There is an authenticity and truthfulness to the music of Drew Gregory that is undeniable. The songs of this award-winning Alberta country music sensation are infused with a down home realism, a gritty honesty and vibrant sense of rootedness that comes from years spent working the land as a farmer – an aspect of his life that is deeply connected to his talent as a musician, singer and songwriter.
Gregory the singer is also Gregory the farmer – two sides of the same engaging, unpretentious and amiable coin, solidly rooted in the landscape and soil of his rural homestead. The music on his forthcoming EP Good Place to Start is as approachable as he is, something that also translates on stage as he forms an instant rapport with any audience for whom he performs.
“It’s all pretty true-to-life stuff and I think that makes the music stronger and people react to it more wholeheartedly because they know I am singing about my own life and my own experiences, who likes the simple things in life, who likes to have a good time, just like the people listening to the music,” Gregory said.
Growing up in the small rural community of Standard, Alberta (population around 350) Gregory was exposed to music through local radio as well as from his dad’s extensive classic rock vinyl collection, and soon came to appreciate both the country and rock sounds that flowed through the family home. By the time he was 15 he had acquired his first guitar and from the first strum of the strings, he knew that making music was going to be a big part of his life.
“I never took lessons but would play it from the moment I got home after school every day until I went to bed. Once I got that guitar in my hand, it just felt like something I needed to do. And I also started playing at a lot of high school parties and that’s where my love for performing came along – having everybody singing along while you player was quite a thrill,” he said.
“And after a backpacking trip to Australia, where I spent a lot of time just travelling and thinking about my life, I came back and began working the family farm, which gave me more flexibility and time to play more shows. At that point, my love for farming and my love for making music became the two most important things in my life.”
Artists such as country megastar Eric Church, crossover artist Steve Earle and classic rock icon Bruce Springsteen were early influences, primarily because all three, regardless of genre, sing about real life, and about their own trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows.
Working with Kitchener, Ontario-based producer and multiple CCMA award winner Jason Barry over his last two recording projects, the veteran producer has proved to be an exceptional collaborator who intuitively understands the vision Gregory has in mind for his music.
“He wanted me to really dig deep and really figure who I was and who I wanted to be as an artist. We worked together on my last album and that was first time I really sat down with someone before we started recording to go through songs and try to really figure out what I was going for,” he said.
The positive experience of working with Barry on his last two records has given Gregory more confidence as a songwriter. All seven songs on Good Place to Start feature his compositional skills alongside wonderful co-writers.
“I have had the chance to work with some pretty talented songwriters, learning something from each experience. I have always kept an open mind that if there was a great song that came along, and it fit the project and fit my sound I would record it. But for this album, for this EP I just found that the material that we were coming up with on our own was better than what was being pitched to us. And as I get more experience I seem to be getting more confident in my abilities and in my choices,” Gregory said.
The proof is in the dynamic range of moods and lyrical content across the septet of songs, each of which are a standout, led by the infectiously upbeat Know Good.
“I wrote that with a couple of other Canadians down in Nashville, Trinity Bradshaw and Brad Stella. It was a Friday afternoon and we decided we just wanted to write a happy, fun, positive song that we would want to listen to when we’re just relaxing. It has some great melody lines and hooks and is probably the most pop oriented song on the album. Jason really helped add some production elements that make it sound like something you’d crank up in your car on the way home from work and just feel good,” Gregory said.
Better in a Bar about as down-home country as you can get, and is an anthemic party song, that is about the good times that can be had in your hometown watering hole with long-time pals, great music and perhaps a little bit of reckless abandon.
“I wrote this with Aaron Goodvin, who I have been writing with for quite a while, and it’s a song that really talks about how much better it is to experience both the good times and the bad around people who care and support you. It’s about not wanting to sit at home and wallow but to get out and enjoy the company of good folks.”
The title track is a powerful, emotionally gripping song that was lifted by some of the more extreme, violent and shocking episodes of hatred that have been dominating the headlines, with the opening line referencing the murderous rampage that saw 58 people killed and more than 850 wounded by a crazed shooter at an outdoor country music show in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017.
While it could be interpreted as a political song, it’s not really taking any strident positions and Gregory is more pleading for calm, for dialogue, for compassion and coming together.
“It’s being political without ticking too many people off. It’s just kind of saying that maybe we could all show a little more love for one another and try to make the world a better pace. I haven’t done anything like this song before and I wonder if it’s my age or that point in my career where I wanted to say something a little more important than ‘hey, let’s go out and drink on a Friday night,’” Gregory said.
Evidence of Gregory’s status as a country music artist on the rise are the numerous accolades that he has thus far garnered in his career. Most recently, he was named the Alberta Country Music Association (ACMA) Male Artist of the Year in 2015 and took home the 2016 ACMA Award for Album of the Year for his previous release, I Was There. Also, in 2016 he was named the Male Artist of the Year at the YYC (Calgary) Music Awards.
Over his burgeoning career he has shared the stage and opened concert and festival dates for the likes of Miranda Lambert, Kip Moore, John Michael Montgomery, Big & Rich, Emerson Drive and Chad Brownlee among others.
Regardless of the success that has come, and which will undoubtedly continue to grow, he will always return home to his family farm, as it not only keeps him grounded, allows for replenishment of his soul and a certain amount of peace and solitude, but also continues to be the most essential aspect of his creativity. It’s where he continues to draw inspiration, and where he continues to learn life lessons, and perspective on what is truly important.
All of this is reflected in the music on Good Place to Start. Farmer, poet, entertainer and musical force – Drew Gregory is the epitome of the modern Canadian country music troubadour.
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With the release of their new album, Along for the Ride, Alberta’s Renegade Station embarks on a dynamic musical journey that sees the talented quartet elevating their already impressive reputation for creative excellence and superior showmanship to new heights.
Understanding that sometimes you need to shed elements of your past in order to embrace the wide, wonderful future, the group changed its name and has revitalized and focused their musical identity. They have pushed forward with a passion, and unrelenting drive that will see Renegade Station become a name that anyone hearing their unique pop and rock-infused brand of country music is unlikely to forget.
Originally known as Domino, the band came together almost accidentally as husband and wife duo of singer/bassist Luanne and guitarist Russell Carl began attending and performing at a town variety show in Stettler, not long after moving to the rural Alberta community. There they met guitarist/vocalist Kent Nixon and drummer Scott McKnight at the popular event and decided to create a band to play local dances and parties becoming the ‘go to’ act on the circuit.
“We were the backing band at this event and decided to take the show on the road, playing a lot of rodeo dances and weddings. But after a few years we realized we had something special. We just gelled as musicians and our voices harmonized so well together that we all just felt we needed to do more. So, we acquired ourselves a professional manager and began recording some originals and some songs that were gifted to us,” said Luanne.
Their new name is symbolic of the group’s unconventional approach to their music and sense of independence. They are unabashed about injecting their original music and the songs presented to them by other noted songwriters with healthy doses of pop and classic rock nuances – with a focus on lushly produced and beautiful layered vocal harmonies which owe as much to Fleetwood Mac as they do to Lady Antebellum.
The “Station” part of their name is a nod to vintage working steam train that is a tourist attraction in Stettler and which is a throwback to the region’s pioneering past. Therefore, a name that is reverent towards tradition, but which also alludes to a desire to go one’s own way is ideal for the band approaches their craft.
As proof of Renegade Station’s commitment to excellence, for the recording of Along for the Ride, they worked with respected industry veteran Johnny Gasparic (Gord Bamford, George Canyon, Snoop Dogg) at Dave Temple’s MCC Recording Studio in Calgary. It was the second time working with Gasparic, but this time around Luanne said he became more integral to the creative process as well as the recording process.
“We collaborated a lot more with him on the production side and it was awesome. He brings an amazing background and experience with him. He knows that we are very much a vocal band and a harmony band, and he really helped to emphasize that, but was also able to get us to do some things vocally that we hadn’t done before. He really got us to relax and open up. I don’t think we have ever sounded this good,” she said.
The lead-off single, Who’s Gonna Love Me Tonight, fits into the more adventurous approach that is Renegade Station’s hallmark. Sung by Kent who shares lead vocal duties with Luanne, it’s a mature, somewhat saucy but very true-to-life take on modern romance.
“We were really drawn to the song at first because of the amazing harmonies, but then once we got a sense of the meaning and message we knew we had to record it. It’s a little different and a little more risqué than a traditional country romantic song. It’s not the normal ‘I love you and you love me’ song. It’s a little more mature and realistic. Who is going to go home with who? Who is the strong person in the song, and who is the one going to just give in to the temptation of the moment,” Luanne said.
Don’t Hold Your Breath was penned primarily by Nashville-based Canadian singer/songwriter Jaida Dreyer and, again, the breathtakingly infectious harmonies fit the Renegade Station sound so well, they could not resist putting it on Along for the Ride.
“The song has this Little Big Town vibe, with an incredible melody and when we first harmonized together to the song we all just looked at each other with these amazed expressions. It is such a good song for us to really show off not only our country influences but how we can really bring that together with our pop and rock background. And I personally love this song because it’s about being a strong woman,” she said.
Proving that there is true musical versatility in Renegade Station, the song Rodeo Road is written by Joni Delaurier and pays tribute to the western rodeo lifestyle, which has special meaning for Nixon that comes across in his passionate vocal performance.
“Kent’s grandfather is in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame. His father in law is in the Hall of Fame. His three brothers in laws are Canadian Pro Rodeo Champion’s and there is a long line of cowboys and rodeo competitors in his family. That song was so special to him and we all loved it too and wanted it there as a sort of throwback to that gritty traditional country sound that we all grew up with. It represents a big part of the Alberta mystique and the importance of rural life, the rodeo circuit and the country dances that are part of so many people’s lives here,” Luanne said.
The rock-solid foundation that was built as Domino is not being shunted aside as the talented quartet moves forward. Renegade Station’s legacy is etched deep into the firmament of the western Canadian music scene and that can never be taken from them. In recent years they have won back to back Association of Country Music in Alberta, as Group of the Year (2015 and 2016) as well as the ACMA Fan’s Choice of the Year in 2015. They also garnered a CCMA nomination for songwriter of the year for their tune 2:15 and Luanne was also nominated for CCMA Bass Player of the Year for 2016.
The band has shared the stage with a who’s who of Canadian and international country music luminaries, from George Canyon and Carolyn Dawn Johnson, to David Lee Murphy, Emerson Drive, and Bobby Wills.
Along for the Ride is a bold statement by a collection of talented musicians and songwriters that is infused with authenticity, impressive vocal performances and insistent melodies that will stick with you for days.
And with this impressive collection of new songs, a live show that never fails to enchant and entertain, and an unparalleled creative drive, Renegade Station is truly poised to break through to a national and international stage.