Happy Holidays!

Hi Everybody. It has been a while since I posted something so I just wanted to pop on with an update.

Things have been…interesting. I am still not feeling 100% and some of my medications are having some crazy side effects. That all being said, I have decided to take a bit of a break until the end of the year. I need to recuperate a bit and regroup. I am slowly (but surely) working on a piece so I will try to get that up for you as soon as I can. I DO have some really great things lined up for the new year and I am so excited about making a good run at it.  A Craven Karaoke Booth may or may not be part of the plan, lol. “But Susie. Isn’t Craven in July?” Yes it is and I already have my tickets and campsite booked. Did you think I was going to miss Blake Shelton or Keith Urban? My friend, that was never going to happen! So you can see that although I may not be feeling top shelf, I am always thinking. Needless to say, you and I are going to have a lot of fun in 2017!!

Thank you all so much for hanging in there with me through all of this. Your patience and kindness is so much more appreciated than you know. This blog started out as kind of a way for me to explore country music more in-depth and the opportunities it has brought my way in the last 12 months is more than I could have ever hoped for.  I look forward to sharing more of these opportunities with you in the future. I wish you all the best this holiday season and have a very happy and safe New Year!

As my little Christmas gift to you, here is a video with my gal pal Chelsea Crites featuring Cory Cruise singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”:

MUAH!!!

 

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A Date With The Doc

Happy Hump Day Everyone! I was trying to get this up yesterday but burned out at the end. I am still getting used to amping up on the writing again. I will get there. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

I don’t know how many of you get Vision TV or not but if you do and you are getting to that time of year that you may start to feel a bit blue, set up a recording for “Are You Being Served?” For those of you who know what it is – YES!! It is being shown at 2:30 pm on Vision. If you aren’t familiar with it – it is British, it is from the 70’s, it takes place in a department store. It is positively witty, charming and is guaranteed to turn that frown upside-down. Unless you’re my friend Apryl but that’s a whole other story.

If that doesn’t work for you (or even if it does), you could always pick up Echo Road – The Best Of Doc Walker.

docwalker2016

Released on September 30, Echo Road is a look back at some 20 years of work from this Manitoba band. Lead singer Chris Thorsteinson and I had plenty to talk about considering we are from the same soil. It was actually pretty exciting for me to have the opportunity to talk to him. I had “grown up” with Doc Walker, seeing them many, many times when they were starting out here in Winnipeg. I read Chris a quote from a press release I had received about them “…Doc Walker is one of the most recognized Canadian country acts of the past two decades…“. He was quiet for a moment, as if he was soaking in the words I had just read to him. I asked him if, when he was standing on the stage at Silverado’s 20 years ago, he thought he’d be hearing a quote like that and that they’d be putting out a “best of” album. The moment the name Silverado’s came out of my mouth, it commanded a chuckle. For the non-Manitobans in the crowd, let me provide some context. Silverado’s was a very popular country bar and pick up joint in Winnipeg – along with The World Famous Palomino Club (“The Pal”) – and Doc Walker could be seen playing there on weekends. Still laughing he said, “No. What I remember about Silverado’s is pretty much ‘Kick Off Your Boots’ By Hawg Wild and I was always jealous that we didn’t have a big hit like that.” Chris talked about the tough times of travelling from coast-to-coast in a suburban and attributes those times not only to the building the rapport Doc Walker has with their fans but to their ability to write and record good music. Chris commented, “I don’t think artists do that enough these days. It seems like it’s an instant success these days with YouTube and downloads and whatnot.” If you really look at it, Chris and band mate Dave Wasyliw are actually going on 30 years of playing together, having started their first band when they were 12.

I am not going to lie, listening to Echo Road made me feel nostalgic (by the way, that’s a creative’s way of saying they felt old). I can’t believe it’s been 20 years! It really did make me reminisce about those days. If it did that for me, what kinds of thoughts and feelings did they have while compiling the album? Chris answered, “I really didn’t think of it much until the album came out and it was the release date and I’m sitting there, holding the CD and I’m looking at 20 years of work. I didn’t get the CD or really anything, I didn’t see it until the release day. I threw it in the truck, I drove in to Winnipeg. I live about an hour and a half out of Winnipeg. So I listened to it. I mean, boy, it sure takes me down memory lane.” For him part of that journey is hearing the difference in recording and writing styles.

One song that is a an addition to the album is a cover of “They Rage On” by American singer-songwriter Dan Seals of “Bop” fame. As beautiful as it is, it is hardly the feel good song of the year with lyrics like On the same dark night two more people meet | In a rented room on a crosstown street | and she’s lost her youth and he’s lost his dreams | but for a while they feel like they used to feel. I asked Chris why they began to sing this song in concert, so much that it became a fan favourite. Well, to start, Chris is a huge Dan Seals fan. But there was more to the story. “When we used to play festivals, we’d get the 3 o’clock in the afternoon slot and there wasn’t very many people there. So we always tried to do something unique and different. So what we used to do is get on 4 stools, when it was a 4 piece band, and the drummer would bring his snare drum up and we’d just sing that acoustically with a big 4 part harmony.” If you’ve never heard Doc Walker perform this song, you owe it to yourself to purchase this album to hear it. It is haunting. It makes you ache in the pit of your stomach. Basically what I am saying is if listening to Doc Walker sing this beautiful song doesn’t emotionally stir you – I have the number of a great therapist you can call. It is no wonder their fans far and wide have asked them to record this song. And now they finally have.

There are certain songs that, when you hear them, you can imagine yourself driving down a country highway. Farmland on each side. The golden-yellow of canola reaching up to meet a brilliant blue summer sky. Windows down, you can feel the warm breeze in your hair and the air is filled with the scent of flax. “Heaven On Dirt” is that song. It is a brand new track on the album. Fellow prairie folk will understand what I mean when I say it has a “prairie sound”. It’s country. It’s homeland. It’s heartland. To me, it sounds like coming home. Chris appreciated that, “It does. That was sort of the idea behind that song.”He does admit, “Radio across Canada were a little shocked when we came out with a fiddle song. We didn’t hide the fiddle at all. It’s there!” Even with this type of album they wanted some fresh material. “You know, when you’re putting together a ‘best of’ record, we weren’t necessarily thinking, ‘Hey, is this going to be a big radio hit?’ We were thinking, ‘We need something on this record that sort of reflects who we are’ and growing up in rural Manitoba, a huge farming community, it really fit.” Chris adds, “It’s also a song about balance.”

That was a perfect lead in for my next question. Between band members, there are 10 children. Chris laughed, “We’ve got a little hockey team here!” With families, you’d think that it would be difficult to find some work/life balance. “It’s not like the old days where we’d get in a suburban and we’d be gone for 300 days out of the year.” They are currently on tour until the end of November. They play for a couple of weeks at a time and then come home for a week. Chris says that when he’s home, he’s HOME. He and Dave might meet up to do some writing but otherwise it is no different from shift-working couples working opposite shifts for a couple of weeks.

And now that the band members are all grown-up with families of their own, priorities have obviously changed. Chris says he really enjoys the all ages shows. First, it saves them having to find a sitter (Ah – the true lives of musicians). Then there is the Doc Walker generational anomaly. Chris said that he had a girl about 13 or 14 years old come up to him and say she loved “She Hasn’t Always Been This Way.” He stood thinking to himself that she wasn’t even born when the song came out. “It’s funny how Doc Walker kinda stretches over generations.” He added, “It’s exciting to be able to be in this industry for 2 decades and still be able to have fans and go out and play.”

After a career spanning 20 years, they have definitely walked away with their share of hardware, including 15 CCMA Awards and a Juno Award. I am always curious with multiple award winners if the 15th (in their case) is as exciting as the first. Chris answered, “They’re all amazing. Honestly I wondered if it would change because I remember my first CCMA awards, how excited I was to be there. It doesn’t change.” For him, most of the excitement is really in the fact that people enjoy what they do. When they make music, they don’t worry about making hits or CCMA Awards. “Our goal is to make music for our fans and that’s really the first and foremost thing we always think about.” Well, fans have more to look forward to from Doc Walker as they are currently in the studio working on a project to be released in March 2017. Chris said, “It kinda carries on a bit of the ‘Heaven On Dirt’ feel. Really kind of a heartland feel.”

Some of this heartland inspiration could be due to a train trip that the band took. “We did the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train last year through the U.S.; we went from Chicago all the way up through to Calgary and went through the actual heartland on a train.” Chris recalls, “To take a train across the prairies and really see the heartland and experience it really moved us.” Despite the sometimes brutal cold (he remembers it being -38c in Brooks, AB), he considers this as a highlight of their career. They will be doing it again this year, travelling from Montreal to Chicago. “What it does for small communities, the CP Holiday Train, every dollar that goes to the train or every bit of food, stays in that community and to see at that time of year, around Christmas, the families in smaller communities that really do need the support. It’s just such an honour to be a part of that.”

The fact that the Holiday Train is in the winter is really of no consequence to Chris. I asked him what he missed about Manitoba when he was on the road a lot (family and friends aside, of course). He laughed, “You’re going to think I’m absolutely crazy but I miss winter.” My response? “NOOOOOO!” He kept laughing, “When I lived in Nashville, I missed winter. I love ice fishing and snowmobiling. I just love cold. Maybe it’s because I’m Icelandic. It doesn’t seem right that you don’t get that drastic change in season.”

Doc Walker recently played Club Regent Casino here in Winnipeg and then sang the anthem with Brett Kissel at the Heritage Classic. Chris exclaimed, “We’re big Jets fans!” They are currently on tour so you should catch them live if you have the opportunity to. I did want to let Chris know, that as a fellow Manitoban, it was great for me to see them have so much success. Very humbly he replied, “Really when it comes down to it, we couldn’t have done anything if we didn’t have the support from everybody in Manitoba throughout those years.”

Here is to another 20 years, guys! Manitoba couldn’t be prouder! Be sure to pick up Echo Road – The Best Of Doc Walker. And REALLY keep your eyes and ears open for a March 2017 album release. You could probably check one of these: Website (www.docwalker.ca) Facebook (@DocWalkerBand) Twitter (@doc_walker) or maybe even Instagram (@docwalkermusic). Meanwhile, why don’t you roll the windows down and hit a back road?  Here is “Heaven On Dirt” by Doc Walker

 

 

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What A Beautiful Freakshow

Hello RWC gang! I hope all of you have started this week on the right foot. If not, I have a couple of things for you this week that I hope will lighten the load a little bit.

When I started this blog, I really kind of intended it to be a way for me to be creative and maybe give an outlet to some up-and-comer musicians. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to do that and so much more. Including things like interview people like this next guy.

Let me preface my blog today with a little anecdote. Paul Brandt and Dean Brody were playing here in Winnipeg.  I was walking downtown during my lunch break and who did I see? Dean Brody! What did I say? Absolutely nothing! How ridiculous do I feel on a scale of 1 to 10? A solid 25! And let me tell you why. After talking to him on the phone, there is no way in hell I should have ever been nervous/scared/anxious/had whatever craziness going on inside my head I had to speak to him. He is so calm and kind and in a nutshell…super chill.

Yes. That is right, ladies and gentlemen, I had the opportunity to speak to Dean Brody and review his new album. Let me tell you, when life offers you the opportunity to speak to someone like that again, you take it. He took some time to chat with me about his latest project, Beautiful Freakshow, which releases on October 21 (this Friday).

DeanBrody_PhotoCredit- Phil Crozier.jpg

When you buy a new album, there are a couple of things you are certain of. One is that you like the band, otherwise you wouldn’t have purchased the album in the first place. Another is that you’ve heard one or two songs from it, depending on how many they decided to release as singles before the album dropped. The rest is completely unknown. A gamble, really. You are placing your money on your band to produce music that you are going to like. Now imagine you are the artist releasing that album. Especially when maybe there are a couple of songs on it that stray from convention or their traditional sound. It’s a risk for them. Well then, I guess that when it comes Dean Brody’s latest project, Beautiful Freakshow, you could call Dean a gamblin’ man.

On a first listen, it was easy to see why Brody has won songwriting awards. As a writer, I envy his ability to paint a picture and carry you away with his lyrics. It is masterful. When you go back and really listen to each song, you can hear different genres rolled in to them. After 13 CCMA awards and 2 Juno awards, Dean has obviously developed a formula that works for him. So why stray from that? “For me it’s still the same formula,” he started. “When it comes to writing I can’t sit still and I just try different things. I love different styles.” He admits, “I definitely have a lot of trouble sitting in one spot and writing the same thing over and over.”

Dean says that musically he has a traditional side and an adventurous side. This is something that is obvious on this album.  But traditional country fans fear not! He has left plenty of that for you on here. Lyrics like  The trouble is | You think you have you time | You think tomorrow’s always coming down the line (“Time“) and I wanna make you see that you still drive me wild | lift you off your feet, put that dimple in your smile (“Memory Lane“) remind us of these traditional roots. “Soggy Bottom Summer” is a fun blend of country and bluegrass with a sprinkling of Canadiana just to remind you of who he REALLY is (Blue Jays on the radio, pass the Old Dutch chips around). As if that isn’t enough, enter “Sargeant” Alan Doyle (yes, the Great Big Sea one). I LOVE that he brings Doyle back! This song is a wonderful testament not only to the beautiful but short Canadian summer, but to Dean’s sense of humour as well. Listen for the amazing bluegrass harmony at the end. Incredible!

So, we have songs like that, songs like the Buffet-esque “Another Saturday Night”and then we have the title track, “Beautiful Freakshow”. Full disclosure: at first listen, I didn’t want it there. I felt like it invaded that country space for me. But I listened to it again and I heard elements in it that I really liked. The more I listen to it, the more I really like this song. When Dean and I were talking about it, he said, “It’s a freak, really.” and he laughed. “It’s definitely not meant to be mainstream.” We discussed his name-checking film director Quentin Tarantino and how the song is very “grindhouse” much like Tarantino’s film style. The song itself is sultry and sexy and includes a phenomenal rap by the very talented Shevy Price from Halifax. It definitely steps outside the box and moves a little in to that hip-hop territory, but you will hear some beautiful spaghetti western whistlin’.

Country girls everywhere will have a new song to raise their fists in solidarity to. I asked Dean if he thought that “8th day” could be a new anthem song from him. “Yeah, maybe.” He replied. “It’s definitely a song that girls are probably going to say ‘That’s me’.” I admitted to being a country girl myself and felt that it resonated. This song is absolutely back in Dean’s pocket. On the 8th day God made country girls. Heck yeah he did! I think he captures our essence and I am sure country girls far and wide will agree. Knowing Dean has a daughter of his own, I asked him if his daughter becomes one of these country girls, will he be the dad waiting out on the porch? Without hesitation he answered, “Oh yeah. I’ve got a shot gun.” Boys, be warned. Mr. Brody’s got his eye on you.

I came across one song that I listened to a couple of times in a row.  It was so just so sweet and so soothing – in a Jason Mraz or Colbie Caillat kind of way. Sarah Blackwood joins Dean on “Little Blue Volkswagon”, a tender and melodic love song. Because I am such a fan of it, I asked Dean to tell me a little more about it. “I always thought Volkswagons were kind of cool. They are kind of iconic for the whole beach lifestyle; the gypsy kind of person.” Dean added, “The song is just saying, ‘Hey, you’re really groovy.’ It’s almost kind of like a hippy country song.” Gentlemen. I apologize but I do need to have a girl moment here. Ladies, hearing Dean Brody sing Your still my crush | You’re my one true love is completely swoon-worthy.

If you want a glowing example of why Brody is doing what he is meant to do, then make sure you listen to “Blueberry Sky”. When I hear a church bell ring | We’re running off you’re Grandma’s porch | Barefoot in our muddy jeans | Getting caught beneath that bridge in a thunderstorm. The imagery paired with the dreamy quality of the music made me think of young summer love. Being caught on a country road in a rainstorm. It just felt good. I asked Dean if this song was based on fact or fiction. “A little of both,” he began. “A lot of times when I write a song, I’ll be pulling from my own experience but also put in a little bit of imagination in to it as well.” This song is a little bit special to Dean because country legend Vince Gill played on it. “For me, Vince Gill, musically, is one of my heroes. To have him play guitar was amazing.”

Brody left no stone unturned when it came to genres. the very reggae “Beautiful Girls” is fun and relaxing to listen to. Dean reminds us he is country saying Hop in my truck. The idea is to get lost in a lazy day and this song makes you want to do that…until the end. In a very Marley move, Dean takes us to church, reminding us that peace and love should be at top of mind. This last verse is fantastic.  I asked Dean if he thought they would keep it in for radio because I thought it was an important message to hear.  He said, “I don’t think it will simply because of time.” He said this was “a little side road we took” when speaking of the song. And I think it was well worth the diversion. Especially when you consider the type of person Dean is. In 2010, The Dean Brody Foundation was started.  Dean had read a book written by a British journalist that had spent 7 years in Brazil. “He wrote about how girls are severely exploited especially in rural areas of Brazil.” Dean contacted him and wanted to know what he could do.  So he started the foundation.  They now have 2 houses in 2 towns and last year they sponsored 55 girls in Covenant Children’s Homes in India. They are currently looking right here in Canada, as well. Husband, father, singer, songwriter, philanthropist. Whew. That’s a hell of a job title.

Dean moved from a sawmill job in B.C. to Nashville. When it didn’t work out, he moved back and went back to that same job.  I asked him if he ever in a million years thought he would be in the position he is in right now. “No. Never,” he started slowly. “I feel very fortunate in life and that I get to do what I love for a living and that I have fans who will go on that journey with me because I am different and unorthodox and sometimes I think that could hurt me. But my fans seem to go along and they’ve had a lot of fun going on these musical experiences and experiments with me so I love it. It’s a great life and I am very thankful to my fans for giving me that.”

Wondering what men like Dean Brody take pictures of on their cell phones?  “I took a picture this morning of a car (I may post this on Facebook) that has been parked underneath where pigeons have been sitting! It’s covered in shit!”  As we were killing ourselves laughing, he added, “There’s an egg on top of the car! That’s the kind of thing I take a picture of.”

You MUST run out and get Beautiful Freakshow by Dean Brody out on Friday October 21 (THIS FRIDAY)! It is an incredible example of his creative vision.  Visit his website (www.deanbrody.com), Facebook (@DeanBrody), Twitter (@deanbrody) and Instagram – although keep in mind I am not sure what kind of photos you’ll see (@deanbrody).  Here is the hit that has already been released from this album “Bush Party” by Dean Brody: the man who colours outside the lines.

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A Soul As Old As A Meteorite

Hey everyone! I hope you are all feeling fantastic.

Summer has gone and fall is here. That hurts my feelings. I am not a real big fan of winter time. Yeah. I know. I live in Manitoba. Listen, just because I live here doesn’t mean I have to like the weather.

As I am still trying to get back up on my feet a bit, I am probably going to make some adjustments to the blog. Most of the time I will be covering just artists for now and as I start to feel a bit better I will start getting back to the news and maybe some lifestyle and fashion articles. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Being in my 40’s, I am trying to remember what it was like being 13. It’s difficult to remember. I am certain, however, that it probably included a Platinum Blonde cassette tape, Au Coton slouch socks and far too much blue eye shadow. There was no internet or social media. There were no smart phones. If you wanted to talk to a friend you either called them from the house phone or went and saw them. I don’t remember really thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up. And I certainly didn’t start working towards it.

The world has changed, but I don’t know if 13 year-olds have fundamentally changed. They still want to have fun and hang out with their friends.  They still want to not have to worry about responsibility. Enter Beamer Wigley – the most uncommon 13 year-old you will ever meet.

beamer

 

When I spoke to Beamer, it was during his summer break. When I asked him how his summer break had been, he replied, “It’s one of the best summers for my music!” I asked him what else he had been up to. “Preparing for my album release.” Beamer had been working all summer. “Downtime is a liberty for me,” he commented but he doesn’t seem to mind it at all.

That is probably because he loves country music. “The lyrics tell stories and I love writing things that do tell a story.” So not only is he a singer, he is also a young songwriter. This past July, his single ‘Meteorite’ was released to Canadian radio. I mentioned to him that I thought he had a sound similar to American country singing star Hunter Hayes to me. Beamer laughed, “I get that a lot. It’s not a bad person to be compared to.” I asked him what it was like hearing his song on the radio for the first time. “Oh man!” He started. “I was in a radio station, CFWE in Edmonton and it started playing on the overhead speakers of the radio station as I was walking out. I’m like, ‘I want to hear this in the car.’ So I give my guitar to my dad and I book it for the car, running as fast as I can and my mom just sees me bolting to the car and I make it for the last chorus and it was the best feeling in the world. I was out of breath but it was really cool hearing my song on the radio.”

This Penticton, BC sophomore says he has a lot to thank his parents for. According to him, they are extremely supportive and it doesn’t look like they will be stopping any time soon. “I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done.” He says they are having a lot of fun with the whole thing and adds, “I hope they’re having a lot of fun because they tell me they are. If they’re lying I’m going to be pretty upset!”  I asked him if he’d considered any other careers. He said he’d considered acting. In fact, Beamer has done quite a bit of musical theatre. His heart, however, remains with music and songwriting.

It’s interesting to come across someone so young who is so certain of who he is – especially as an artist. He says that Keith Urban is his inspiration. “When I was 5 years-old I heard Keith Urban and Brad Paisley’s ‘Start a Band’ and I looked at my mom and I said, ‘I need a guitar.'” Incidentally, if Beamer could play with any one singer on stage it would also be Keith Urban.  I asked him what the appeal of the Australian superstar was for him. Beamer replied enthusiastically, “I love the way he presents his songs. I love his stage presence. You can’t go wrong with his guitar playing. That’s incredible!”

Beamer is no slouch when it comes to playing the guitar either as he is a member of the Brotherhood of the Guitar. This is a community of young and gifted guitar players ages 13-19. They help each other out and collaborate. “It’s really just like a big group of friends who share the same interests.”

Well, it seems as though Beamer is always working so I was curious to know what he enjoys outside of music. Apart from going to the beach, Beamer is a self-proclaimed car fanatic. He really enjoys checking out cars online, especially ones from the 50’s. He likes anything from the 50’s in general. “I am a vintage kinda guy,” he says. I referred to him as an old soul. He laughed and said, “I’ve heard that before.”

Being that he did feel older than his age, I asked him how he responds to hearing “well, maybe he is too young for that”. “I laugh,” he answered. He admits that coming out as a 13 year-old artist has its challenges. “Radio has been really tough.” When it comes to live performances, he is sometimes passed over for better slots. “Sometimes I’ll get a slot and it’s kinda bad and I’ll be like ‘And this is my first single that just went to Canadian radio called Meteorite!’ and I’ll see the guy who booked me kind of like ‘Oh’.”

He may be young but one thing I can say is that he is extremely detailed. I decided to have some fun with him and ask him what were 3 things he would take to a deserted island. They of course could not be electronic. Before we even began, he asked, “Am I on a large island or like a 10 foot square island?” I laughed and clarified that it was the size of a couple of square city blocks. “Ok,” he started, “I think I am going to bring, almost number one on my list would be a water purification system, a flare gun. And…um. Is there any wildlife on this island or just trees.”  I assured him it was just trees. “Then I am going to bring a hatchet so I can cut down trees and build a shelter.”

This summer wound up with an album release party for Beamer in London, ON during Country Music Week. You could tell he was thrilled. “I don’t think I could have gotten a better place to have it…especially with Brett Kissel’s band backing me up.” Agreed!

It was time to wrap things up. So I asked him what the last picture he took with his phone was.  At that time it was “My dog wearing a dress.” He pointed out that the dress doubles as a harness. “I love Teddy. She’s the best.”

PLEASE go to Beamer’s website (http://www.beamerwigley.com/) and check him out on Twitter (https://twitter.com/BeamerWigley) and on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/beamerwigleymusic/) He is so great! In the meantime, here are the smooth stylings of Beamer Wigley singing Meteorite:

 

 

 

 

 

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Side Effect

Hi Everybody,

If you have ever been on any type of chemotherapy, whether it was/is for high blood pressure, anxiety, cancer, or anything else, you know that with these come a fantastic list of side effects. My doctor decided to try something new for a few months. The pain seems to be slowly improving. But the side effects are crazy. Lack of concentration, nervousness, nausea, dizziness sometimes. These are just the worst ones.

Between trying to make this adjustment and some family priorities, I’m a little behind. I promise – I have a couple of great interviews lined up and will probably have more after CCMA week. 

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I really appreciate it.

Talk Soon!  

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Going To War

Hi Everybody!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Rubber BootsSunscreen:  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.

Kacey Musgraves

ZBB

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.

Chris Young

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!    

Eric Church

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!!

Old Friends and New

Old Friends and New

COUNTRY MUSIC:

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.

Madeline Merlo

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:

 

 

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So THIS Is What It Feels Like

Hey Everybody!

I know I typically don’t publish things back-to-back like this but there is another fantastic talent that is going to be playing at Cavendish Beach this weekend that I REALLY want to tell you about.  I have been trying to nail down an interview with him for a while and I finally got my chance.  If The Road Hammers didn’t put you over the edge into going, this guy just may do the trick.

Let’s get at ‘er…

COUNTRY NEWS:

Proud American:

In keeping with the fact that it was Canada Day and Independence Day long weekend, I saved this interesting titbit for you.  

If you think that Neal McCoy saying the Pledge of Allegiance with Charley Pride was a one-off occurrence, you are surely mistaken.  Apparently this is something he does daily.  In fact, he even tries to include friends and fellow musicians in the ritual.  Not one person has ever said no.  McCoy does it every day on Facebook and it has gotten him almost 10 million views.  

McCoy has recently released an album of American standards, leaving behind his cowboy hat and jeans for a suit and bowler hat.  But at the Taste Of Country Music Festival, he was back in country boy form.  Despite the amount of time he has been in the business, McCoy came out and gave an energetic and charismatic performance.  

Happy Birthday, Rob:

While on his Ripcord tour, Keith Urban played a 2 night engagement in Gilford, New Hampshire.  Rob Joyce was there celebrating his birthday with his girlfriend.  Lex (his girlfriend) had a sign that said, “It’s my boyfriend’s birthday”. Rob’s sign said, “I want to play your guitar”.  You and I have been there.  A fan gets up onstage to sing or play an instrument and it doesn’t go well.  Urban decided that night to give Rob his birthday wish and pulled him up onstage.  He gave Rob his guitar and prepared for…well…what we all prepare for. Rob NAILED IT!  To the point where the rest of the band came back out to play the whole song and Urban just sang along.  He even did 2 solos.  The look on Urban’s face is priceless.  The crowd went nuts.  The YouTube video I have attached is Lex’s video. Please take the few minutes to watch it. You will be SO glad you did.

 

COUNTRY MUSIC:  

My mother’s pen pal of 50 years is from Newfoundland.  With social media, they were able to start connecting online.  They could now share details of their lives in an instant, rather than waiting for Canada Post to deliver them.  This is how I found out about Jason Benoit. My mother’s friend told her to check Jason out. Whereupon my mother told me to check him out.  I am so glad I did.  

I loved what I heard.  When I found out he was coming to Winnipeg with Tim Hicks and Cold Creek County, I HAD to get tickets.  Not only is he talented, he is also so charismatic on stage.  I tried to get an interview with him at that time.  It didn’t work out due to scheduling.  Later, I was offered the chance to do a phone interview with him and I jumped at it! Finally!  A few minutes with Jason Benoit!

My call got put through and I could hear his kids in the background.  I laughed.  I loved that I was hearing something so real.  Something that happens in everyone’s home.  Jason is married and a father of 3 children all under 10.  It had been Father’s Day, so I asked what he did to celebrate.  This lucky guy had a big turkey dinner with his family at his father-in-law’s cabin.  

Jason really started pursuing his career in 2013, leaving behind the credit union job he had.  He learned how to play the guitar when he was 14.  “My brother taught me how to play because he used to play the guitar as well.”  When his brother moved away, he continued to learn on his own.  I asked him how his family felt about him making the leap. This was something he had always wanted.  When it came to signing with JV Records and Sony Music Canada, he had to do it.  “Some opportunities you have to take even though it’s a risk.  It’s been paying off so far.”  Naturally his family couldn’t be happier.

Things have been really picking up for Jason.  If you like him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jasonbenoitcountry/?fref=ts) you will see that he has been all over the country lately.  I asked him how he is coping with such a busy schedule.  “It’s not that bad quite yet,” he said.  “I still have time to spend with family.” Spending time with his family is a priority for him.  With such a full house though, what does he do to unwind? “It’s tough to relax when you have 3 kids,” he laughed.  “After the kids are in bed we kick back and watch a movie.” Since I knew he had been out here in the west while on his travels, I asked him if there was a difference between the crowds out east versus crowds in our neck of the woods. “Oh yeah,”  he replied emphatically.  “Out west, country is king out there.”  He said that there seems to be a higher concentration of country fans out west than there are out east.  He was sure to add that they do love their country out east, but there is a bit more diversity musically.  

The last 3 years has seen Jason be nominated for the CCMA Rising Star award in 2015 and be the recipient of the CCMA Discovery Atlantic Award.  This was the first time that the CCMA had given an award specifically to showcase talent in the Atlantic provinces.  I asked him how it felt to have achieved so much in such a short time frame.  “It’s amazing. To this day I still count my blessings.  I’m very, very lucky to be as far as I am in my career so quickly out of the gate.”  He added, “It gives me confirmation that I keep going on this.”

Keeping things rolling is exactly what he is doing.  He is releasing his first album this fall. I asked him which is his favourite song to perform live.  “I’d say it’s tough to beat the one I released last year that went to the top ten in Canada – Gone Long Gone.”  Seeing the crowd sing his songs, songs that he had written, is both humbling and touching for him to see. “It’s something all performers want to see.”  Considering co-writing is something that he is just getting in to, most of his songs were written by himself.  Being I am a writer too, I was curious to see how he deals with the dreaded “Writer’s Block”.  “It’s one of those things you kinda let go.”  He went on to say that it is hard to always have good ideas or new ideas and that is something I can completely relate to.  What does he suggest?  “Take a step back when that happens and go do other things.  Listen to other music, try to find other influences.”  When speaking about influences, he mentioned, “I started off singing mostly classic country.  George Jones is my favourite  country hero of all time.  That’s the guy there that I keep coming back to.”  He also was heavily influenced by the 90’s country singers; Joe Diffie and Mark Chestnutt to name a couple.  

This weekend is the Cavendish Beach Music Festival  in Prince Edward Island (http://cavendishbeachmusic.com/lineup/) and Jason will be playing there once again. Last year he played on the side stage, of which he said, “That was amazing in itself.” That side stage is also where he was presented the CCMA Discovery Atlantic Award.  This year will be a little different. “This year I get to do it again, but I get to do it on the main stage. It’s a dream come true to be able to play on the main stage.

It was truly a pleasure to finally get some time with him. Cavendish starts tomorrow!  If you have the means, if you live close, if you think it may be a good idea…GO!  It has an insane line-up!  Go to the link above to get tickets!  If you can’t go, then take the time to look Jason up on Facebook, check out his website (http://www.jasonbenoitcountry.com/) and follow him on Twitter (@JBenoitcountry).  Here is something to check out while you do, Jason’s favourite song to perform – Gone Long Gone:

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