Country music is booming. Here are 5 acts to catch in BC this summer

Country music is a category growing in popularity and homegrown artists are putting a distinctive stamp on the genre.

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A concert at B.C. Place conjures up classic rockers or pop megastars. But this on May 27, the 54,000-plus seat venue hosts country superstar Luke Combs.

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Once perceived as more popular in suburban settings, the genre has shifted in popularity. Industry leaders such as Live Nation are booking more country acts than ever.

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“Luke Combs sold out in the first week, we’ve got three Shania Twain shows in Vancouver, Jon Pardi will sell out Abbotsford and so on; country is exploding,” said Paul Haagenson, president of Live Nation Entertainment, Canada.

“During COVID, it was one of the most-listened to categories on Spotify, and a whole new generation of country artists are getting their music put in more people’s hands than ever before.”

Canadian country artists are reaping the rewards of this increased popularity. This summer, Live Nation has headlining cross-country tours with Canadian country artists ranging from Saskatchewan’s Hunter Brothers to genre veterans Paul Brandt and Terri Clark.

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Where festivals such as Surrey’s FVDED have cancelled, Vancouver Island’s Sunfest Country Music Festival is booming. Spokesperson Mike Hann says country is a solid bet for attracting audiences. And, with a wealth of Canadian talent to book, supporting local artists is easier than ever.

“Sunfest started as a small rock event until we switched to country in 2013 and it just took off,” said Hann. “The appetite for country music was huge on the Island the fans are some of the most loyal and dedicated of any style. That is a dream come true in planning for the events, and the industry is thriving across Canada because there is so much talent out there.”

Vancouver-based 604 Records has added a designated country division to develop the careers of artists such as JoJo Mason, Andrew Hyatt, Danielle Ryan and others. Jenna Robson, who heads up the section says the biz is “blossoming.” The days of Canadian artists needing to piggyback on tours by American names to get noticed is no longer the norm. The local label is banking on hits from new releases, such as from homegrown talent Kadooh’s new album.

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The guitarist, born Simon Clow, previously played in platinum-selling indie rockers State of Shock before moving over to the country genre. His single Rattlesnake Bite is a perfect example of the hard-rocking new country sounds coming out of Canada.

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“Country music in Canada used to only have a few big names who could carry their own tours, but now we have a whole list who can. And all-Canadian tours are common,” said Robson. “We’ve been able to grow the genre at the label over the years to get a footing, and now we’re able to really expand due to all the excellent talent coming up.

“Supporting country is pretty obvious, and more events — from Russell and Roots to Red Truck  — now have designated country days.”

Country acts are innovating in developing their careers. On June 3, the Vogue Theatre hosts Hot Country Night Out, a multi-act showcase for indie artists now under the banner of the newly formed North Country Collective (NCC).

NCC Founder Elliott C. Way is releasing his album All I Know at the show, which also includes Bob Sumner, Janky Bungag, Ben Arsenault and Chaya Harvey. With each artist having built devoted followings in the local scene, forming a blanket organization made sense to move their careers to the next level.

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Elliott C Way is a Vancouver-based roots artist who is a member of the North Country  Collective which aims to promote local country artists in B.C. 2022
Elliott C Way is a Vancouver-based roots artist who is a member of the North Country  Collective which aims to promote local country artists in B.C. 2022 Photo by Heather Saitz /jpg

“The opportunity for the Vogue show arose from noticing how many new, young people were taking an interest in the country-roots genre,” said Way. “North Country Collective came out of wanting to provide a way to give gigs and albums a quality stamp, of sorts. When you see an NCC logo on an event, you can depend on it being true blue, no b.s. music making.”

Michelle Mearns, SiriusXM Canada vice-president of programming and operation, says the growth in country music across the company’s programming was motivation for partnering with the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) to present the annual Top of the Country competitions. This year’s semi-finalists include Kelowna-based singer Teigen Gayse.

“It’s a dream come true for me to have reached this level and I’m aiming to go all the way,” said Gayse. “I’ve got so many incredible songs in my back pocket to go on my album and I’m in the running with all the talent coming out in the contest and Canadian country music in general.

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“The competition gives emerging artists an opportunity to shine at places I couldn’t have imagined being two years ago.”

Mearns says the best way to look at the shift in popularity of the genre is to accept that it is pop too.

“In 20 years in the industry, Canadian country acts have gone from being tour support to headliners. And events like Boots & Hearts are full of droves of young audiences,” said Mearns.

“That flies in the face of the perception that it is music for a more mature audience, and reflects the new ways people are consuming music. A playlist, whether served to you or created on your own, is not going to build those genre guardrails that the old way of album-based listening did.

“Also, the sense of Canadian country as welcoming and accessible crosses into many different personal listening choices. I hope it lasts, and I think it will.”

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Michelle Mearns is the vice president of programming and operations at SiriuxXM Canada which produces the annual Top of the Country competition. 2023
Michelle Mearns is the vice president of programming and operations at SiriuxXM Canada which produces the annual Top of the Country competition. 2023 Photo by SiriusXM Canada /jpg

With 25 different English-language country programs, and almost as many in French on SiriusXM, you can hang your hat on Canadian country continuing to thrive.


5 Canadian country acts to see this summer

From indie acts to almost-there breaking artists and well-established hitmakers, here are five very different Canadian country artists who are all looking forward to one of the busiest summer concert seasons of their careers.

Blake Havard is a Vancouver-based roots/country rock artist who has a new single out titled You Make It Right. 2023
Blake Havard is a Vancouver-based roots/country rock artist who has a new single out titled You Make It Right. 2023 Photo by Wayne Hoecherl /jpg

Blake Havard

Style: Roots rock with a twang

Latest single: You Make It Right

Next local show: Aug. 12, Harmony Arts Festival, West Vancouver

“I don’t know if I’m country, I can’t tell anymore,” Havard says. “I grew up with parents who were ’50s rock and rollers and artists like Buddy Holly sure had some of that country style in their sound. I still like that Fender Telecaster and jangly Rickenbacker sound in my own music. I’ve been lucky enough to get my last few singles on SiriusXM, which has been great exposure for the album coming out later this year.”

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Brayden King is a musician from Weyburn, Sask., who competed in American Idol and was eliminated in the Top 55 of the program. 2023. (Photo: Michelle Spice)
Brayden King is a musician from Weyburn, Sask., who competed in American Idol and was eliminated in the Top 55 of the program. 2023. (Photo: Michelle Spice) Photo by supplied by RPM Promotion /jpg

Brayden King

Style: Gritty with a hard hit of twang

Latest single: Bad Night to Be a Beer

Next local show: May 28, The Roxy, Vancouver

“I’ve only been in the country scene for about two years, after years in cover bands,” King says. “During the pandemic, I began writing songs to perform as a solo artist. When I started playing them live, I realized that the overwhelming number of requests I was getting were for country tunes and that fit. Country is a super mainstream thing, on the same level as pop, and being a country-branded artist with a rock ‘n’ roll edge is a very good place for me to be. It’s such a broad genre now that you can find something to suit your tastes.”

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Madelyn Read is a Vancouver-based alt-country artist who new album is titled Concrete Country. 2022
Madelyn Read is a Vancouver-based alt-country artist who new album is titled Concrete Country. 2022 Photo by Ariana Roach /jpg

Madelyn Read

Style: Alt-country/singer-songwriter

Latest single: What I Know Now

Next local show: June 16 – 18, Tiny Lights Festival, Ymir, B.C.

“I feel like the appetite for folk and country is suddenly everywhere in a way that it hasn’t been in the entire time I’ve grown up in Vancouver,” Read says. “This city hasn’t really had a reputation for the genre, but in university, I found a whole lot of people who were listening to it and came to appreciate the scope of the genre. Everything from my grandmother’s music like Patsy Cline was country to a lot of ’60s and ’70s rock. This June is my first tour as a solo artist in support of my album Concrete Country and it’s been really positive.”

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Teigen Gayse is a B.C. country artist and finalist in the SiriusXM 2023 Top of the Country competition. 2023.
Teigen Gayse is a B.C. country artist and finalist in the SiriusXM 2023 Top of the Country competition. 2023. Photo by supplied by Zero Group Canada /jpg

Teigen Gayse

Style: A small-town girl of Metis decent with a big voice and an even bigger message.

Latest single: If You Show Me Yours (co-written with Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger)

Next local show: Sat. July 12, Truck Stop Summer Concert Series

About: “Growing up, my biggest inspiration was the music on the Family Channel. But when I started writing my own songs they just came out country. Maybe it’s something that feels like home to me. My sister is an actual legit, full-on rodeo cowgirl and I have small-town roots in Chetwynd. If You Show Me Yours actually came out of being at Chad’s (Kroeger of Nickelback) place recording vocals for a song by another artist, named Kadooh. It was one of those pinch-me moments, just like making the finals of Top of the Country.”

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Tyler Joe Miller is a Surrey country artist whose new three song acoustic EP is titled The Band’s Packed Up. 2023
Tyler Joe Miller is a Surrey country artist whose new three song acoustic EP is titled The Band’s Packed Up. 2023 Photo by Ryan Nolan /jpg

Tyler Joe Miller

Style: Chart-topping working man country anthems

Latest single: I Know Jack

Next show: July 1, Futuristic Slo Pitch and A&W Music Festival, Vernon, B.C.

About: “My rule of thumb was, once my music was covering the truck payments and making rent, I was ready to take the leap into it full time and keep construction in the back pocket as a Plan B. The country scene has really expanded to the point that my manager heard a song of mine at a gas station in Kentucky, which we aren’t technically servicing, and we’re getting offers on the East Coast, in Quebec and as far off as Australia. Radio was key at the start and still is for me. But the streaming thing has really proved to be a place for people to discover me.”

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