an interesting story
Digging into the country music scene here in Kelowna and the surrounding area over the past few weeks has been both eye opening and back stiffening. Hours upon hours on the phone, texting, emailing, setting up interview times, following up, doing the
actual interviews themselves and reviewing the notes taken along with listening to those recorded sessions. What an interesting story it all tells about the many local country artists, venue managers, promoters, producers and others; about the Kelowna country music scene.
genuine passion and high level of talent
What we have found is a rich mixture of young up-and-comers who count their career moves in streams and followers along with more seasoned veterans who have met the measure of decades on the road and in clubs all over the country. The things they all
seem to have in common are a genuine passion for country music itself and their career ambitions, and a remarkably high level of pure talent.
some well-seasoned veterans
At one end of the extreme is Kelowna’s Aaron Halliday, who remarkably plays close to 150 shows a year when there is no such thing as a Covid pandemic going on. Along side him is Dave Favell, also from Kelowna, who can best be described as a well-journeyed
and journeyman sideman guitarist. Favell has played with a host of well-known artists across the globe.
the younger ones
At the younger end of the scale are a group of eager and energetic artists just starting to make their mark in the music industry. West Kelowna brings us Ben Klick and Michael Daniels. Both are gifted songwriters, and Ben adds being a fine country lead
guitar player to his particular style of artistry. From Kelowna itself we have singer-songwriters Teigan Gayse and Melissa Livingstone.
nashville style music revue
Kelowna is also home to Sean Bray, who developed the musical revue “Songs of the Southern Belles”, which is a touring production in the style of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Sean is a highly skilled jazz guitarist who also happens to love country music and country guitar playing.
from down the road in penticton
Penticton is not only home to country singer/songwriter and serious guitar shredder Beamer Wigley, but also two of the biggest country music concert promoters and agencies in the business; Jim Cressman and his Invictus Entertainment Group, and Paul Biro from Sakamoto Agency.
up the road in the opposite direction
Just a little way up the road to the north is Coldstream’s country music producer Jeff Johnson, who has worked with many of the areas country artists over the last few years.
the primary country venue
Into that already great group of dedicated people, you throw in somebody like Andy Bowie from the OK Corral, which is unquestionably the number one venue for live country music in Kelowna and perhaps the whole Okanagan, and you have the beginnings
of the making of a country music scene that is uniquely our own.
Hearing these talented individuals talk about what music means to them and how much they want to get out there playing again, as well as what they’re doing in the meantime is genuinely motivating. No moaning and complaining, just people who refuse
to let the current challenges get them down while doing whatever they can to keep moving forwards, all with measurable levels of excitement and anticipation.
We will be updating this story as we connect with more people involved in the local country music scene, so please come back and give this article a quick scan from time to time.
the people and the phoners*
As we started pulling everything together, the first person who was able to respond to our interview request was Melissa. We chatted for about 45 minutes on January 31st, and she served as a great opening interview to get the ball rolling.
See Melissa's Profile
Aaron was up next in early February, and he proved to be a compelling interview. I came away from the call with the sense that I had just been speaking with someone who can only be described as a consumate professional. That, and a really nice human being.
See Aaron's Profile
The next in line was a captivating conversation with this young artist who loves how her songs touch people, something she herself felt when hearing the songs of her songwriting heroes.
See Teigen's Profile
Always a pleasure to speak with, and often holding yet another surprise, this young man just refuses to even think about slowing down or taking a break. His dedication and determination help his talent to shine even more brightly.
See Ben's Profile
Hearing Michael tell stories about bad summer jobs and failed craw fish farm proposals as the reasons why he got into country music was worth the phone call in itself. Talented youngster who writes very well.
See Michael's Profile
He is so not "just' the local country music producer, as even a casual glane at his credits clearly show him to be so much more. Jeff was quoted by many of the people we spoke with as being a huge part of the local scene.
See Jeff's Profile
Cressman's rise as one of the most significant promoters in country music almost seems like a foregone conclusion when you get the opportunity to speak with him. He is laser focused on doing whatever it takes to help craft sustainable careers for his artists
and providing them with all the tools they could possibly need, great attitudes, and buckets full of opportunities. He is respected internationally, of course, but he is revered here amongst the local country music artist community.
See Jim's Profile
Biro has risen to become an Operating Partner at Sakamoto Agency, and with over 20 years now in the business, he books hundreds of shows a year across Canada. He was generous with his time and full of exciting visions for the music business moving forwards.
See Paul's Profile
The OK Corral long ago established itself as the country music venue in the Central Okanagan. What was a bit of a surprise to me is the level of admiration for manager Andy Bowie from the local country artists we spoke with. It was a surprise, but only until we spoke
with him on the phone. Genuine and committed. Passionate about the local country music scene and all the artists and othes who are a part of it.
See the OK Corral Page
A Buck N Change
This may have been the most fun phone interview of the bunch. The three members together in one room while we're talking over the phone. While they have taken music seriously after having played for decades, they clearly never take themselves too seriously
See A Buck N Change's Profile
Songs of the Southern Belles
Sean Bray, the creator of Songs of the Southern Belles, is a pertty straight forward and down to earth guy. Skilled beyond most after years studying music and the business in New York, he is also a guitarist of considerable chops. The man can play. Hearing
his future dreams for this production, including touring it to major centers and incorporating actors and having it evovle into a musical play was fascinating. Ask him about it next time you bump into him, online or in person.
See SotSB's Profile
This turned out to be a very enjoyable interview. Partly because he's written so many good songs lately and they were fun to talk about, but also because we got into talking guitars and guitar players. I want to have more discussios with this musician.
See Beamer's Profile
Dave is so unassuming. Daytime real estate salesman, closet songwriter, and able to play anything with a neck and a set of strings. We talked about his long history in the business what he's up to musically these days.
See Dave's Profile
* The term "phoner" is slang in the business for a phone interview. In normal times, with artists and bands on the road a majority of the time, many if not most interviews end up being done by phone with the artist on their bus or in their hotel or
even just in their car away from the craziness of the life when they can wrangle a few moments out of their schedule.