Sorry this is a little later in the day than usual, gang. I have been fighting off some crazy stomach flu so getting any writing done has been challenging. I know I usually like to have it up on Thursday night, but here we are. At least it is still Friday and you can get some leisure reading in as your weekend begins. I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving (yes, American friends, we have Thanksgiving in October). Make sure you get your fill of turkey and pie!!
Roll the tape…
Burnin’ it Down in B.C.:
Jason Aldean’s Burn It Down Tour is getting ready to wrap up over the next few weeks. However there was a slight hiccup. On Tuesday morning, one of Aldean’s semi-trucks hauling a trailer flipped over when the driver lost control while driving to the show in Prince George, British Columbia. Several news outlets and a representative for Aldean have confirmed that the driver has sustained minor injuries. The truck and trailer however have been written off. Aldean moved the concert to the Wednesday night to accommodate for the accident. Although the truck is destroyed, I think we can all agree it is good to hear that everyone involved is safe.
Let the Stars Shine:
As the CMA Awards approach, the first list of performers has been released. I’ve already mentioned that Hank Williams Jr. and Eric Church will be opening the show and we can also expect to see Thomas Rhett perform with Fall Out Boy. But wait, there’s more. There of course will be huge stars such as Little Big Town, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan (dear LORD, please sing “Strip it Down”), and his majesty, Garth Brooks. If you are a huge country music fan and aren’t able to catch the show on November 4th (like me, as I will be at Tim Hicks), make sure you set your PVR. This is something you are not going to want to miss!
Let me Tell Ya About Scotty:
American Idol darling Scotty McCreery is planning to release a book next year. Although this deep-voiced country singer is only 22 years-old, his biography titled “Go Big or Go Home:The Journey Toward the Dream” will be available in book stores on May 3, 2016. The book will talk about McCreery’s life, from childhood to releasing 2 studio albums and his faith. Because of his deep Christian roots, the book is being by Zondervan, a Christian book publisher based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It looks like 2016 will be a big year for McCreery as he is also preparing for the release of his 3rd studio album at the same time.
It’s the King of cowboy hats. The gold standard. An American classic. Timeless. It’s a Stetson. For 150 years, Stetson has been the embodiment of American country spirit.
The company was founded by John B. Stetson who was taught the hatter trade by his father. After going out west during the gold rush and having little success, he returned to Philadelphia in 1865. With $60 he borrowed from his sister, he rented a room and launched his own hat business. He was struggling until he followed his instinct for a market back out west. In 1870, he purchased a building on the outskirts of Philadelphia and established what would eventually become the largest hat factory in America. The company was a huge success and by the early 1900’s was considered innovative and “ahead of it’s time” yet able to maintain some of the traditional aspects of hat making. This also marked the time of the death of John B. Stetson.
Through the 20’s and 30’s, Stetson continued to be innovative, creating fashionable and practical styles to meet the needs of all of its customers, even during the depression. They joined in the war efforts of the 40’s and made thousands of hats for the military. As time went on, hats were no longer a required accessory (mainly during the 60’s and 70’s) and Stetson faced some difficult decisions, one being to close their factory in Philadelphia. They were, however, left with their plant in St. Joseph, Missouri.
During the 80’s and 90’s, Stetson made a come-back by successfully establishing itself as a lifestyle brand, which included licensing eye wear and fragrances. It is currently seeing a rebirth in its line (some would say because of the “hipster” crowd). People have been turning to the company not only for their hats, but for their apparel, footwear and home products.
Despite the fact that the brand has seen some hard times, their quality and their reputation has carried them for the last 150 years. Here is why:
When I first found out that Rich Cloke was open to me interviewing him, I wasn’t sure what to expect. He is so talented and, I’m comfortable saying this, he is great looking. What I didn’t expect was that I would feel like I was talking to someone I have known for years. He honestly was so friendly and so open, I really couldn’t have asked for a better interviewee.
Rich was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. He currently lives in Burlington, which isn’t too far away from Hamilton. As a kid, he was really in to sports, but he eventually traded in his hockey skates for cowboy boots. I had read that in his bio, but of course, I needed to know more. “I liked playing all sorts of sports and hockey was the one that stuck. For the longest time I though I wanted to play professionally and music just kind of took over. It came a lot easier than sports did in terms of song writing and just playing and singing.” He and his parents looked at the odds of becoming a professional hockey player and the “life span” of a pro. After that, his parents really encouraged the music part of it. Rich quoted them, “Focus on being a musician if that is what you want to do.” Rich does play a game of pick-up once in a while, “you know, to burn off calories.”
We moved in to talking about the music industry. Rich has had some exposure to the U.S. country music scene. I was curious to hear his perspective on the difference between the U.S. county music industry and the Canadian country music industry. He said, “There is a lot more pop infusion. I think a lot of Canadian country artists hold on to a little bit more of that old school, traditional country. They seem to get that in there a little bit more which I think has a lot to do with that sound that country has in Canada. But you’re seeing a lot of newer artists coming up that are kind of adopting that kind of American sound.” He continued, “With the way the industry is in Canada, to my knowledge, there are only a handful of record labels. I think there’s only Sony Music, Warner and Universal that are the 3 major labels left in Canada and the majority of the rest are indie labels. If you go to the U.S. there are so many more major labels so to survive as an artist, to make it, a lot of artists I am finding, are coming over or are adapting to the American take on country music.” We started talking about country acts such as Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line and their contemporary sound. I asked Rich how he felt about this push away from the traditional and a moving toward pop elements in country. He replied, “Personally, I love it. I think it’s really cool to see a genre go from old school to where its developed today, with those different genres, those cross-overs. I like it.” I asked him if he could be on stage with any country singer past or present, who it would be. And without hesitation, he replied, “I think it would be amazing to open for Garth Brooks. Garth Brooks for me is my generation of country music. When I first heard country music it was Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks. Just to see what he’s done and the success he’s had as a song writer and a performer, he just gets it. He knows what he’s doing.”
Since we were on the topic of contemporary country, I asked Rich about writing versus co-writing. I always find it interesting to ask people who co-write what they feel the pros and cons are of this writing method. “The pro is that it’s always nice to get a second opinion; to have a fresh set of ears and talent when you’re putting down lyrical ideas or a melody. The con is when you have a solid idea and you really got to trust who you’re writing with, in my opinion, that they’re going to have good ideas. I always have a vision of how I want the song to go and the direction I want to take it and how it’s going to sound in the end. Then when I take it to a co-writing session and say ‘OK, this is the idea I have’, it can be flipped right on its head. You gotta be able to accept that.”
It was clear from our conversation that Rich had a great group of people around him. We had already been talking about trust in co-writing, so I went one step further. I asked him if there was anyone that he trusted entirely with his life. He responded immediately, “My wife.” Rich and his wife were married in 2011. We went on to talk about other people he trusts and the relationships he has with people. “I’m 30 and me and my buddies have this conversation all the time where you kind of joke ‘we are so old and so busy all the time’ that there is no time for fake friends. If I have time I’m gonna hang out with you guys! If someone else wants to hang out I don’t know what I’m gonna do! We just joke about it, we aren’t really like that,” Rich laughed and continued, “I’m lucky to have a really good group of people in my life and close friends that I’ve grown up with and a close family that are really supportive of what I am doing.” Having seen some of the photos that Rich has posted on Facebook, I know this is absolutely true. There are pictures of him with his parents, with cousins, with his friends. It is evident that he is surrounded by people who truly believe in him and what he is doing.
Rich has built up an inner circle of people who believe in him and that he trusts. So I asked him what the best piece of advice he’s gotten was and who it came from. Rich answered, “Some of the best advice I’ve gotten was from my good friend Flavio, who’s been in the music business for the last 25+ years. The advice he’s given me in terms of what to do as an indie artist is how you need to present yourself and how valuable reputation is in this industry and just always being the better person in a situation.” Rich went on to say, “He’s been a mentor to me, for sure.”
As an artist by night and an employee by day, there is very little time that Rich gets to unwind. I asked him what some of his guilty pleasure television was. He laughed, “I have been caught several times watching The Real Housewives.” I, of course, burst out laughing, “Now, wait a minute,” he interrupted, “It’s just because I am a supportive husband!” Based on that kind of answer, I then asked him what was something he did that most people would find surprising. He was quiet for a moment, and then said, “My friends are shocked when I tell them I have Taylor Swift on my iPhone. I am like, ‘Hey man! She writes catchy tunes!’” I had to admit that, I too was a bit cray-cray for Tay-Tay. Apart from Taylor, Rich also told me that he loves Chris Young and Kenny Chesney. In fact, he said that Kenny Chesney is by far the best concert he had ever seen.
Because Rich is so busy out and about, I wanted to know what one thing that was a must have for him when he was on the road (of course, electronics and instruments not included). He replied, “I am kind of a freak when it comes to hygiene so I would say Dove soap.” Naturally I asked if this was an OCD thing or if he showered 2 or 3 times a day. “No – I just really like to be clean” and he then admitted to being a 2 shower a day kind of guy.
To finish off the interview, I asked what the last photo he took with his phone was. He laughed, “My friends were coming over for a get together last weekend and I took a photo of the 9 beers that my buddy left over the weekend before and I said, ‘Don’t worry about buying beer’!” What a good friend.
Rich will be busy over the next few months filming a video for the 3rd single coming off his album Northern Skies and he is currently planning a cross-Canada tour hopefully for the late 2015 or early 2016. I can honestly say that I sure hope it finds him stopping in Winnipeg. I would love to have a beer with my new chum!
I sure hope you take the time to stop in at Rich’s website www. richclokemusic.com and be sure to check out his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/RichClokeMusic) His Twitter handle is @RichClokeMusic if that is your cup of tea. Here is my cup of tea…it’s “Rockin’ in the Summer” by Rich Cloke: