I know, I know, it has been a couple of weeks. In my defence, they’ve been busy. I have a busy couple of weeks coming up too.
I FINALLY have a domain!! Frank got me it for my birthday. You can now find the blog at redwhiteandcountry.ca!! It will be easier for people to find me. I am so excited about this. I know – I’m a nerd. Whatevs! I am a nerd with a domain.
Two weekends ago was Craven Country Jamboree in Craven, Saskatchewan. I went, I came back, I survived to tell the tale. So, keeping this in mind, I will not have a country news section this week. Rather I will regale you with tales of Craven and give you a top ten of things you should definitely have with you if you go. Let’s start with that:
Top Ten Things You Should Definitely Have If You Go To Craven:
- Rubber boots: I learned my lesson last year by not bringing these. We had a huge storm and the tent area was a mud pit. I lost a great pair of shoes that weekend. This year I brought the boots. Even though it didn’t rain during the festival, there had been quite a bit of rain in the area. While our trailer site was dry, there were some roads that were muddy and area up by the main stage was muddy. You may not think you’ll need them. Trust me….you will.
- Sunscreen: No matter how tan you are, you can burn. Last year was scorching hot and I got a bad burn. This year, despite the fact that I had a great tan, I still used some. I did get a burn on my nose because I couldn’t put sunscreen there due to my new nose ring. Even if it doesn’t seem like you’ll get burned, you probably will.
- Water, water, water: If you think you’ve packed enough water, you should pack more. Between the heat and the drinking, you are going to need it. There is a potable water truck that comes around but that can vary. There are also ice trucks that come around often. Their last loops are usually around 6 or so.
- Close-toed shoes: The main stage area at Craven is all wood chips. I see it a dozen of times a night; some girl trying to look all cute in her flip flops, but she is tripping all over the place because she keeps getting wood chips in them. Plus, soft piles of wood chips are a pain to walk through! You are best served by leaving the flip flops for the camp site.
- Hand sanitizer: Let me be real with you. If you plan to camp the whole weekend at Craven, you should know that it isn’t a camp ground. It’s a field. A big, open field. There isn’t a bunch a facilities that are mopped down every day. It’s port-a-potties and one shower trailer that is pay per use. Needless to say it runs out of sanitizer pretty quickly so make sure you have your own.
- Toilet paper: See Hand Sanitizer **Something to note, there is a compost toilet bathroom at the end of main street. It can get pretty gross at the end of the day, but there is usually paper and it has sinks. Something else, there is a flush bathroom trailer with sinks at the back of the main stage area. It is usually pretty decent.
- Electrolyte drink (e.g. Gatorade, Powerade, etc.): I know this may not be some people’s cup of tea. I would like to point something out. Before you go saying that it is unhealthy for you, please consider the abuse you are about to put your body through over a period of 4 days. Ok. Now please tell me about unhealthy these drinks are? I am sorry but after a long night of drinking, dancing and being in the heat all day, a cold sports drink tastes and feels amazing. And it will help replace all of those electrolytes.
- A table: I know it sounds weird, but you will want to bring a table of some type. Remember, this isn’t a campground, it’s a field. If you don’t, you will have nothing to use for food/drink prep.
- First aid kit/ Band Aids: Here is the mom in me. Whenever you do any sort of camping, you should bring along a well-stocked first aid kit. Although there are paramedics and police that drive around, you should be prepared for everything from a cut finger to a dislocated shoulder. If it sounds a little extremist, it really isn’t. I’ve seen everything from bad road rash to a knee that got torn open. Be prepared!
- Contraception: Now obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. These festivals are HUGE hook-up places. That’s fine if that’s your thing (no judgement). If you plan to, make sure you are prepared and protected (guys and girls alike; don’t expect the other to have something). Rule out the chance that you may come home with a souvenir you weren’t intending to.
How was the music? For me, this year was a really mixed bag.
The first night I saw Kacey Musgraves and Zac Brown Band. I was a little bit disappointed by both of them. Kacey really didn’t move around a lot. She wasn’t really engaging much with the crowd, although the crowd sang along and danced when she sang. She sounded great which is really important to me she was just a bit boring to watch. Zac Brown Band was fantastic…musically. Because they are a big band, they don’t really move around too much. I can forgive this because they really sound a lot like their recordings. You could, however, tell that they were tired, having just played the Calgary Stampede the night before. There was very little back and forth with the crowd. But I still danced because I love the music.
The second night was a real surprise. I saw Chris Young and Alabama. Chris Young blew me away! Not only is he absolutely adorable, he is fantastic live. He was so involved with the crowd and humble and it was obvious he was having as great a time as we were. His ballads melted the ladies’ hearts as he smiled that perfect smile. I didn’t know what to expect, but he is someone that I would pay to see on his own. He was fantastic. Now I hope I don’t get crucified for say this but Alabama really should have opened for Chris Young. When they played music that people knew, we danced and sang along. In all reality, the first 2 or 3 songs were ones that people knew. As were the last 2. Everything else was ballads and music that no one was familiar with. If you were at the back in the grandstand, the sound wasn’t great either. A lot of people left before the end which is a shame.
Eric Church closed the festival this year. He surprised me. I have always enjoyed his music but he comes across as aloof. He was the TOTAL and complete opposite! I danced the whole show. Everyone danced and sang and it was awesome to see him respond to us. He was so in to the crowd. It was like I was watching a completely different person. Would I pay to see just him? Absolutely!
This year I found that the acts weren’t as exciting as last year. And no, it isn’t just because of Blake Shelton. This isn’t only my opinion. I have spoken to several people about this and they all agree that the performances were really a mixed bag. That aside, I did have a great time! It was nice to see old friends, make new ones, and have a fun and relaxing weekend listening to great music. Will I go again next year? Oh probably I will! Thanks to Ashley, DJ and Patty for some great pics!!
I remember hearing this really peppy song on the radio once. You know, one of those ones that make you bop in your seat a little. Then I heard it a few more times and as I learned the words I would sing along more and more in the car. I finally looked to see who the singer of “Whatcha Wanna Do About It?” was and lo and behold, it was a beautiful young lady named Madeline Merlo. The same young lady who was great enough to have a phone call with me a couple of weeks ago.
You may have heard her single “War Paint” played recently on country music radio. This touching song is one that she had tried to write several times because she wanted it to be encouraging and not just a sad song. “It was actually a song that I had been wanting to write for a long time and I always felt like my album wasn’t completed yet without a song that was this encouraging anthem that was a bit of my story and something that has happened to somebody close to me.” We talked a little about how she wanted it to serve as a reminder that even if you are going through some really tough stuff, there is always someone who will be there to fight in your corner.
We were already talking about emotions and what kind of emotional response she wanted to evoke in the listener. I asked her about her debut album. She released it in April and I asked her what emotions had been invoked in her. “Excited, nervous, exposed.” She replied. “I was really proud of that album and what I created and finally finishing it because it was 2 years in the making.”
Madeline started singing at 6 but she didn’t start playing guitar until she was 16 or 17. She admits, “I am still not really a great guitar player.” She has learned to love the ukulele and it has become her instrument of choice. Madeline was discovered at 17 and she is now 22. Her career has been moving fast, playing big festivals like Boots And Hearts and The Calgary Stampede. I asked her what she would say to her 12 year-old self if she could have a conversation with her. She laughed, “I wish I could tell 12 year-old Madeline all of this was happening.” She had always taken any opportunity she could to perform when she was younger. “I always lost.” She was stressed, sad and discouraged. But only for about 10 minutes. Her mom would say to her, “You have 10 minutes to be sad and then we have to move on”, a quality she is glad that her mother instilled in her. “It’s given me a thick skin.”
It’s obvious that Madeline has this kind of drive. In 2015 she won the CCMA Rising Star Award and the BCCMA Female Artist of the Year Award. Of course it is amazing to win something like this but was this a case of with power comes responsibility? Does this add pressure to her as a songwriter? “It’s inspiring and assuring that people see potential in you but it also comes with a great deal of pressure.” Madeline adds, “Under pressure, diamonds are formed.”
Something that she does is ensure that she surrounds herself with people who push her to do better. She has set up a few of her own co-writes but says she is always open to write with anybody. I asked her if she felt that moving to Nashville is a must in this industry because of that fact. She replied, “It raises the bar when you go down there. Everytime I go there, magical, wonderful things happen.” She finds that the city is filled with talented and inspiring people and would like to hang her hat there one day.
Madeline has a busy schedule this summer doing a lot of festivals including The Calgary Stampede and Boots And Hearts. I asked her how she prepares for such a fast-paced summer. “When I think about it I feel very nervous to be honest with you.” She goes on to tell me that festival fans are the best and that they are just out there to have a good time. So if she is feeling under the weather, she gets energy from the crowd to go on. She tries to avoid that by eating well and taking care of her health and body, “I have a lot of remedies to try to cure myself.” I also asked what happened if she just wasn’t feeling up to it? She answered, “I think every day you get to make music is an honour and a privilege and I never really feel like I am not up to something.”
Because I knew of Madeline’s busy schedule I wrapped up our chat by asking what the last photo she took on her phone was. To prove how busy she was, “We just played on Global News. Me and my band took a picture together.”
Thanks Madeline, for taking a few minutes to chat with me! You are truly a delight to talk to. Please check her out online (http://madelinemerlo.com), on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/madelinemerlo), on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/madelinemerlo/?hl=en) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/madelinemerlo). IN the meantime, check out this song PLEASE! It is a hauntingly beautiful acoustic version of War Paint by Madeline Merlo: