Meet The Band

All photos in this blog were taken by good pal and talented S.O.B. Sebastian Buzzalino of Unfolding Creative Photography.

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Since the release of Driving In The Dark (stream here, shameless, I know) one of the most asked comments/questions I get after a show or out and about in my travels is: “Your band is amazing. Who are they and how did you guys meet?”

WARNING: gross, long, rambling post ahead about my love for these people and laying out their skills like you’re reading a baseball card. Enjoy, or go away.

Kurtis, AKA: Dirty Uncle Rick

If you’ve had the absolute pleasure or luck to see one of Alberta’s hottest outlaw country outfits, The Denim Daddies, chances are you’ve stared into Uncle Ricky’s baby blues already. He’s a tight fittin’ jeans wearin’, beer drinkin’ son of a gun who counts the beats while he diddles the bass better than most. What a groove, what a guy.

Having Kurtis around is the equivalent to a therapy dog. He’s never, ever in a bad mood and uses his positive energy to inflate the people around him. On long tours he will sleep, sit, drive and twist one up anytime, anyplace. He’s just a fucking treat to hang with. I once saw Ricky tear down Bolton’s hottest of the hot chicken in Tennessee and live to tell the tale.

Loves cruising the ‘dub (A&W), John Prine and gunnin’ brews.
Hates basically nothing.

 A rare photo of Rick wearing pants!

A rare photo of Rick wearing pants!

Keane, AKA: Uncle Keane, Kleep, Keanie Baby

During the last 3 years of my career I’ve been lucky enough to share the stage with the hardest working man in show business, the biggest smile on stage and a heart to match: Uncle Keane - owner operator of Dingotone and Rebelcraft for all of your pedal and pedalboard needs.

I know what you’re thinking, and before you say it, yes, everyone makes the joke that “Keane is keen” - no shit. The guy literally organizes my cupholders while I’m driving. He’s a tone tacklin’, gear craftin’, telecaster wieldin’ machine of a man who can take you all the way to shred-town and back, and looking handsome as heck while doing it.

Keane is always in there like a dirty shirt, willing to help and wanting to make the show and our setup better, quicker, stronger. He never settles for less and has thought of every detail before you’ve even put on your guitar. He falls asleep in the passengers seat because the car rocks him to sleep like the sweet angel that he is. He never lets me stay in a bad mood and takes his coffee black. Simple, but so complex.

Loves efficiency, a Fender Champ if you have it, Neil Young and gunnin’ brews.
Hates slow talkers, not having all the answers and shitty guitar tone.

 Look at all the of the fun, just look at it.

Look at all the of the fun, just look at it.

Nich, AKA: Dich Navies

Chances are, you’ve seen Nich and Kurtis playing with Edmonton songstress, Vissia, at some point in your past. If you haven’t, you’ve never truly lived. Watching Nich play the drums is the most entertaining, wonderful and delightful thing. His dynamic and tone are unmatched in my humble opinion, and holy fuck, guess what - he can sing.

Not only is Nich a hell of a musician, he’s a hell of a guy. He cares deeply for the folks around him and is always spreading that positive vibe with his carefree approach. He’s watching out for us on tour, making sure we get a walk in every day and always lending a hand whenever needed.

Loves a bag of trail mix, the vintage drum kit on our tech rider that has never once been provided, walking and pop music. Also gunnin’ brews.
Hates the music industry machine, shitty drum fills, indecision and networking.

 Looking at his bright, bright future.

Looking at his bright, bright future.

Jess, AKA: Ms. Marsh, Marshica, Jesse, Mersh, Jorsica

Okay let’s clear something up real quick: Jess manages the band and she sings in the band. Big fuckin’ deal. This girl rips as hard on stage as she does in the biz and there’s no rule anywhere that says she shouldn’t do both. You can find her shaking your bones and the tambourine, rattling walls and breaking hearts with her aching, down-home harmonies, and wearing some Rose Coloured Frames while doing the job.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jess for the last year or so and we’d always hung around and sang songs together, but seeing her get busy with a band was a whole new deck of cards. She gives me energy and a smile while we’re up there doing our thing, and off stage nobody has me better set up than Ms. Marsh. She’s basically keeping me alive and even on days when she’s wiped right out, her number one priority is always my mental health and making sure I’m ready for the show. She’s a big deal, folks.

Loves a dirty gin martini, salad, Yahtzee, laughing, making a plan and being the boss.
Hates packing light, being rushed, not living that gourmet life and goat cheese.

 Just tippin’ back after a job well done, bahd. You know.

Just tippin’ back after a job well done, bahd. You know.


Matt, AKA: Kratt Maus, Kraussy, The Tickler

Can also be heard tickling the ivories with Alt-Rock Superstars, Altameda.

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Brayden, AKA: Trebsees, Trebskees, Braydle

Can also be seen pumping out licks with Roots-Soul Queen, Celeigh Cardinal.

Every Other Month I'll Remember To Write A Blog Post

I feel like I can only write a lengthy, well-worded blog entry when I’m pissed off about something or about to cry onto the keyboard. Which makes it a little tricky because I’m having a pretty good day. Driving In The Dark came out just over 5 months ago, and things have been pretty peachy over on the MB side. But, I’d be lying if I said it’d been all roses since.

The summer tour dates were an amazing, exhausting, fulfilling and inspiring time. I can’t believe the group of people I’ve had the good fortune of working with. Jess, Keane, Kurtis and Nich have put their whole hearts into our live show and it definitely shows. I did my best to lead by example and keep my head above water, and I didn’t always succeed. But in the places that I couldn’t step up, I had 4 other amazing people to fall on. Pretty special.

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I’ve gone through the ringer with my emotions. Anger, elation, mania, downright depression and everything in between. I’ve explored the vast expansion of my physical health and discovered, maybe even implemented, some moderate boundaries that I’m trying to adhere to. A solid 4 weeks away from shotgunning beers and brown liquor was a surprising reminder that I can have fun, execute shows and be an overall great human being without lubrication. I’m not going so far as to say I’ll be off the sauce forever, but for now, it doesn’t feel like it has an immediate place in my life, save for special occasions.

My tour-mobile died, and I found another one with the help of my friend Curtis in short order. You can now see the MB Band and additional cast members rolling around in the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan aptly named Ruby for her bright red coat of paint. She runs like a champ and stows all the seats, is great on gas and fits a mattress in the back for solo excursions. Couldn’t be happier about that score.

We showcased at this year’s AmericanaFest in Nashville, TN and it was one heck of a time. We showcased at BreakOut West in Kelowna, BC shortly after and it was also one heck of a time. Really fun to show off the new band and batch of songs to new listeners.

But now as the touring season winds down, I’m reminded that my focus needs to sit squarely on writing. I’ve got a batch of tunes cooking in the oven (my super twisted mind.) Some have already hit the cutting board, some are still baking and some are in the prep process, needing slight recipe adjustments. You like that food metaphor? I’m hungry.

 Here’s a photo from PhotosByEGO of me, thinking about food, probably.

Here’s a photo from PhotosByEGO of me, thinking about food, probably.

I spent most of my time during this busy stretch talking about how busy I am, constantly running from one thing to the next. No time for a sit down dinner without me needing to vent incessantly about how tired or worn out I was. Not taking care of myself, not taking care of the relationships in my life. I had a hard reality check from a close friend who reminded me to get my head up. Start looking after myself and the people I love. Give respect as much as I expect it. I’m very focused on that with my time off. I’m very focused on becoming a better human being and hopefully the music will take shape.

Whatever lies ahead, I can only go in with head bowed, thankful for all that has come and will continue to come if we keep working hard and hitting the pavement. I am so grateful for the massive support I’ve felt from family, friends, my team and bandmates and listeners near and far. The outpouring of love I’ve received is nothing short of humbling and it pushes me to deliver my best every show, every day. I am nothing without the support of the people around me.

That’s why I’m in such a good mood. Because I’m weirdly… content. I know that this too will pass quickly, but for now, I’m just remembering that there’s a whole whack of folks out in the world who hear my tunes and smile, and escape for a minute. A whole swarm of people who genuinely like what we’re doing and buy the tickets, the CD’s, the shirts and write us on Twitter to keep us going. It’s some kind of life we’re living, a little hectic for sure. But nothing short of incredible.

At least, that’s how I’m feeling today.

Much love to you all.


Supporting Whitehorse
18.10 // Dekker Centre for Performing Arts, North Battleford SK
19.10 // The Lyric Theatre, Swift Current SK
20.10 // The Arden Theatre, St. Albert AB

w/ Skye Wallace
22.10 // The Dakota Tavern, Toronto ON

Quick Recap

What a ride. Here are some songs I like in a Spotify playlist, maybe give me a follow while you're listening! 

From Vancouver to Calgary and everywhere in between, the band has been put through the ringer this summer in all of the best ways. Travelling in Oscar, the Dodge dream machine with no A/C, the heat stuck on and in 30+ degree weather. With so much time spent in the big blue sauna rumbling down the No. 5, thoughts run across your mind like trees along the highway. Sound check times, load-in details, hotels, will there be time to shower? Take 5 before the set? Usually, the answer: a resounding No.


The chaotic uncertainty is what I love about this job. You can plan every possible turn and circumstance, but it could throw you any number of curve balls that you'll never be prepared for. Bottom line, gotta go with the flow. 

I've had to learn about leadership. I've had to ask myself what I need to be successful. What it means to be the captain of a ship aimed at your goals, your dreams. To operate at full capacity as often as possible. For me, it means the highest level of professionalism possible while never allowing those unexpected moments or long travel days to dog on the spirit. We're all tired. We're all facing our own challenges. 

I've had to examine my own limits and capabilities. Stopping before one more beer is one too many. Learning to blow off steam in an enjoyable and healthy way. Getting healthy - staying healthy. Getting rest, a good plate of vegetables and a hot shower whenever possible. Treating myself with respect, and the people around me, no matter how tired or homesick I might be.

I guess the further I go into this rabbit hole, the more I realize what's at stake. More money is invested, more hours and more miles than ever before. That means the shows, the songs and the work ethic all have to support the trajectory. Always improving. Always reaching to be better. And every time I think I have a moment to breathe and take stock, I remember that my house is a disaster, and that my life is facing it's own personal challenges for lack of better balance. 

But I wouldn't trade it for any other gig. 

If you're in the interior BC area, you can catch me for the remainder of my summer dates below:

18.08 // Invermere Music Festival (duo)
22.08 // Arrowhead Brewing Company, Invermere BC (solo)
25.08 // Overtime Beer Works, Kimberley BC (solo)
26.08 // Angry Hen Brewing, Kaslo BC (solo)
31.08 // Blue Heron, A Night Of Music, Revelstoke BC (full band)

More dates and exciting announcements soon. Thanks for keeping me on the straight and narrow. 

Love ya.


No Country For Old Men

Let's start with a big overwhelming sigh of relief: the fucking record is out and I'm feeling fantastic. Lighter, a little sad to see it go, but overall much better than that last emotionally vomit-inducing blog post below. We're sitting at #1 on the CKUA charts, #17 on the CBC Top 20 chart (that's 4 weeks in a row, thank you very much!) and are working on keeping the momentum going for more radio, publicity, and press. Tour announcement goes out Monday. Everything seems to be going swimmingly.

Just kidding.
I'm already scrutinizing what can be done better or making a long list of goals and tasks for the coming weeks, months and years. Painfully underwhelmed with how slow it feels until tour kicks off. I can't say it isn't nice to have the tires pumped, but reveling in success has never been my strong suit. I'm already fighting to climb, grow and improve. I love this album and am proud of the songs, but it doesn't change the fact that I have lots of work to do to reach the goals I've set.

And now for some verbally combative self-reflection! The only reason anyone reads these fuckin' things. My recent bone I'm picking is as follows:

When you're releasing an album, at every juncture it feels like you're talking about your image, brand, who you are and what you want to communicate to people. Everyone wants to know why they should buy into YOU more than that other alt-country prick down the block. Which begs the painful question...

How the fuck am I supposed to define what makes me worth paying to hear?

The question warped the way I viewed myself as a human being. I didn't know how to look at myself as a product. I thought I needed a persona. I thought I had to lose weight. I had to be a "pretty girl" - whatever the fuck that means. If I wasn't what people wanted based on image alone, I had to write songs better than my male counterparts to be noticed because guess the fuck what: it's not an even playing field. I thought I had to be saccharine to everyone I met, a real sweetheart. No negativity, no opinions that might get me into trouble. Horrifyingly, I thought I had to play into my personal life and be an "out and proud" figure of music. Which I'm not. I'm fine with my life and who I am and certainly, personal experience informs my songwriting, but I will fucking burn before I use that part of myself to sell tickets. I don't belong to any group except the group of people writing songs and making music. End of story.

Now that I've had some breathing room and admittedly a few therapy sessions and smoked a few joints, I've realized that my problem was that by trying to be marketable or interesting I was inherently hiding who I actually am: a funny, engaging, honest (albeit a little conceited), relatable and opinionated little shit-head who gets off on making people question what is comfortable, to an extent. I'm no full-blown artist of controversy and I don't intend to be. The music is largely accessible and quite sweet, dialed back and even a little understated. Which is genuinely just my guts, I'm not trying to make an artistic statement or develop into something transcendent, I just am. Whatever the fuck that means.

I had no idea what made me worth paying to hear versus a character I've created for the purpose of this rant, Ted Shmed. Ted is handsome, a great singer, writes good songs and people gravitate to his stage presence because it's familiar. Painfully familiar. Ted probably has a beard and starts a song by saying "this is a little song about..."

And then it hit me. I'm NOT Ted, thank fuck. We have 100 Ted's making Ted type music who all look and sound like other Ted's and are very well represented in the overall music and living community. If Ted is a country or roots singer, there's a whole bunch of him lined up around the block singing the same song, and people just love to see him. Which is great, I'm not trying to take anything away from Ted. Just making my point.

I knew that it might be my millennial self-importance taking hold, or what I like to call "snowflake" mentality, but it was high time for me to embrace some hard truths about the differences between me and Ted. Namely, that I'm not like other people. In music, in life, anywhere.

**Bats eyelashes** 

I'm a girl, but I'm not a done-up airhead claiming pseudo-feminism when really I'm setting women back 100 years by singing songs manufactured and pumped out by old white guys. I'm not a boy either. Despite my boyish charm and love of flannel plaid, anatomically I still rock the (V). I'd call myself a singer-songwriter, but unfortunately, people just love to throw the word FEMALE in front of that particular nomenclature because they're fucking idiots that can't use their ears and eyes, apparently.

Essentially, my differences and uniqueness make me all that much more relatable. Because while I'm an anomaly in my personal life and maybe how many pilsners I drink or how many F-bombs I think are appropriate - I'm kinda just the way I am. Empowered by cracking jokes and having a conversation with people. Whether I'm on stage or not, I'm really not looking to doll it up much past what I think and what the world thinks of me. And guess what I figured out? Most other people in life think in a similar fashion. They have differences that make them uniquely who they are, and experiences that inform their opinions and tastes and the way they choose to embrace themselves. Oh yeah, we're all snowflakes, baby.

So maybe I'm just blowing hot air into my own asshole here, but maybe, just MAYBE, by being an unafraid version of myself who tells it like it is and sharing some gruesome truths about myself, the world around me and the people in it... like maybe people could feel like it's okay to be who they are, too?

Unless you're a total fucking dimwit, in which case go listen to Drake or something.


Pre-Release Blues or Crippling PMS: You Make the Call

There’s a heaviness all around me, lately. I can barely describe the emotional turbulence I’m combatting, much less act normal. I’m trying to respond positively to the many, many encouraging words being thrown in my direction. I’m trying to remain grateful, happy and humble. But, if I’m being honest, I’m feeling particularly bereft these days.

I don’t mean to say I’m lacking support, love or kindness. I’m not lacking money (well, that’s not entirely true but in the relativity of my last year I’m not in as much debt as I was); but there are many areas in which I’m lacking, big time.

Sleep would be the most obvious piece missing from my life at the moment. If anyone reading has ever worked in the service industry you’re no doubt aware of “Chit Dreams” as I called them back in my cooking days - basically your dream is entirely normal until you hear the dreaded paper printer of lunch or dinner service chattering in the background, which induces so much anxiety and panic that you wake up thinking you’ve overslept your alarm. Almost always, it’s the middle of the fucking night and now you’re so wound up there’s no possible way you can get back to sleep.

I’m basically living that dream, but replace the chit printer with my band all playing different instruments, the sound muting mid set, my hair catching on fire, pissing my pants on stage, forgetting the words, being unable to make it to the sound check for some ridiculous reason, not selling enough tickets, disappointing the audience and my family, and never being able to make anything as good as what I’m releasing on Friday, May 4th.

Of course, I’m well aware that all of these insecurities are reactionary points to me fearing the change and inevitable growth. I’ve come to the blatantly obvious realization that I don’t handle change well. It wreaks total and complete havoc on my brain and body resulting in an incredibly irritated, short tempered and inattentive version of my worst self. I’m mean to those around me and unable to express gratitude and kindness. I live in a world of fear and self-doubt.

By all accounts I should be completely stress free. I’ve rehearsed at nauseum with my band, done every possible pre-release promotion strategy possible, exhausted resources both financially and otherwise, laid off the drink (a little) to clear my head and kept a semi-healthy lifestyle to keep my head above water. But I can’t shake this crippling sadness, like I’m about to lose something I’ll never get back.

I’ve been talking to a number of people about the impending release, and as a result, the songs and what they mean to me. The more I explain it to people around me, the more I realize how personal this body of work actually is. Mike Bell of the YYSCENE aptly pointed out: “there’s a lot of turmoil in these songs. I can hear it.” He sounded concerned. Well, as concerned as Mike ever sounds. I guess it took me until that moment to realize “Shit. You’re right.”

The songs have an unmistakable heaviness to them. I sound like I’m breaking; I was breaking. So this is the truth I’ve carved out to share with people? That’s what I keep asking myself. Listeners of my last album might be disappointed that I haven’t lightened up, but this directly tunnels into a very particular sadness in my life, apparently.

I’m aware of the narcissism, blind selfishness and gag-inducing sentiments that this kind of self-indulgent writing will induce. If it wasn’t me going through these exact motions I don’t know how much empathy I could exercise, either.
“Oh please. You have all of the love and support one artist/person could ever ask for, what are you even complaining about?”

I’m not complaining. I’m… grieving. I’m weirdly grieving a loss of a part of my life that I still can’t fully explain. I think the thing that adds the most to this sadness is knowing that I haven’t even figured out what was breaking me in the first place, and I don’t know if I ever will. I’m having an existential crisis asking myself: is my purpose as a writer to define and paint the cracks within and of the world around me? Am I destined to be forever conflicted, shouting for resolution? Is this all just the worst possible case of PMS ever? Probably.

Whatever it is, I’m ready to get it out.

PS - if it’s my period, I’ll take appropriate measures before showtime. Everything else will be bared on stage for everyone to witness. See y’all May 3/4/5.

Rejecting Rejection: Fuck It, Fuck 'Em.

My "Boss Broads" Playlist is RIGHT HERE!

I really wanted to have an apropos Women's Day themed rant to pair with this playlist, but I'm still in the process of refining my thoughts. So, in accordance with my last entry about trying harder and doing better, I wanted to give my two cents about something that grates on all of us as artists and especially as people: rejection. 

Chances are, a bunch of your friends and family like what you do. Partly because they have to, partly because they want to support your hopes and dreams (ah, the perils of a first world country, amirite?) The problem as an artist lies within this exact dilemma: parents, close friends and family can't be your only fans. While their support is immeasurable in its emotional and sometimes monetary value, it actually works out that your parents are still technically paying your rent by attending every show, eyes beaming in the front and singing along.

***That is entirely necessary for anyone's career and if I don't immediately follow this by saying that my parents attend EVERY show possible and are those wide-eyed loving freaks in the front row and I love them for it - I will hate myself while reading this later on. 

That's not my point. Friends and family are an essential part of your life's well being regardless of your career. We just happen to work a job that forces us to sometimes ask uncomfortable questions like: can you pay to come and see me do my job, can you vote for me in this painful series of tiers that may lead me towards a grant to pursue my art, can you advance pay me for my art that isn't out yet but will be (one day, I promise!)?
It's an uncomfortable position to be in, to say the least. The job also requires a certain amount of narcissism usually preceded with "shameless self-promotion!", and followed my gut wrenching guilt and shame, caused by self-promotion. 

But once we move beyond ourselves, friends and family and are working members of a music community, or any community for that matter, we come up against a special kind of problem that our career forces us to deal with in a very different way: rejection.

In a non-creative based field of work, rejection can be a much easier pill to swallow. 
"Your project did not adhere to these guidelines, (A, B, C), and because of that I will need you to re submit." Not personal, not soul crushing, just a removed perspective on your output. Not to say that this can't still be taken personally, obviously everyone works very hard on their respective projects and it can always be tough to handle when someone doesn't appreciate what we do, in any capacity.

But as an artist, the feeling of "Sorry, no thanks." takes on an entirely new and harrowing kit and caboodle. 

I'll be clear on my specific feelings because I'm an opinionated jerk and I don't want to come across as playing the middle:
IN MY HUMBLE OPINION art is and should be measured in two distinct categories - subjectivity and objectivity. Subjectively, your mom might think your art is the greatest art to ever art. Objectively, it might be two popsicle sticks glued to a piece of paper with the words "minimalism" strewn underneath to show off your performance art degree. Objectively, that art took little to no work and you claiming its brilliance is offensive to me, an artist who works and studies their craft.
Was this a dig at performance artists? Reply by text to 435-42 with the hashtags #sadbyMarielscomments #goperformanceartaboutit

Subjectively, someone might think "Mariel Buckley's art is some pretty good art. Sad, a little dark, but still good." While someone else may hear that and pipe up: "What a contrived bunch of bullshit. She sounds exactly like so and so her songs are bad." Objectively, I feel most would agree that I work my tits off to perform well and aim to make noticeable improvements throughout my career, as often as possible. 

The day I learned the difference between these two perspectives was life changing, and allowed me to live a happier, calmer existence as a whole. 

***I still live with crippling self-doubt and fear of any and all failure, but the only person I allow to spew that negative garbage into my own skull is ME, buster, so back off.

Aside from just your art, your entire image and "brand" (gross word, learn to live with it) is under fire. In many ways, the way we relay our message through song is a direct representation of who we are and how we feel, or how we allow the world to connect with us. This puts us in a very vulnerable position, and as especially sensitive beings it's our responsibility to filter out the bullshit that's going to make us feel gross and shitty.

Rejection, however, is not one of those things. Rejection is a motivator. It is the wall that we hit that forces us to reexamine our approach, take another run, and smash it down. The No later is turned into a resounding Yes. And if it isn't, there will be plenty of Yes moments in our lives to practically erase that seemingly meaningless No, later down the road.

Rejection from our peers and other people is inherit in any path of our lives. Fuck it. Someone doesn't like your tunes or how you write and perform them? Fuck 'em, and moreover, let them talk about you. The biggest career killer is indifference.  Be an artist that people love, or love to hate - for whatever reason that might be. Never sacrifice integrity for accessibility, stay true to your shit and let people grow green with envy, because there's nothing more attractive than someone who knows exactly who they are and what they mean when they sing it.

Rejection and failure are inevitable; concession is not. Over and out. 


Try Harder, Do Better

New Spotify Playlist Link HERE

I love to create. I was fortunate to receive nurturing parenting and support throughout my upbringing to be told that my artistic talents were something worth exploring and cultivating. I understand that this is a privilege and am very thankful. 

I found myself writing at a very young age. Long winded stories about my brother's girlfriend getting stuck on the bus forever, or our family dog developing a stream of consciousness and robbing the local convenience store. One of my more light hearted pieces was titled "Buttercup: The Murderous Cow", which took a sci-fi approach to a herd of cows infected with Mad Cow Disease becoming angry with Farmer John and splitting his head open with an axe. I was often praised by my parents, who between fits of laughter would tell me to "just keep writing."

 I'm cleaning the bathroom, do you mind?

I'm cleaning the bathroom, do you mind?

Despite their best efforts to encourage art as a healthy way to keep balanced while pursuing a more feasible career, or at the very least, a high school diploma; I was drawn effortlessly to slacking off. I seldom attended any of my classes save English, French and Theatre. Every other hour spent in school seemed a miserable waste of my talents, which at the time were far better suited for smoking gaggers outside of the Blockbuster. 

 No idea how the car withstood this many potheads at one time.

No idea how the car withstood this many potheads at one time.

Post-secondary was definitely not an option, so I stuck my nose into a kitchen at sixteen and spent the next eight years immersed in the culture of food. I fell so in love that eventually trade school became an exciting possibility, and finished my culinary degree at 21. The hours of the kitchen and the stage ended up being too conflicting, and I was left with a difficult decision.

 Check the height on those fuckin salads, eh?

Check the height on those fuckin salads, eh?

When I first started performing songs that I'd written, I was given a lot of help. My brother and the roots community of Calgary were not shy about offering me opportunities to perform, and as a result I was given a bit of a "fast track" in that regard, and I am not blind to it. That being said, I will argue that regardless of my connections, the songs spoke for themselves.

Now, I struggle to stay out of debt by working odd jobs for friends and family (and at a local record store owned by some fantastic Albertan folks), most of the time I'm barely scraping by - but I've certainly done what I can over the last year to push myself and keep my momentum rolling, despite many setbacks. I now find myself in a unique position with my music.

 Bryson Waind, Carter Felker, Bucks, Rob Lagace. One of many "In The Round" shows I performed in the early days at Wine-Ohs, an unfortunately no-longer live music venue in Calgary.

Bryson Waind, Carter Felker, Bucks, Rob Lagace. One of many "In The Round" shows I performed in the early days at Wine-Ohs, an unfortunately no-longer live music venue in Calgary.

Optically, when we see someone with success and the things that we want, we tend to antagonize. This, among many others, is one of my great weaknesses. I have coveted and hated strangers and friends alike for their successes, words of praise or even their baser artistic instincts. 

Only within the last year has it truly sunken in what it means to be a Professional Artist. The term is tossed around so casually that it has begun to become worthy of eye rolling and disdain on my end, particularly from people who complete three mediocre renditions of cover songs at an open mic and complain about their lack of artistic reward.

From my experience that most anything can be solved and achieved with a very simple statement: Try Harder, Do Better. I can understand how the mantra of "just fuckin' be better okay?" seems blunt and possibly an under-thought approach to the many layers of work that is required of an artist, and subsequently a sole proprietor; but it really does encompass all of the important elements of what I consider to be success.

We live in a comparative culture. Regardless of the kind-hearted crap crammed down everyone's gullet to "lift each other up" - we all know the harsh reality: we want it all. If you're reading this and thinking, "I don't want it all. I just wan't to be content with what is right now." You've achieved spiritual oneness and can kindly fuck off. Anyone else with dreams of making an actual living in the arts can keep scrolling.

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How many times has it happened that someone has gotten a gig, press or an opportunity you've wanted? Nay, something you've felt downright entitled to? In the last four years when I've let humility beat the bejesus out of me in moments of naive arrogance I very quickly realized that the world, your art, life, and people don't owe you shit. What you get is in direct correlation with what you put in. I'm not shy in saying that 90% of the people complaining about their career trajectory need to give their fucking head a shake and crank up the work ethic. 

I guess what this long-winded rant is supposed to demonstrate is that success can really only ever be internal. In my humble opinion, if you look at someone else's achievements and think "that should be me." You might be right. Or, you might just be truly afraid to ask yourself: how can I get there? And if not afraid to ask, you might just be afraid of doing the fucking work. Stop looking sideways and look forward. Hold yourself and your art accountable, to the highest of standards; or, find peace within the middle ground and quit bitching.


The Fuck Went Down In 2017?

The year began with a bang, and that's about as much of an understatement as I'm prepared to make. I'll never forget that email, which I scanned ever quickly from excitement to find the gory details: Block Heater Festival... opening... Hayes Carll. My mouth fell open onto my keyboard and my eyes welled up with tears of joy. Were they fucking kidding me? Worst possible practical joke to play on someone with expectations as low as mine. They weren't.

The Lantern Church buzzed with excitement for my 45 minute opening set. I was joined by my right hand man, Keane Eng and my now manager, Jessica Marsh (JAM Music). We received a standing ovation. There is nothing comparable to that kind of love and support in your hometown, and I think in some ways I carried that encouragement throughout my entire year of performances.

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Immediately after Block Heater, I flew to Kansas City to partake in yet another year of the Folk Alliance International Conference and Festival in Kansas City, MO. A whirlwind of late nights, hotel rooms and new friends: this time of year is always especially stressful and rewarding for me. 

 Here's me pretending to work in the great Kansas City, MO

Here's me pretending to work in the great Kansas City, MO

I flew into Calgary and packed, again. Half written charts and notes, guitars, gear, clothes for a week. I was on my way to Lethbridge to record the new album. What transpired over the course of those weeks is hard to describe, still after all this time has passed. The energy and creative buzz inside the Rebeltone Ranch was something I'd never experienced before. And if I'm not being too cocky, I think you can hear that in the tracks.

 Photo by Leeroy Stagger

Photo by Leeroy Stagger

I grabbed on with both hands trying to prepare myself to handle a heavy booking and festival season. I'm not overly administrative, but I am at least jittery enough to work at a decent pace; albeit sometimes months behind. (If you're wondering about the songs written for the Crowdfunding Campaign, yes they're done, yes they're coming. If you're wondering about my album, yes it's done, yes it's coming.)

Stampede, South Country Fair, Canmore and Edmonton Folk Festival(s). I saw and heard some of the best music I have ever been privileged to see, from the backstage vantage points. I was treated like gold by volunteers, staff and listeners. I could not be more thankful to have participated, it was a solid progression of development I haven't seen in myself since we recorded the album.

Festivals are an intense environment, in the best possible way. 

 Snapped just before the big 'tweener at the Edmonton Folk Festival, right after Valerie June and right before Leon Bridges. Photo by Jessica Marsh.

Snapped just before the big 'tweener at the Edmonton Folk Festival, right after Valerie June and right before Leon Bridges. Photo by Jessica Marsh.

No, I didn't forget about hose shows at the Jubilee, opening up for k.d. lang. I've just been struggling to find the words to remotely describe how humbling and uplifting of an experience that was. I am stricken constantly, as all artists are, with the fear of Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is essentially the sometimes delusional belief that you aren't deserving of success. Not because you don't recognize talent within yourself, but because it is hard to quantify success with the way people interpret your art. Fear of being exposed, fear of saying or writing the wrong thing: these are constraints we put on ourselves to appease who we can, to share what we can with those who want to feel it. 

So because I have this self-imposed, fabricated condition and fear impending pressure intensely, I often reach out to mentors and family for a pre-game pep talk. I texted Leeroy Stagger, and he said: "Open your heart up to the room and the people in it. Let them in."

I have sarcastically evaded most ideas of spirituality and energy transfer among the pre-show ritual. I didn't get it. Have a shot of Jameson's, drink some water, hug your bandmates and don't fuck it up. Those are the rules I abided by, but my anxiety was often still palpable. I was masking my emotion with false confidence and the wrong energy. Or at least, I realized that's what I had been doing. 

So here's what happened when I opened myself up: I felt my heart grow ten thousand times bigger. I saw my mom in the third row, my best friend in the fourth row. The room lit up and laughed with me as I paused to tune and sweat into an uncomfortably reverberated room. My best friend and band mate completely eased in and cranked off the best guitar parts I've ever heard him play. And here's the kicker, we did that two nights in a row. Which is merely a prelude to the absolute best part: hearing k.d. lang and her incomparably smooth, rich and focused band. She owns every note and moment on the stage, and off. We were star stricken.

After the madness had somewhat subsided, I completely forgot to pencil in any semblance of a vacation or time off. I had three day gaps between ten or fourteen day stints, each day sometimes hours long including travel. Which rolled us very quickly and abruptly into rehearsals with my new electric band, (name TBD). We weren't rehearsing just for the hell of it, though I will say in my somewhat limited years of working with session musicians, these MacEwan graduates are some of the more professional and hardworking folks I have come across. We nailed down some very thick tones with a five piece rock outfit. 

Which threw us head first into Alberta Focus and BreakOut West, a Western Canadian Music Conference with partner events dedicated to the export of Canadian talent to European markets. Always as daunting as it is difficult, these conferences can be completely defeating and sometimes demoralizing. All in all, we put on a great show, recorded live by CKUA.

Which brings us right up to now, as I sit here in Toronto drinking a Goose Island IPA at the brewery, waiting to check into what feels like my 100th hotel. Last Thursday, the full band opened a show at one of Edmonton's biggest venues: The Starlite Room. As most of my buds will know, I'm usually to be seen as a three piece or sans drummer: until now. The new record demands the presence of a full band and I have assembled a crew of true beauties. 

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We sang, we drank and partied until the wee hours. 7am came a little too quickly, as I boarded a flight in Edmonton straight to Ottawa for a show at the infamous Black Sheep Inn with the incredible Mike Plume, one of Canada's finest songwriters. I think it goes without saying that any artist who can take the time and effort to mentor someone younger and in the beginning stages of their career is  a true gem of a human. Mike Plume is exactly that. He has taken a stark interest in my songs and consistently put his neck out to have me open shows or share the stage with him, and I am forever grateful. 

Wakefield is the most beautiful town I have yet to see in Canada, bar none. Thank you for an incredible night to all the listeners and the venue staff.

With my rented Jeep Wrangler we rode the wild 401 highway to Toronto the next morning, holy fuck. Anyone who complains about our coveted highway 2 here in Alberta will receive a sharp tongue lashing from me, from this day forward. The 401 is an entirely separate beast, and I say with full sincerity that driving in Ontario is truly taking your life into your own hands. 

After driving back to Ottawa, flying back into Edmonton and now loading the car to cruise to Calgary (home, thank goodness) for our album cover shoot - I am reminded of some valuable lessons from the year in review.

There is nothing more valuable than friendships, shared experiences and gratitude among these people and places. Great things will come to those who bust ass. There are people in your corner. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but be sure that there is also inescapable, blinding darkness to precede and follow. Live within the light and transform within that darkness. The spirit is a resilient thing. 

Call me idealistic or hopped up on old acid trips, but these are things I whole heartedly believe entering the New Year. 

Oh, and someone bet me I couldn't go all of January as a vegan, so watch out for violent anger in the first two weeks or 2018.