Well, as of 2 weeks ago, I am officially a housewife/writer full-time. Although I have been off work for about 6 months, it somehow becomes different when you know you won’t be returning to the workplace. How did I spend my second full week? In bed with a chest cold. Oh well, such is life. But what is really cool about it is I can really put a huge focus on writing both my blog and my novel. I get to work on some things for myself for the time being and that feels pretty cool.
I am making some progress on the Café Press site, so that should be up and running soon!! I will post the details when I am ready to roll.
On The Road Again:
A while back I mentioned that Lady Antebellum would be taking a break from touring to spend some time with their families. Originally it was going to be for an undetermined amount of time. Luckily for Lady A fans, the break was short and sweet. Their first public performance since their hiatus will be on May 7th at the Kentucky Derby, where the group will sing The American Anthem. Charles Kelley is currently finishing his tour promoting his solo project. The group will get back together for their tour which will include some Canadian cities and runs from May 27 to August 26. Welcome back, Lady A!
Rumour has it that country super star Keith Urban and movie star wife Nicole Kidman are celebrating their 10th anniversary by renewing their vows. One thing is for certain, the couple is celebrating 10 years of wedded bliss. However, they will not be renewing their vows. While on the red carpet, they dispelled the rumour to People. Urban is quoted as saying, “They’re daily in the sense of action as opposed to being recited. I like to think of showing those on a daily basis.” Kidman added, “I love him, but I also like him.” Earlier this year, Urban sat down with Entertainment Tonight and shared his secret to a happy marriage, “Keep dating your wife – that’s it. I’m still trying to get her to go out with me.” From the looks of it, he is doing a good job because she couldn’t look more in love with him. Congratulations Keith and Nicole!
I know I usually do some sort of fashion feature. But I also like to put something “educational” in here, like the history of the trucker cap. I think it is important to talk about the history of the music we love so much.
Since it is playing such a huge part of my life right now, I would like to tell you a little about the Country Music Association of Ontario (CMAO). In my last blog post, I mentioned that I that I would be going to the CMAO Award show and the R2I Spring Tune Up Conference. Most provinces have a variety of associations that support the arts and that includes country music. Ontario is no exception to the rule. Identifying a need for workshops and resources to support the country music industry, Rob MacArthur, Linda Wright and a group of interested individuals felt it was time for a voice for country music in Ontario. It was established in May 2007 with the name Ontario Country Music Association. It wasn’t long after its Board of Directors was chosen in October of 2008 that their name was changed to The Country Music Association of Ontario or The CMAO. This was to avoid confusion with a company that was no longer in existence. CMAO became incorporated on March 25, 2010.
They attracted new members through open stage nights and continued with seminars and demo nights. This year will be the 4th Annual CMAO Awards and along with it will be the 3rd Annual Road to Independence Spring Tune Up Conference. CMAO continues to help people in the country music industry work toward having a flourishing career. Please visit their website at www.cmaontario.ca for more information about the CMAO, the upcoming conference and, of course, the awards show. I hope to see you there!
I’ve spoken to A LOT of country music fans. One thing that most of us have in common is the reason we love this genre of music: the fact that it tells a story. Ok, admittedly there ARE songs that are just about having a good time but even some of those tell a great story. That is exactly what Blake Reid is – a phenomenally talented storyteller.
Blake grew up on a farm in Cremona, Alberta. In fact, he is a part of 5 generations of farming. Now, if you know anything about farming, you’ll know that hard work and dedication are what is required to do the job. This is what he and his family know. But here, in the fifth generation, he decided to step outside the box to pursue music full-time. He had already stepped out on his own as a farmer but music has always been a part of his life. I asked him to make a comparison between the hard work required for farming and the music industry. What was easier about farming? Blake laughed “You always know what your product is.”
Because of his background, I was curious as to how his family reacted when he said that he wanted to have a music career. Blake was fortunate enough to have full family support, “They’ve always been supportive. I come from, well, there’s a lot of music in my family as well. My grandpa played semi-professionally the banjo. So he paid for the farm and supported the farm through the depression playing banjo.” Of course his father did have concerns about the amount of time he was spending away from the farm leaving gaps in the work force. “We always tried to time it so that during the harvest and maybe spring seeding I didn’t play as much.” His grandpa was a huge inspiration for Blake musically, playing the banjo well in to his 50’s and 60’s. Even with his advancing Alzheimer’s Disease, he could still remember how to play the banjo.
Playing rodeos, bowl-o-ramas, one night shows and the club circuit for a decade, Blake released “Against The Grain”. When asking him what he learned on that album that he carried through to the more recently released “Rust”, he replied, “Be yourself without apology.” When speaking about “Against the Grain” he says, “I was basically me without apology on that album.” We talked a little about what makes a great song to him and he said, “It was the songs I wrote about myself that people responded to.”
The “Rust” album still carries forward that theme of down-home, roots, and being unapologetic. “It continues on with that theme at the same time it’s got a little bit of a different theme with it.” Blake continued, “Even though it’s got a lot of energy and some of the instrumentation kind of reflects what today’s country would, it is still about ‘Hey we need to slow life down a bit and appreciate all aspects’ or tip our hat to the past.” Because Blake has this home-grown connection, I asked him if he had ever been asked to compromise his artistic integrity for a song. “Not directly,” he answered. He added that sometimes when you are writing with a group of people, you have to go with the majority and sometimes they want to focus on direct trends. “Lyrically I like to have a little more depth, have more of a message or a story in the lyrics.” The compromise doesn’t stop at the song writing stage. It can happen in production as well. “In the studio sometimes you can get pushed a little bit past what you’re comfortable with.” During this process, Blake learned that he was capable of reigning in the musicians to achieve the sound he wants.
If you go to listen to Blake’s music, you may recognize his voice. He is the singer and songwriter of The “Hell or High Water” song that became the anthem for the 2013 flood relief campaign in Alberta. We talked a little bit about the song. “Where the inspiration for “Hell or High Water” came from was I think there were so many people hurting and their lives were affected.” We chatted about the t-shirts that were being sold, and he mentioned to me that the shirts were made by the Calgary Stampede. “The phrase came from a phrase that Nenshi, the Mayor, said.” He received a lot of feedback and comments from people who had heard the song. People dropping a line to tell him that they’d heard it and it gave them inspiration to carry on. “To get that kind of feedback is huge.” Blake told me a story about that difficult time. He had received a comment from someone who had heard his song. Her cul-de-sac had been entirely destroyed. She wondered if he would be able to come and sing that song for them because they needed the pick me up. He and a friend went down there with a cooler of water and sang to them while they locked arms and hugged each other. “It was probably one of the highlights of my music career.”
Blake has been having many successes with his career. He was one of 6 artists chosen across Canada to be a part of the CCMA Discovery program. Through this he had the opportunity to play at the CCMA Award Show in Edmonton that year. I asked him what kind of feelings he had about doing a show of that stature. He explained that during the mentorship week in Toronto they did an industry performance as well as one in Edmonton. When it came down to the big show, Blake said, “Because the CCMA is such a classy organization and they worked with us that whole week, the performance at the end was the pinnacle, but there was no pressure.”
He has played numerous, and some very large shows. I wanted to know how he likes to unwind afterwards. “Well, usually I go down and see if there are some people in the crowd to talk to. I always love connecting with the fans.” He mentioned that he likes to chat with them about normal, every day things. “Its kinda fun to have a beer and visit with folks after the show.”
Artists usually have very eclectic musical tastes. Blake says, “I like to listen to some of the indie artists and the Texas artists.” But he loves the singer songwriters. “They turn themselves inside out because they are a reflection of their songs.” He has a true love for old country so I asked him what his thoughts on the “Bro-Country” phenomenon were. He replied, “I respect anybody that can stand up there and make music. I really do respect all genres of country and I like Bro-Country. I like the energy.”
But if Blake could perform with any country artist past or present on stage, his top choice would be Willie Nelson. He answered like a shot! “I am a die-hard Willie Nelson fan and Kris Kristofferson fan. I’ve always been a die-hard Steve Earle fan and I actually opened for Steve Earle and did a couple of shows with him this summer. That was on my bucket list! Sharing his stage was a pretty cool experience.” I asked him if there were any other bucket list shows for him. With no hesitation he replied, “Farm Aid.” Not only is there the appeal of Willie, Neil Young and John Cougar, he added, “Just the whole premise behind it. I think that I’d love to play Farm Aid.” He did try to get involved this year but his application was too late.
One thing I can say for certain is that Farm Aid better get on top of it and sign this man up! He is talented and an absolute pleasure to speak to. Please take a look at his website (www.blakereid.ca). You can also find him on Facebook (Blake Reid Music) and Twitter (@blakermusic). In the meantime here is “Stay Home” by Blake Reid: