The Big Daddy Top 10 – CCMA 2014 Edition

I’m no Ferdinand Magellan, but thanks to attending events during Country Music Week, I’ve made some very satisfying discoveries. I’m talking about new music, er… well, at least new to me.

In addition to drawing big name talent to Edmonton, for the 2014 CCMA Awards, Country Music Week showcases a multitude of amazing performers that are working hard to hone their skills, build their fan base, and become the next big thing. A lot of effort goes into making it look effortless, and it usually takes years to become an instant success.  Here are my top ten discoveries from the events surrounding this year’s CCMA Awards:

Codie Prevost has been nominated for 3 CCMA Awards in the last four years, including this year’s nomination for Album of the year – All Kinds of Crazy. Not being real familiar with Codie’s work prior to Country Music Week, I am proud to say that I have become a true Codie fan. He’s a talented songwriter, and he knows how to connect with audiences, whether he’s rocking the house with All Kinds of Crazy, or bringing a tear to your eye with the heart wrenching I’m Okay.

Mackenzie Porter is a classically trained violinist, accomplished actress, and is ready to make a big name for herself in country music. She’s quickly become one of @OscarCares favourites, as he bought her debut studio album at Fanfest. In addition to Oscar’s endorsement, her 2014 CCMA nomination for Female Artist of the Year, follows her 2013 Rising Star nomination. Seeing her perform at the Legends concert with the graceful and ageless Michelle Wright, tells me that Mackenzie will become as big a name as she chooses to be.

Quentin Reddy, whom I’ve mentioned previously on this site, has had a good taste of the spotlight, making the top two in CMT’s “Big In A Small Town”. On his debut album, Diamond in the Rough, Quentin co-wrote nine of the eleven tracks, including my favourite, a rockin’-country song, Moonlight Ride. It could become a workingman’s anthem.

Madeline Merlo has just released her self-titled, debut EP; With the driving, inspiring, song Alive well positioned to follow up her first single, the beautifully melancholy Sinking Like a Stone, this adorable little mermaid not only has a great voice, but confidence and maturity beyond her years. Another of @OscarCares favourites, Madeline surely has a bright future ahead.

The Command Sisters give me pause to ask how do two girls, so young, have such polish and presence? I saw Charlotte and Sarah perform at the CBC studio, and again at the Alberta Music Showcase at the Westin, and was bowled over by the richness of sound they produced with their harmonies and two acoustic guitars. Wow! You should go to and check out what they’re up to, but don’t compare your life accomplishments with those of their young lives, or you’ll wonder what you’ve been doing with all your time.

Brett Kissel and Gary Fjellgaard Okay, we’ve all heard of Brett Kissel, after all he led the way with 8 CCMA award nominations this year, with Brett winning Interactive Artist of the Year, and Video of the Year for 3-2-1. What I didn’t know until the Legends concert, when he performed with Gary Fjellgaard, was the reverence he has for the roots of modern country, and his respect for previous generations of artists. I wish I could have found video of that performance, but at least I found footage of Mr. Fjellgaard performing Dance With This Old Cowboy. Enjoy.

From Twitter

From Twitter

Leah Daniels  is the winner of the 2014 CCMA Spotlight Performance Contest, a fan-voted contest hosted online by the CCMA. I saw her perform at the Countdown concert prior to the Awards show, and am willing to bet we’ll hear a great deal more from her in the coming years.

Wes Mack – By the time Wes was selected as the winner of the Canadian Country Music Association Discovery Award in September of 2013, he already had built an impressive resume as a young entertainer, appearing in film and television, as well as garnering international attention for his music. With no apparent end to his talents in sight, Wes has also directed all of his own music videos.

Cory Marquardt hits on a very contemporary topic with his single Smartphone; I’ve often wondered why they’re called smartphones, when people do such stoopid things with them? Cory looks like he might be trying out for a spot in Metallica, but his music rocks country style, and he’s got a song called I Need A Beer. So what’s not to like?

One More Girl is two girls, duh. Britt and Carly McKillip, are another pair of multi-talented siblings, and previous winners of CCMA’s Rising Star (2010). Full of energy and confidence, with an edgy feel  to their music, these sisters find themselves poised to make a big impact on the country music scene. Below, you can check out the video for Love Like Mine (directed by a guy named Wes Mack).

Honestly, the list could keep going, but David Letterman does a Top Ten List, so I do a Top Ten List.

But if you get the chance, you might also want to check out Samara Yung, and Ryan Bradley.



Dream Big, Work Hard. A Lesson From Country Music Week

Country Music Week and the Canadian Country Music Association Awards are done for another year, and it was a fantastic event. No one person could possibly take it all in, even though you might want to. There were live acoustic sets being performed in little lounges, hotel lobbies, and even drugstores. There were big name acts dropping in to unexpected venues, thrilling crowds with up close performances, autographs and photos, and full band concerts blowing the doors off the clubs. No surprises there.

But what impressed me the most was being witness to the passion that these incredibly talented singers, songwriters, and musicians have for their craft. 

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with a number of rising stars of Canadian country music, offering me a little bit of insight into the years of hard work and struggles that go into becoming an “overnight success”. 

“Believe in yourself, regardless of what anybody else thinks or says.”

When I asked guitarist / singer / songwriter Quentin Reddy what advice he might give his young son, Michael, if one day he were to say, “Dad I’m gonna be a musician,” he replied, without hesitation. “Believe in yourself, regardless of what anybody else thinks or says.” He went on to tell me how important it is for him to maintain the passion that made him want to be a musician as a kid. With a self awareness that comes with having been around the business for a while, Quentin said, “I realized at a young age how important music is to me. Whether on the road or at home I play guitar every day, because I love playing it. I protect that little guy inside me who locked himself in his room and taught himself to play guitar, that is still me. I protect that little guy, like how I protect my son from the bad things in the world.”

In a very intimate venue in Stony Plain (affectionately known as The Tavern), 2014 Album of the Year nominee, Codie Prevost, spoke of growing up in small (no, smaller than that) town Saskatchewan, and playing in local area taverns to a handful of people. He learned a lot from being in those little bars, including that he had to step up and believe in himself. After being turned down by numerous banks, Codie finally received a small business loan to travel to Nashville to record his first CD. Codie demonstrated a self-confidence and determination that few people have; a decade and four albums later, Codie’s career continues to flourish.

Over a cup of coffee, I met with Southbound Records label-mates, Samara Yung and Ryan Bradley. Ryan spoke of the importance of family and the support that they offer, and to remember the people that are there for you at the end of the day. When I asked Ryan to describe his music he answered “honest” and “soulful”, and talked about passion for his music. 

“As long as you put everything you have into it, and you’re willing to make sacrifices for the music, everything else comes with it.”

These two young talents, Ryan and Samara, agreed that hard work and dedication form the path to success, and each want to inspire people through their music.

Samara, who has already been recognized by the Saskatchewan Country Music Association with multiple awards, has appeared at schools, speaking to kids, and was part of the Imagine No Bullying campaign. In a very personal moment, she shared that as a high school student, a teacher once told her that she shouldn’t pursue singing as a career.  I’m glad that Samara didn’t listen to that teacher, and showed the determination to pursue her dreams. That, in itself, is an inspiring lesson for our youth.

Earlier in our meeting, on the topic of success, Samara said, “As long as you put everything you have into it, and you’re willing to make sacrifices for the music, everything else comes with it.”

So if you want to boil it all down to one succinct statement that applies to life in the music business, (and life in general), it’s this:

Dream Big, Work Hard.

EVENT PREVIEW: Country Music Week, Edmonton, Alberta, September 4-7


Edmonton is once again privileged to host the series of events comprising Country Music Week, culminating in Canadian Country Music Association Awawrds, on September 7th.

If you’re a fan of music, you’ll want to attend some of these events. There will be performances in a variety of venues, featuring music legends, current chart toppers, and young up and coming artists; and you’ll never get closer to them than at Country Music Week. (Full listing of events here)



@OscarCares w/ Michelle Wright, Charlie Major, Jason Blaine, and Aaron Pritchett – Fanfest 2013

I’m looking forward to Fanfest (this year it’s in WEM Ice Palace), with another scheduled stellar line-up, including many fan favourites: 

Paul Brandt, Dean Brody, Chad Brownlee, Doc Walker, Lindsay Ell, Tim Hicks, Kira Isabella, Brett Kissel, Wes Mack, Jess Moskaluke, MacKenzie Porter, Small Town Pistols, Bobby Wills, Michelle Wright, and my personal favourites – The Road Hammers. Where else could you see that many amazing big name performers FOR FREE ?

My advice to you: Make like The Road Hammers, and “GET ON DOWN THE ROAD” to Country Music Week.


WTF Internet, Why You Gotta Be So Cray Cray?

A friend of mine sent me a link to a YouTube video, and told me it had over 50 MILLION views. I thought “Wow, it must be pretty special!”

So I watched it.  Actually, I watched it twice. 

And when I was done viewing the video a second time, the only thing I could think of was “Ain’t nobody got time for that”.

I believe this video is brilliant. I see it as an unwitting social commentary, reflecting how we all claim to be so busy all the time, with our faces buried in our smartphones and taking phone calls just to tell the caller “I’m real busy, I’ll call you back”.

And is there a touch of irony in the title being “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” and it has 52 million views? Dunno, I’m not an English Major. Nor am I a French Lieutenant, Meryl Streep.

What do you think, is it a winner, or crap? Let me know.



Today I was rumbling around the internet, and ran across a photo that I just had to share. It made me pause, and reminisce; Many years ago, a newsprint copy of this same photo, cut from the Edmonton Journal and carefully “laminated” with packing tape, adorned the inside of the door of my high school locker.

Chicago Bears' Walter Payton, scoring his 100th NFL touchdown. No wonder they called him "Sweetness"

Chicago Bears’ Walter Payton, scoring his 100th NFL touchdown. No wonder they called him “Sweetness” Photo:

There have been a multitude of talented athletes who have had, and are having, extraordinary careers in the NFL, but none of them have come close to displacing Walter Payton as my favourite player of all time. Play the video, and you’ll see why. 

Ok sportsfans, who’s at the top of your list? Tell me.

A Rare Serious Moment: Discussing Mental Health

I’m not really known for sensitive, insightful commentary on serious topics; But for a few minutes let’s set aside the recurring themes of beer, baseball and Salma Hayek’s cleavage.

I want to talk about Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), truthfully I don’t want to, but feel the need to discuss it. I just finished reading about the ex-RCMP officer who took his own life, after suffering through years of PTSD. It made me very sad and anxious, because, among other traumas he witnessed, Ken Barker was linked to the horrific tragedy of Tim McLean’s death and dismemberment, at the hands of Vince Li. If you’re not familiar with this event you might consider yourself lucky, because it is something that is truly heinous. It certainly was a sad, recurring memory for RCMP officer Barker. If you want to know more about this tragic event, here’s recent coverage by CTV News.

I am of the belief that the controversial court ruling that Vince Li wasn’t criminally responsible for his actions, due to his mental health problems, exacerbated the effects that being a witness to the scene had on Ken Barker. Having only experienced Tim McLean’s slaughter via media accounts, I can barely begin to fathom the impact it must’ve had on a witness, especially one whose job was to protect public safety.

We all have our opinions on how Vince Li should (or shouldn’t) have been handled by Canada’s justice system, but that’s not the point here. Mental Health is the point.  

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, as per the Canadian Mental Health Association, is related to exposure to severe trauma. The lasting effects of experiencing trauma vary, but PTSD is a very real danger, especially for emergency responders, and active military personal, who are likely to experience repeated exposure to trauma.

Great strides have been made in recent years in breaking down the stigmas of mental illness in Canada, through increased awareness, as seen in Bell’s “Let’s Talk” initiative with Olympian Clara Hughes. Talking about our problems does help, I think we can agree on that.

For emergency responders like police and firefighters, stereotypical macho, tough guy ideals may still make that approach more difficult, because the “rub some dirt on it, and get back in the game” way of thinking still exists with some. And yes, we want to know that our police, firefighters, and soldiers are tough, and can handle the burden of danger, but let’s not forget they have emotions and feel mental pain and anguish too.

I’m not sure what I can do to help with PTSD or other mental illness, but I guess empathy and acceptance are a good start. Understanding and support in a community can’t hurt, maybe it can encourage those who need it, to get help?

Honestly, I do feel better sharing my thoughts here.

My Office: a Window to my Soul?

Looking around my office, I realize that it’s like a visit inside my mind.

Yes, it’s a little dirty; obvious joke, my friend.

Seems that I’m either a sentimental guy, or I’ve got a future 15 minutes of infamy on Hoarders.

It makes sense that I have a collection of photos of my kids, and arts & crafts that they made for me, because they are two of my best little friends on this planet.

Treasures from my kids

Treasures from my kids

There are mementos scattered about, tokens of the loving, playful, and supportive relationship that my wife and I share. Fifteen years together, and counting. O_O

Ain't she sweet?

Ain’t she sweet?

The vintage photos of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Jackie Robinson; along with the Ryan Smyth Team Canada bobblehead, and Don Cherry coffee mug, are evidence of my love of sports.

Vintage MLB

Vintage MLB

I think the can of spray on sunscreen sitting on the windowsill shows my optimism, as even in January, I’m ready for summer.

The tangle of cords from my laptop, to docking station, external hard drive, second monitor, speakers, headphones, and a multitude of chargers confirm I’m not Amish, and doing my best to keep up in a geeky-techy world.

The fossilized megalodon tooth, that sits on my desk, keeps me grounded; Reminding me of how small we really are, the short time that humans have been on this planet, and that no matter how fierce of a predator you might be, that nothing lasts for ever. Deep, huh?  (Also – Hello, it’s a frickin’ shark tooth! – how cool is that?)

My tooth, graphic from

My tooth, graphic from

The menagerie of Hot Wheels, action figures, and happy meal toys, are here in case one of the kids accompanies me to the office, and in no way reflect a level of immaturity that you might otherwise infer. Shhh. Let us speak of it no more.

A final look around reveals a beer coaster and a bottle opener, perhaps because one of my favourite things about work is that at the end of a hard day, it’s even more enjoyable to kick back and play.

The tools of happy hour

The tools of happy hour

Now you know me a little better. Need to know more? Click here.