Category Archives: Interview

An Interview with Pharis and Jason Romero

Photo by Rick Magnel

Pharis and Jason Romero take time out of the tour to chat with Folk on the Road before their concert at the Arden Theatre this Friday October 19 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available online.

What’s something you look forward to when touring as you’re packing things up at home in Horsefly, BC and preparing to head out on the road?

Exploring new parts of the country, finding moments to go for a hike or a delicious coffee/meal in a neighborhood, finding something that’s fun for the whole family (we’re going to Drumheller for a few days in the middle of this tour).

Since Sweet Old Religion has had the past few months to be out in the world since it’s release in May 2018, how is the response from audiences?

Really strong and enthusiastic as our most consistent feedback from audiences is that the songs feel like they’ve been around for a long time (even though they’ve all been written within the last two years).

Is there a particular track that you enjoy playing live?

We’ve been playing the title track, Sweet Old religion, the longest, but one of my (Pharis’) current favorites to play live is Leave the Garden Gate Open (it’s such a strange journey of a song), and we both love the dreamlike state we go into while singing Age Old Dream (plus I get a chance to do something that approximates a yodel).

Conversely, are there tracks which exist to be in recorded form only that you do not play live in concert?

No, with the music we play we always want to be able to play songs live – even if the studio version on the CD has guest musicians, we’ll always find a way to find the essence of the song and perform it live as a duo. The songs are also all written by us with just our two voices and two instruments, so they all start from our core essence as a duo. We don’t do a lot of pre-production before recording, with adding instruments, so the end result of a studio version is often a surprise for us.

There’s numerous roles within your lives as banjo makers, songwriters, music educators, and family members. What are some things you’ve learned from managing these many roles?

number 1 – We are fairly consistently going to be busy, as our passions and what we do for a living really integrated, so we need to make space for downtime (hiking, swimming, fly fishing, exploring).

number 2 – we are making it up as we go along (like most folks, right?).

number 3 – it’s more important to have a spacious tour, with time for exploring, than to book in every night with a show.

number 4 – it’s got to be fun.

Songwriting and instrument building are some examples of how there are roles of creation and expression in your lives but are there any other creative outputs you are involved in?

Yup, constantly.

Pharis is the Artistic Director for a singing camp called Voice Works, in Port Townsend, WA, and we both teach at a lot of music camps.
We make jewellery (earrings and necklaces, with plans to expand) from the leftover materials from banjo building (brass, copper, silver, woods, shell, stone).

We were actively involved in building our house, and are doing most of the finishing work on it, building furniture, wall art.
Everything feels like it has an element of creativity and expression to it – from the gardens (we built a half-submerged earthship style greenhouse a couple years ago), to putting a new roof on the barn, building a sauna – and that moves over into our relationships with our kids and each other.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility and heritage when you’re sharing songs through the oral traditional and also creating handmade, heirloom-quality banjos?

When playing music together the connection is intimate, even when you don’t know someone well (or at all). If you’ve spent time listening and feeling recordings from any tradition (our particular favorite is the 20’s – 40’s old time, ballads, bluegrass and early country) you speak a similar language right away and for us that transfers into feelings of respect and creativity both. I think the responsibility would come with wanting to not be replicating the older music, but to have spent enough time listening to have a feel for the spirit of the music, so that our own innovations come from a place that isn’t just wanting to immediately put our own stamp on it. The early musicians we so love were innovators, and we admire that very much. Far as the banjos are concerned, Jason’s woodworking is immaculate, and our goal is that if treated well these instruments should last hundreds of years. We draw from a lot of sources for inspiration and creation – early furniture makers, artists from the 1800s and early part of the 1900s and our natural world around us.

Where were you when you found out you had been nominated for three Canadian Folk Music Awards? (Awards will be announced in Calgary Nov 30 and Dec 1).

Working at home in the banjo workshop!

Anything else we missed that you would like to mention?

Thank you!!!! Can’t wait to play the Arden!

For more information and tickets please visit the Arden Theatre website.

An Interview with Skerryvore

Catch Skerryvore at the Arden Theatre tonight at 7:30 PM

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Where has your latest touring taken you and what have been the highlights for you?

DANIEL – We have had such an incredible year that it is very difficult to pick the highlights! The weekend that had Tonder Festival and Shrewsbury Folk Festival in the space of 4 day was very special. We performed to over 30,000 in 4 days and the response to our new material was incredible. It is also a real highlight to be in Canada for the first time and it is hopefully the first of many visits for the band.

 

What does the songwriting process look like for Skerryvore?

FRASER – Generally Alec will come up with an idea, lyrics, maybe an instrumental section too. He puts down a demo at home and sends it to the rest of us. We then have a rehearsal process where work from the demos to create the finished product. Sometimes the songs can change quite a bit from the demo, other times it’s just a matter of everyone adding their own touch as essentially the whole song is there.

 

Skerryvore is often described as a fusion of rock and traditional Scottish music—how would you describe how you fit into the traditional side of that equation?

DANIEL – Obviously the traditional instruments in band have a huge part in that equation both in instrumental sets and songs. In the songs there are many riffs or hooks played on fiddle , box or bagpipes that could also be played on electric guitar.

 

How did growing up on Tiree influence your approach to trad Scottish music?

MARTIN – Myself and Daniel were immersed in traditional music from a young age on Tiree with an abundance of Ceilidhs, concerts and Dances. We were also lucky to be taught from a young age from dedicated tutors on the island and also tutors brought on to the island as part of the local Feis movement. Through this we not only got to hear great musicians and bands but also be taught by them.

 

What are some of your influences? What are you currently listening to?

MARTIN – Runrig have always been a massive influence of mine  and some of the other guys in the band as well. At the moment I am listening to a lot of Dance music, Calvin Harris, Arlissa & Jonas Blue, CamelPhat to name but a few.

 

What are the challenges in forming your voice as an ensemble when you are inspired by different musical genres?

FRASER – Sometimes we have to find a place for the traditional instruments in a song. There are a few songs that would sound great as guitar, drums, bass, keys and vocal but it wouldn’t necessarily sound like Skerryvore. So, we have to adapt the songs to fit with our sound.

Skerryvore’s newest album is EVO—what is your favourite song to play off it?

 MARTIN – I would say ‘At The End Of The Line’ is my favourite song to play. Very emotional song and the tune part is mighty on the box!

What are your plans for the coming year?

FRASER – We have plans to release some more videos and will also be working on some new material. We also have our first tour of Australia coming up. Watch this space.

For tickets call the Arden Theatre Box Office at 780-459-1542 or order online. 

An Interview with Twin Bandit

Twin Bandit, comprised of Vancouver based duo, Jamie Elliott and Hannah Walker, sit down at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival media tent just at the rain begins to fall and the evening chill settles upon the Gallagher Hill. They played the Wapiti Musical Festival in Fernie, B.C. the previous evening and just arrived in Edmonton that afternoon.

So you’re not twins, or sisters, but you both grew up with sisters. What were those relationships like and how did that shape your sisterly bond now?

Jamie: Mine was very nurturing. I am the middle of three girls and we were best friends growing up. I remember one little thing that was very one sided. My older sister had a meltdown when we were very young and wrote in her diary, “as far as I’m concerned, I have no sister!” But other than that, young, silly diary entry we’ve gotten along so well. I’m still very close with my sister. And meeting Hannah it was an instant connection. She felt like a sister right away.

Hannah: It’s funny hearing [Jamie] say, “we had this one conflict.” I grew up with four younger sisters in my family and we fought all the time. Like cats and dogs. Not a fight for survival but our family is just really loud and we’re all very passionate, strong-willed people. So there’s often a lot of witty remarks back and forth and none of us are afraid of conflict. It was not traumatic. It was our way of communicating with one another. It was just how it was. We were all very comfortable relating to each other in that way. It’s been an interesting journey for Jamie and I because we did have a very strong connection like family right away. But it’s took us a lot of time, especially at the beginning, to learn how to communicate with one another working in a band.

[Twin Bandit notes there was a point when their sisters came to sit down with both of them and helped to provide perspective and work on bridging communication break-downs they were having. This sisterly intervention helped them better understand one another and move their relationship forwards.]

Was learning those communication skills a turning point in committing to this group and developing your relationship?

Hannah: I think Jamie and I right before we recorded our last album we were going through very heavy things in life. Some very serious illness and a couple of deaths in my family. The fact that we were able to walk with one another through that journey. And the fact that we were willing and able to support each other just through presence and through emotional availability. For me, it was the turning point that I knew I was prepared to walk the distance with Jamie. It felt like we would be in it for the long run. Whether that was musically or as people.

As you stated, there was darkness you were navigating prior to recording you last album. What I notice about the repetition of your song choruses is that it sounds more like a recitation of a positive mantra instead of a phrase that is trying to be catchy.

Jamie: We kinda needed that. We needed to write in that way. And find hope in our lyrics and in our songs because we were going through such a hard time. It really helped us get through those times, especially writing together and expressing these things that needed to get out. And putting a positive spin on things just helps in so many ways.

Hannah: Yeah, not ignoring the hardship of it but speaking frankly with one another and simplifying that experience into a mantra that we felt people would be able to relate to and appreciate. And something we hope would bring more positivity to our audiences. For us, because we sing for a living, we are saying these things all the time. Speech is very powerful and it really has the ability to change your perspective. That can be for better or it can impact you negatively. We had a lot of people come up to us over the years saying that our music helped them get through death in the family or heartache. We feel very honoured that people have that experience with our music.

[One of Jamie’s songs, For You, was used in a US commercial and Twin Bandit received much positive feedback. A mother who had lost three children in a car accident told them that she thought about her love for her children when she hears their song.]

Jamie: It’s so nice when people respond. When they walk up to you and say something.

Hannah: It is the reminder of why we are doing this. Music is so important in how it creates community.

Do you find songwriting is writing what you need to express at that time or what your audience needs to hear?

Hannah: It’s a little bit of both. Songwriting is quite cyclical, I find. For the style of music we perform and write, it’s storytelling. Whatever is impacting, moving, or inspiring us at the time is what we tend to write about. It is very possible songs on the next album may not be uplifting and inspiring necessarily because we may be going through a time in life where we’re exploring other aspects of the wide range of human emotion and experience. When it comes to songwriting, we’re trying to find a way to bring a deeply personal experience and boil it down to its core. That is what becomes universally relatable to people. In some ways, it’s the most personal thing in the world and in other ways it is created with other people and sentiment. To find the personal and make it public.

How is the aspect of vulnerability when sharing what is private for a public audience?

Hannah: I always cry when I sing Rosalyn and I rarely perform it live because the last few times I have broken down in the middle of a song. It’s always when my family is in the middle of the audience. It brings me back to that moment again. It tells me I am still connected to the art. But it can be really challenging and uncomfortable to perform songs that are really personal. I think people love to see that vulnerability. I think a lot of audience members connect with that. Even if you cry or forget a word, people watching you go through that experience makes it human again.

What are some exciting things coming up next for Twin Bandit?

Jamie: We’re going to Scotland!

Hannah: We are going on a three bill tour. All female acts. It’ll be our first time going to Ireland and Scotland. And it’ll be our fourth European tour. We recently found the goal sheet that we wrote [when we first started]. We have ticked off half of the things on our list!

Sounds like you have to dream bigger now.

Hannah: It was cool. We were talking about level of priority, fame, finances, connections and talking about what was more important to us. We both agreed that experience and personal connection with people that we looked up to musically were our goals as musicians. That was more important to us than material success or fame. Neither of us wanted to be famous.

It sounds like longevity is more appealing than short-term success.

Hannah: And build a good life and have music be part of that life but not the centre of it. It was really important for us to both arrive at that place. Agreeing that we didn’t want music to be our whole world. That it’s something that we love and feel passionately about.

Jamie: But we want to do it for the rest of our lives and make it lasting.

Hannah: Having freedom and understanding that life is going to change and our level of commitment to Twin Bandit. We may take time to rest or have a family. Jamie just got married a few weeks ago. [Hannah has a foster son that will soon be a year old]. It’s been a really big year for the both of us. A lot of changes in our life. It’s cool because we’re beginning to build the life we always wanted to have. Music has been interwoven throughout it.

Stay tuned to Twin Bandit’s site for upcoming information on their shows and tours

An Interview with Michael Bernard Fitzgerald

Photo Credit: Cameron Postforoosh

How goes life on the road so far this December?

It’s been great so far. Lucky to travel with such a good group of guys.

Last year you spoke about how it was a therapeutic process and there was a palpable sense of hope with your album, I Wanna Make it With You. As 2017 draws to a close, did that feeling of hope linger on or change?

Hope never dies – that current is my favourite part of “I wanna make it with you”. The new songs all have that hope as well, it’s something I can easily get behind.

I have always gotten your adventurous and open spirit in your previous shows whether it’s having a gospel choir up on stage with you, playing house concerts, or having dancers join you on stage, what can Arden Theatre audiences look forward to your live show this time around?

The show this year is harmony rich – there are some wide driving moments with the band with some acoustic moments laden with harmony.

Why is it important for you to include local musicians and support local music when you visit a community?

I think it is important to me to meet locals of all kinds. It has been an incredible experience meeting local musicians over the years.

Since it is getting close to the holidays, do you have any favourite tunes or traditions?

I’m not great with the holiday tunes, but I promise to be holiday social in the lobby after the show

Is there anything else you would like to mention that I’ve missed?

Thank you for the wonderful questions. Looking forward to the Arden and a nice pre-holiday visit with the great people in Edmonton/St Albert!

MBF performs at the Arden Theatre Friday, December 15, 2017 at 7:30 PM. See this link for ticket details.

Interview: Holiday Tunes with The Ennis Sisters

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In anticipation of their upcoming sold-out concert at the Arden Theatre, Teresa Ennis, speaks with Folk on the Road about their Holiday Tour.
How does it feel hitting the road again with your Christmas Tour for the eighth time?
Our Christmas show is so much fun!  It’s hard to believe that this is our 8th Annual Christmas tour. Each year, we add new songs, stories and dances to keep the show fresh and exciting for us and the audience. There’s so much excitement and magic in the air at Christmastime and it’s great fun to share that with large groups of people all over the country.
What is one of your favourite moments or songs from the Christmas set list?
One of my favourite moments is when we sing a medley of Christmas classics and the audience sings along with us. It’s like singing with a giant choir. Sometimes audience members will even throw in a few harmonies. It’s fun to get the crowd to participate in the music and I think they enjoy it too.
What is one of your initial Christmas memories singing together?
As far back as I can remember, music has always been a big part of our Christmas tradition. We grew up in a very musical household where singing and dancing was always a given for any special occasion, especially at Christmastime. I remember my grandfather and father playing tunes on the button accordion (traditional NL instrument) on Christmas Day and dancing along with my sisters when we were little girls. As we got older, we naturally learned how to play and sing that music for ourselves.  I’m so thankful to be able to share that gift today!
Do you have any Ennis family holidays traditions from Newfoundland that you can share with us?
Like so many others, family, food and music are a big part of our Christmas traditions. Each year on Christmas Eve, our mother cooks a traditional Newfoundland meal- salt fish n brewis, toutons and baked beans- and we sit at the table and take some time to enjoy each other’s company. On Christmas Day, we gather with close, extended family members for a traditional NL jiggs dinner with music to follow. I love it!
You really get to have a comprehensive east to west survey of Canada from Cornerbrook to Nanaimo leading up to Christmas, is there anything that stands out to you as a performer when you meet audiences from coast to coast during the holiday season?
We started this tour 8 years ago and toured it across Newfoundland. Then we began getting requests to bring it to the mainland.  Three years ago, we started our cross Canada Christmas tour! We are always amazed at how audiences from coast to coast respond to our music. People love the energy of our show and hearing about the traditions and songs we have in NL. Everyone leaves feeling as if they just had a little glimpse into what Christmas is like back home.
What else would you like to mention?
We have released three Christmas albums and 9 non-holidays albums over our 20 year career. Our upcoming non-holiday album will be released in the spring of 2018 and was produced by famed musician, best selling author, actor and fellow Newfoundlander, Alan Doyle.
Visit www.TheEnnisSisters.com for more info!

Lightning Interview: Union Duke

Having experienced the electrifying musical stylings of the Toronto-based folk quintet Union Duke during their visit to Edmonton’s Northern Lights Folk Club last year, we thought we’d better catch up with the band for a lightning interview before their stop at the New Moon Folk Club this Friday. Of the five member group—Ethan Smith, Jim McDonald, Matt Warry-Smith, Will Staunton, and Rob McLaren—we spoke with Matt who plays ukulele and sings.
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How did you get started in music? Are you self-taught or otherwise?

We all sort of came at music from different angles. Rob is the only one with an actual music degree I think. I took private trumpet lessons as a kid and then performed in lots of musicals growing up. We’ve all been playing in bands in one way or another since we were young teens so while we all had at least a little bit of musical education we’ve also done plenty of learning with each other.

How did Union Duke form?

Ethan, Jim and I met in high school. We played in a bunch of rock bands together and pulled a reverse Bob Dylan by going acoustic. Met Will and Rob through mutual musical friends a few years in and things just clicked.

You spend a lot of time on tour—do you have a favourite part of touring? A favourite place to tour to?dsc_0455

I mean, it’s all pretty good, except the crazy long hours in the car. I would say the top things are meeting interesting people and hearing their stories, staying in cool places we otherwise wouldn’t have found ourselves in, and obviously playing shows. We like to have fun wherever we can find it so we always keep an eye out.

Most places we’ve been have been great for different reasons. It’s tough to settle on just one. We like to say “different landscapes for different band mates”. A few great spots off the top of my head: hidden cliff jumping spot near Moncton, NB, mountain hot springs in BC, BEEF in Alberta and back home for bed.

In previous interviews you have said that your writing process involves workshopping ideas from individual band members—what happens to the songs that don’t make the cut for Union Duke?dsc_0542

Sometimes they hang around and become part of the live show. Sometimes they even end up becoming a recorded song on a later album or on a digital release. A few of them end up going to other projects we might be working on but most never see the light of day. We write A LOT of songs so we don’t really end up missing the ones we don’t love.

You have said that you have eclectic musical influences—what was the last concert you attended as a fan?dsc_0411

I just saw Future Islands at Massey Hall, talk about a far cry from folk. But we’ve seen plenty in the last little bit: Micah Erenberg at Burdock, Matt Mays at the Hayloft, Jayhawks at The Opera House.

Anything else you would like to mention?

We have a couple videos we just released that can be found on our website and our Facebook page. And we’re out on tour through late October and all of November so check us out on the road!

Union Duke plays the New Moon Folk Club in Edmonton on Friday the 27th of October 2017.

An Interview with North of Here

 

From the humble beginnings as a high school band, North of Here, made their debut at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival this weekend. North of Here, comprised of Luke Jansen on vocals, banjo, and bass; Ian St. Arnaud on vocals and mandolin, Will Holowaychuk on vocal and percussion, revealed that they did not grow up in households with a heritage of music-making. There were no mandolins, fiddles, and banjo’s scattered throughout their homes for them to experiment on and self-teach. Luke noted that he and Ian have a background in piano but they began to learn more instruments once they formed the band. Will shared that with the exception of playing percussion instruments in school band classes, he picked up a guitar when they started the band. Ian notes, it provides “a great incentive to get better.” They express the sentiment that, by working together, they make each other better musicians.

Continue reading An Interview with North of Here

An Interview with Dylan Menzie

A few thousand kilometres from his home province of PEI, Dylan Menzie, 22, arrives in Edmonton to play his largest Folk Music Festival to date. “The energy at this festival is unlike anything I’ve felt before. I’ve heard on the Sunday night finale, when all the candles come out and thousands singing along together, I’m excited to see that. I’ve never played to that many people before,” he reveals before continuing, “it is such a relaxing environment even though there is thousands of people.”

Continue reading An Interview with Dylan Menzie

Interview Preview with The Slocan Ramblers

The Slocan Ramblers — Frank Evans on banjo, Adrian Gross on mandolin, Darryl Poulsen on guitar and Alastair Whitehead on bass — are consistently described as one of Canada’s up-and-coming bluegrass acts to watch. We wondered how they got their start, their musical taste, and how they go about writing their tunes. Whitehead of the Toronto based group answered some of these questions for us prior to their visit to Edmonton.

The Slocan Ramblers had a whirlwind start, practically booking an opening gig before you even had played together. What prompted the formation of the band in the first place?

Yea, it’s funny to think back on it now. Adrian and I (Alastair) were living together while at music school, Darryl, Adrian, and I had started jamming at our apartment, and had bonded over our mutual enthusiasm for bluegrass and folk music, something not all that common for a few jazz school guys. I had met Frank at work and heard he was a great banjo player. We upgraded our jams to the garage to make room for him. The four of us hit it off both musically and socially pretty much from the get go. We were offered a gig before we had even really decided to be a band let alone chose a name. It went really well, and we were offered a monthly gig, then a weekly gig. Eventually we made our first album, started touring, and now it seems to be a full time occupation. We’ve definitely been really lucky with how it has all worked out.dsc_0121


How did you guys become a bluegrass band given the diverse musical backgrounds of each of the members as individuals?

We all got to bluegrass in our own separate ways, and perhaps for different reasons, but I think we can agree that our love of the music was solidified by the very vibrant bluegrass scene in Toronto. We get asked a lot how a bunch of young guys in Toronto got interested in bluegrass, the truth a lot of people don’t know is that there is a world class bluegrass scene in Toronto, with top notch bands almost every night of the week. Bluegrass is definitely a music best appreciated in a live setting. Having such a wealth of live bluegrass in Toronto was always a great source of inspiration.

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A lot of your interviews mention the Foggy Hogtown Boys — how has this group has influenced your group?

As I mentioned before, Toronto is a great city for bluegrass with weekly gigs on almost every night of the week. One of the longest running and best known of those shows was the High Lonesome Wednesdays at the Silver Dollar Room. It ran for almost 20 years and was a major institution in Toronto, not just for bluegrass fans but all kinds of folks from all walks of life. For the majority of the High Lonesome Wednesdays existence, the Foggy Hogtown Boys, a well known Canadian Bluegrass band were the entertainment, performing under the name Crazy Strings. We all used to go to that show regularly. The Foggy Hogtown Boys are a great band, and set the bar high. They were a great source of inspiration for us, and in many ways helped shape the sound of our band. We have gotten to know all of them over the years and they have really supported us. Chris Coole one of the groups co-founders was kind enough to produce our last album. A couple of the Slocan Ramblers also perform somewhat regularly with another Foggy Hogtown Boy John Showman. I think the Foggy Hogtown Boys really helped establish the Bluegrass scene in Toronto and inspired a whole bunch of younger aspiring musicians to get into the genre.


Some of your songs are written by you and some are traditional tunes — what does the process of writing a tune look like for The Slocan Ramblers?dsc_0105

We started playing bluegrass because we loved the genre. There’s a pretty rich repertoire of songs in the bluegrass canon, and the best way to learn the music is to learn as many of those songs, and listen to as many recordings as possible. We really took that to heart when the band first got going. I feel like we will always enjoy digging up old songs and finding ways to adapt them to our sound. However, as the group evolved from our bar band roots we definitely wanted to challenge ourselves and find a sound we could call our own. Writing original music seemed like the natural progression. We have all really embraced composition and song writing, and I feel it has definitely become a strength for the band. In terms of our writing process, I feel like it is still continually evolving. We still draw a lot from the traditional roots of the music, but we are also a lot more confident to stretch the boundaries and challenge our listeners. The process is pretty fluid and often different from tune to tune. We try not to self analyze too much.

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Reviews of your gigs constantly praise the vibrancy and excitement of your performance — how do you keep the enthusiasm levels of your shows high night after night on a tour?

Bluegrass is a really infectious and energetic music to begin with so that definitely works in our favour. It is also a music that is best enjoyed in a performance setting. Often people that had no idea they would enjoy bluegrass see the show and are total converts. There’s a lot of factors that play into it, the improvisational aspect of the music, the energy of playing live, the energy you get back from the crowd, when it all clicks it’s something really special. For me I think the biggest factor is that as a band we all still get along really well. I think the longevity of a band, and its success is largely based on whether or not the members still enjoy each others company after 5 years of touring, spending time together in the van, sleeping in hotels etc. Ultimately we all still get along really well, we still laugh at each others dumb jokes, and most importantly we are still inspired by each other musically. We all feel pretty lucky to be able to go on stage together every night and play our music for such great audiences, the energy seems to provide itself.

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There are couple opportunities in Edmonton to hear and/or be a part of this infectious and energetic music for yourself:

  • February 22th The Slocan Ramblers will be the backing band for Bluegrass Karaoke hosted by the Northern Bluegrass Circle Music Society (NBCMS) at Pleasantview Hall (10860 – 57 Ave Edmonton). Admission is $2 and homemade pie is $3.
  • February 24th The Slocan Ramblers play Edmonton’s New Moon Folk Club.  For ticket information please see New Moon’s website.

*The last time we saw The Slocan Ramblers was at the Edmonton Folk Fest in 2015, we searched our archives and found the in-text photos that accompany this interview.

Interview Preview with The Wardens

Scott Ward of The Wardens took some time to chat with Folk on the Road prior to the group’s upcoming concert at the Horizon Stage. The trio of park wardens/musicians (Ray Schmidt, Bradley Bischoff and Ward) have been described as humbly telling homespun stories, and are based in the Canadian Rockies of Banff National Park.

Did you start out with the intention of making warden stories known through song?

Yes, we started at the national gathering of park wardens in 2009 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the park wardens service—we wrote some songs to perform there. We kept going after that and have branched out from that into mountain culture songs.

How do you do go about researching the stories that become The Wardens songs? Or are they from first hand accounts?

Most songs are from first hand experience and a few such as Bill Neish [“The Ballad of Bill Neish”] are based on research.

Some of the characters in The Wardens’ songs are really interesting — where did you find the characters that are woven into your songs like “War(den) Bride” or “The Ballad of Bill Neish”?

These characters are historical persons affiliated with the National Park Warden Service. Dorothy [featured in “War(den) Bride”] is a friend of Scott’s—he worked with her husband Ed during the first ten years of his career. Bill Neish was a warden from the ’30s. Lots of colorful characters to choose from in the Canadian Rockies.

Who writes the music and lyrics? Is it a collaborative process?

We each write our own songs, bring them to the group, and work on the arrangements together. Whoever is singing the song is the one who originally wrote it.

Where do you draw musical inspiration?

All three of us as singer/songwriters have different influences. Both Brad and I are big Tom Russell and Ian Tyson fans. As well I am influenced by Gordon Lightfoot, John Prine, Bob Dylan and a host of other “folkies”. Ray loves bluegrass. We all like folk/rock.

How did you gain your instrumental ability? And how did you maintain it while in the backcountry?

We have all played since we were kids. I had one guitar stashed for the summer in one of my backcountry patrol cabins—but my district had 13 cabins and 2000 square kilometers of area so I didn’t get to it all that often! We always performed or jammed at parties in the bygone days.

Are there any similarities between being a National Park Warden and performing in a band?

Similarities—both require hard work and team effort!

What is your favourite part of performing?

My favourite part of performing is meeting great folks from all over western Canada and hearing some of their stories and connections with people we know at the end of the show and often staying with hosts.

What is your most memorable warden story?

So many gripping stories—some that can’t be told and others told in song. This is what sets us apart—very real and gripping stories between the songs that lead up to a song. Mountain rescue, bears, lonely horse patrols for weeks at a time, working with wildlife.

What are The Wardens’ future plans?

We just finished our third album and it’s now in Toronto for printing—it’s definitely our best effort to date—recorded at Leeroy Stagger’s Rebeltone ranch in Lethbridge with four months of pre-production working closely with Vicki Ambinder a producer and performance coach from Oregon. It has 11 new songs and a new version of our classic “Ya Ha Tinda Bound”. We are headed to the International Folk Alliance in Kansas city as a part of Team Alberta in mid February. We plan to take this little band as far as we can!

Is there anything else you’d like to mention that we haven’t asked?

We are having great fun with this project now in its 8th year and are grateful to be playing fantastic venues such as the Horizon Theatre.

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The Wardens are playing an afternoon show at Spruce Grove’s Horizon Stage on February 9th, for more information or tickets please see the Horizon Stage’s website.