I’ve Got Country in my Blood

It is CCMA week in Halifax, Nova Scotia this week and yours truly is not there sadly.  Oh well, maybe next year in London, Ontario.  I will make it happen!

Keeping this in mind, this week’s blog posts will pay homage to my home and native land, Canada. If you are from the U.S. or somewhere else and weren’t aware that we had AMAZING talent here, you are about to have your eyes opened.  We are more than just hockey and Tim Horton’s.  Canada has a wealth of country talent, only a portion of which the rest of the world knows.  It is time that changed!

Let’s take a look at what’s going on!


CCMA Presenters Announced: 

On Friday (September 4th), the presenters for the CCMA Award show were announced.  Among them will be Alan Doyle, Jess Moksaluke, Chad Brownlee, Lindsay Ell, Tim Hicks and Bobby Wills.  Florida Georgia Line will be there not only to perform, but to present the Fan’s Choice Award.  Among this country royalty will be Canadian actors Jonny Harris, Susan Kent and Keshia Chanté.  The show will be aired on CMT Canada on Sunday, September 13th at 10pm ET/7pm PT and will be hosted by Jessi Cruickshank.

Brett Kissel on His Birthday Surprise:

You may or may not know that 25 year-old Alberta native Brett Kissel is going to be a father!  In an interview with ET Canada, Kissel beamed, “It was on my birthday, my 25th birthday and (Cecilia) said, ‘I got something for you,’ and handed me a present.  It was a picture of our dog Charlie…and it says, ‘You’re going to be a Dad!’ You’ve got a pretty proud soon to be parent right here!”  Kissel, who is up for 4 CCMA nominations this year, told everyone (including his family) the good news via YouTube.  Brett didn’t trust anyone to not spill the beans so he and his wife decided to tell everyone at once.  All the best to Brett and wife Cecilia!

Irving Oil Fan Fest:

If you are fortunate enough to be heading out to Halifax for CCMA week, be sure to check this out. This free event will feature 15 of the biggest Canadian country music stars.  Fans will also have the opportunity to meet, greet and have their picture taken with their favorite artists.  Country Music Week and artist merchandise will be available for purchase at the event.  So.  Who will be there, you ask?  Only Autumn Hill, Paul Brandt, Dean Brody, Emerson Drive, High Valley, Wes Mack, Steven Lee Olsen, Bobby Wills, Gord Bamford, Chad Brownlee, Tim Hicks, Brett Kissel, Jess Moksaluke, MacKenzie Porter and Tebey.  Very Impressive.  This is a show that will NOT disappoint!


If you have ever been to Calgary (or if you have never been to Calgary but have heard of it), you more than likely know that in that city there is an abundance of western clothing stores and suppliers.  The oldest and probably most notable of them is Riley & McCormick.  The store was opened in 1901 to supply Calgary and the surrounding area. Keep in mind, Alberta didn’t incorporate until 1905.  So technically it was there before Alberta was actually there!  In 1912, they started supplying the Calgary Stampede with its animal supplies and has been a fixture there ever since.  The company has a very strong historical and important background:

  • Father Lacombe used to go there for orphanage supplies.
  • They sent military saddles during the world wars.
  • They provided a presentation cowboy outfit for Prince Charles.
  • They provided saddles for Edward Prince of Wales.

Eneas McCormick was also a founder of the Cowboy Protective Association.  This important organization existed to fight for the financial benefit of injured rodeo riders.

They have an online shop as well as their stores in Downtown Calgary and at the Calgary Airport.  They have everything from hats to bandanas:

Calgary White Straw Hat - Click Image to Close  Buckaroos Men's Boots - Click Image to Close

Take some time to check them out:  www.realcowboys.com


To most people, Doug Folkins would not really be considered a “country” artist.  But it is undeniable that there are hints of country that run throughout his music.  Harmonica, fiddle, acoustic guitar, it is plain to see why Doug is skilled at writing for the country genre.

If you go on Doug’s Facebook page, you will see this description of his music, “Smooth rolling Americana with an Irish chaser.”  I couldn’t agree more!  You have to admit that no matter your musical inclination, there is something about that description that puts a smile on your face.  It certainly did for me.  Moreover, I felt like I instinctively understood what that meant.

Doug has spent over the last decade writing, producing and recording his own music.  He is a member of the CCMA, the BCCMA and he is the Canadian representative for the Global Songwriters Connection.  Not only has he written for his own projects, he has written and co-written songs that have been recorded by several artists.  Though his own endeavours have typically been in the Celtic/ Celtic pop genre, he has been taking some time to focus primarily on song writing, a lot of which has been country.  I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Doug a while back about success, mentors and “showing up”.

Originally from Sussex, New Brunswick, Doug made the move out to British Columbia many years ago, making his home on Vancouver Island.  A forestry grad from the University of New Brunswick, he decided to take a job where there was work.  According to Doug, “We were getting job offers before we were done school.”  So, like many of his classmates, he made the move.  He may have made his life in British Columbia and he openly admits that the weather and the fact there is no snow are huge pluses, there are things that he misses about home. “Family is first and foremost.  And there is a hospitality I’ve never seen anywhere else.”  I smiled when he said this because I know this to be a correct assessment.  There really is a way of life in the Maritimes that others will just never understand unless they visit.

Because of this east coast life, I wanted to talk to Doug about influences and what inspires him to write.  He obviously identifies as a Celtic pop artist, looking toward artists such as Great Big Sea and The Pogues as influences.  He openly admits to having that Celtic inspiration, “Scottish and Irish music are similar but different and they both have some characteristics of country.”  Although these were inspirations when he began and have carried through, I asked him if his inspiration changes as he matures.  He emphatically replied, “Absolutely it changes!”  Based on that reaction I asked how it had changed.  In true story-teller fashion, Doug came back in a softer voice and said, “Now I listen a lot.  It’s more about the conversations with people”.

No matter what kind of artist you are; a writer a painter, a songwriter, there are a lot of things about success that people don’t understand.  Doctors and lawyers go to school, learn their profession, go to work and they are “judged” based on their ability to do their job.  Their work isn’t subjective to taste – they are either good at their job or they aren’t.  Doug and I spoke a little about success, “There is a lot of iceberg under the water when it comes to success that people don’t see.  They see what you’ve achieved, but they don’t see all the things that you don’t achieve.  You get turned down and rejected, the hard work, the things you’re not doing because you’re writing songs, or you’re practicing your guitar or you’re playing shows or rehearsing.   You see that Facebook post that says, ‘A-HA!  You got nominated for a BCCMA this year!’  You see the congratulations but they don’t see all the times you were beating your head against the wall because someone didn’t like your song.”

I wanted to explore this a little further with Doug.  He had been so open and honest.  So I decided to ask him what he does when he isn’t feeling “up to par” (a fitting term because earlier in our conversation Doug had related song writing to golf).  “This is going to seem kind of silly,” he started, “But I have to say you get a little therapy from talking with other people who do what you do.  I call up people who I trust, that I know.”  Doug has such a positive attitude; it is hard to imagine that there are times when he feels down.   He said, “Here’s the thing with songs when you get turned down; sometimes you get turned down by people that are just not qualified to turn you down.”  It takes a thick skin to be in a business where it is subjective to taste.  Doug has his own way of dealing with it, “I think call a co-writer that is going through the same thing and say, ‘Oh man you know, all of this happened.’ And you get another story.  And you pick yourself back up because success could happen next week.  There is no sense in stopping when you ‘re almost there.  You never know when you are almost there.”  We started talking about famous songwriters and some of the challenges they have had and some of the things they have faced.  Tom Douglas was ready to give it all up before he had success with Miranda Lambert’s “House that Built Me”.  Will Rambeaux had a music executive hurl a cassette across a room claiming the song was garbage.  Doug laughed, “Just because someone rejects it violently doesn’t mean it’s not a good song.  If you really believe in it, play it for someone else.”  Incidentally, that song was thrown in disgust was Faith Hill’s first hit “Wild One”.

Keeping all of this at top of mind, I wanted to know how Doug saw his life.  I asked him, if he had to describe the last 10 years, how would he do it?  “About 10 years ago I started writing down goals, so I have been really goal driven.  I don’t always achieve what I write down on a piece of paper but I work toward it. I try to do a little every day to work towards those goals.  In a funny little way it has been a little bit like a ladder or mountain in that you achieve these certain plateaus and then you reset your goals and reset your focus.  You can always go up and you can always go down too.  In 10 years for sure I’ve put out a bunch of CDs and then I decided well it’s no good just putting out CDs for your friends.  It becomes a bit of a vanity project.  So I learned about hiring a publicist and learned about social media and achieving some goals there.  I wanted to get critical reviews on my CDs and understand about that.   Then the next thing I wanted was to get a song recorded by someone else.  To do that, you need to start writing with better people and co-writing.”  He added, “There are strategies and techniques in place so you can get to the next rung on the ladder.”  Although it sounds like Doug has found the magical formula, he laughs and admits, “I haven’t figured it all out.  But I am working on it.”

When talking about goals, achievements and things one has learned, it is almost natural to make a progression in to a conversation about mentors.  Doug is no different. “I also reach out to people too.  I use mentors.  This guy Larry Wayne Clark was a mentor for me.  Larry passed away a few years ago of cancer but he was a legendary Canadian songwriter.  He has written with pretty much everybody.  He took me under his wing.”  He added, “There are also some people I work with in Nashville that I call once a month.”  But you can’t really talk about mentors without talking about advice.  The 2 are pretty synonymous.  I asked Doug what the best piece of advice he had ever gotten was.  He replied, “There are a couple of touchstones I really believe in.  It’s very similar to what Andrew (Frelick) had.  I read is blog but I heard it in a different way.  The thing I have is a bit shorter.  It says that ‘Hard work will trump talent’.  I know Andrew talked around that but I truly believe that and I’ve heard that before too.  The other thing is my Woody Allen thing.  You’ve probably heard it.  It’s ‘90% of life is just showing up’ and I believe the same thing for the music industry.  You need to show up.  You need to show up at industry events because people need to see you and people need to know you’re active.  If you sit back and worry about what everybody else has and what you don’t have, you don’t create a positive vibe for yourself.  No one wants to associate with a whiner.  Who wants to do business with a whiner?  If you’re complaining about some festival director who’s not hiring you, they’re not going to hire you.  That doesn’t improve your situation.  You need to change you attitude.”  Doug followed this up by saying, “Once artists get to that place, then they’ll get hired more.”

It was obvious from the get go that Doug is passionate about what he does.  I couldn’t help but wonder in the 1000+ shows he’s done, what makes a show really great for him.  “There are 2 things that happen at shows that really, really gets me happy,” he started.  “When I am playing with a band, sometimes there is this magical moment when everybody locks in.  The music is good, everybody is good.  But then there is this magical moment where everything is clicking perfectly and you kinda look around at the other guys and you can feel it.  The other thing that happens is when the crowd is just super in to what you are doing.  They are letting their problems and their lives and their issues go for those few minutes and just taking off on what you are doing.”  Clearly there is a certain amount of energy spent to produce that kind of reaction from a group of people.  Doug admits that his winding down ritual is slightly different from his early days, “It has changed over the years,” he laughed. “You get a little older.  I’m 44 now so you’ve kinda been there done that.  But I think in the early days I just couldn’t sleep.  So you sit around and have a drink after.  You tear down your gear or whatever it might be and that was the way I would unwind.  Now I go home and I like to sit.  You just don’t really want to rush off to bed so I just sit in a quiet room, lay around on the couch, put the TV on with no sound and just collect my thoughts.”

Doug is a very light-hearted guy with a great sense of humour.  I knew I could get away with asking some unconventional questions. So I asked him what the first thought he had that morning was.  He told me that he was a pretty ritualistic guy, to the point where he would lay out his clothes the night before.  Then out of nowhere, “Oh!  Actually I wrote a song last night and the first thing I wanted to do was have a listen to it because my co-writer had sent a copy of it so I was anticipating it.  I was thinking about ‘I’m really looking forward to hearing how it came out.’  I know how it came out but I wanted to hear the recording of it.”

You may or may not have noticed that I have one question that I always like to end with and this interview is no different.  I asked Doug what the last photo he took with his phone was.  He replied, “I did a screen capture of Kevin Davison’s CD that has a couple of my songs on it that was released this week.”

Doug has a lot on his plate over the next couple of weeks.  With this week being CCMA week, he has 3 songwriter showcases he is involved with.  This includes MediaWorks’ “Live Off The Floor” which will showcase Doug and 5 other artists (including Andrew Frelick and Ivan Daigle – who we will be discussing on Friday).  Here are the links to the showcase:


He also had a couple of co-writes to take care of before leaving and he has some big projects coming up with the likes of Cole Malone, Todd Richard and Rich Cloke to name a few.

I look forward to hearing much, much more from Doug.  He is talented and thoughtful.  Check him out on Reverbnation and on CBC Music.  Follow him on Twitter (@dougfolkins) and please stop by his Facebook page to learn more about him (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Doug-Folkins/50701849654?fref=ts).  Here is a great song by Doug Folkins, “Man of the Hour”:


About Susie Krivak

I was born in raised in Canada and LOVE all things country! Some may say I'm a redneck - I take that as the compliment I know it was intended to be.
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