedule. To get to some of his gigs, Page drives a 2004 Toyota Prius.

Why did you buy a Prius?

It was the first car sold in Canada. Toyota came to me because I had been pretty vocal about environmental issues so they asked, 'Would you be interested in being our first customer for this car? So I bought it brand-new.'

I got it because I was concerned about environmental issues, but there's a trade-off. I spend a lot of time on the road. Human priorities are a tricky thing. Choosing to spend a lot of time on the road is not particularly environmentally friendly. However, if I'm going to do that I'm happy to do it in a car that has reduced emissions.

It's old now so things are starting to go on it like the centre computer console. It's completely dead. I took it in and they said it would cost 6,000 bucks!

Does a Prius have the personality of a singer - does it like the spotlight?

It has the personality of absent-minded professor. It's a bit of a mess.

The back seat is full of whatever my kids had in the back - gum wrappers, CDs. I usually have guitars. And in the front I usually have all my bags. It's always full. I'm not very good at keeping it clean.

Steven Page and his 2004 Toyota Prius.

What was your first car?

The first car I bought with my own money was an un-sexy Toyota Camry back in 1993. The first car that was mine my grandmother gave me. It was her 1966 Pontiac Parisienne, which was an awesome car. It was so great!

The Parisienne was a Canada-only model with electric windows, electric locks, no seat belts and an AM radio only, which meant I familiarized myself with the oldies very well. It was a great ride. It was terrible in winter, of course.

Eventually the car just died. I was stuck in the middle of the night on the road with the engine dead.

I'm not a car guy. I'm not the world's handiest male. And me not knowing what's what on an engine, I was completely stranded. I've always had to call my dad to help with that stuff.

I used to drive my dad's old Econoline van and the fuel gauge didn't work on it so I'd run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. We had a book in there and you had to write down at what mileage you got gas and then you'd have to estimate how much gas might be in the tank.

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Do you prefer driving an automatic or manual transmission?

No manual - I'm not that cool.

The first time I ever drove manual was when I went to Italy. I was about 25 and I rented a car, a Fiat Cinquecento - I knew it would be hard to get an automatic.

So I got into the car at the parking lot in the Florence airport and stalled it about 15 times in the lot. Then I got up to the machine, I put the ticket in, the stick came up to let you out and I stalled it. Then, the stick came back down. So I pressed the button and somebody is speaking Italian to me and I'm trying to explain in English that I don't know what I'm doing!

Then I had to drive all the way from Florence to Sienna on all those tight switchback Italian roads with cars going 150 behind me. That was trial by fire!

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What's your most embarrassing moment on the road?

I've been in countless accidents. You know how many car accidents I've been in because of sheer distraction? Turning up the radio.

I am a bit of an absent-minded professor. I remember one time in university driving a girl home after class and I was trying to impress her. I was turning left and I just slammed into the car in front of me and she never talked to me again. It wasn't a bad accident, but it was embarrassing enough to show what kind of buffoon that I am.

Any speeding tickets?

One time I was going too fast coming down a ramp and the cop steps out and waves me in. She leans in the window and goes, 'Oh my God! It's you!' Then she leans back and yells at her partner, 'I got Steve Page!' I'm thinking, 'Yes, I'm going to get off.'

And she goes, 'My partner got Doug Gilmour the other day so we're in a competition. Now I think we're even. Normally I would let somebody off with this, but I know you can afford it, so here's your ticket.'

People think being a celebrity we get all this extra special treatment - not always. Why can't I bat my eyelashes?

If you could bring back a car design from the past, what would it be?

When I was a teenager, the car I always wanted was a Lada.

There's something about the boxy design of that era that is a little bit sexy. A '60s Volvo - it's pretty awesome. I think they look fantastic; I always have.

There's a great line in the Don McKellar movie The Last Night when he says cars stopped looking good when the paint went from matte to shiny. He's absolutely right.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


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