On the weekend of the 15th-16th of June, your favourite pop of colour attended the Country Music Awards of Ontario (the CMAO’s) with a media pass, a smile, big hair, and an even bigger personality. Between trying to be cool and networking “like a bumblebee on cocaine” (compliment attributed to Terry Fernihough), here are 10 quotes I got on record at the two-day event that are worth their weight in gold.
On Songwriting… “If I don’t have a song title, I’m kind of hopeless. So what I do is go to a local Shopper’s Drug Mart or London Drugs and go down the Hallmark Cards section.” – Chris Buck
Inspiration can come from anywhere. An award-winning country artist Chris Buck’s case, from a large selection of mass poetry sold from $4.99 at a local drugstore. “I’m giving away the biggest secret ever – I’m not even kidding you – spend twenty minutes here, get your phone out, and write down some of the quotes.”
ON STAGE PERSONAS… “I THINK THAT FANS THINK THAT I’M THE KIND OF GUY THAT ROLLS OUT OF BED AND CRACKS A BEER, AND THAT’S NOT TRUE.” – TIM HICKS
“I think the stage persona that you see is very much me, and that comes out of playing 18 years in bars, before I ever had a song on the radio… But I can’t drive my kids to school if I’ve had a couple of Coors Light’s!” Tim Hicks laughs. We continue talking about stage personas… “The number one comment we get is that ‘you guys always look like you’re having such a good time on stage’, that’s cause we are. We get to go out every night and fill big rooms with noise, and it’s a dream come true.” “Dierks Bentley told me one time ‘you gotta leave that on that stage. That guy goes up on stage, runs around, jumps up and down, chugs a beer onstage, and I love that guy! But as soon as I walk off that stage, I’m back to being Dierks Bentley, the dad and the husband.’ I really took that advice to heart.*
ON RADIO TOURS… “IF YOU PLAY AN INSTRUMENT, IT SOUNDS WAY BETTER TO PLAY IT LIVE IN STUDIO PERFORMANCES THAN USE A BACKTRACK.” – JESSICA MOORE, AM TO FM RADIO PROMOTIONS
Bilingual Promotions Coordinator of the esteemed independent Am To FM radio tracking agency Jessica Moore shares her best radio tour etiquette. “When you visit a radio station, it’s important to show your appreciation. So, think of creative gifts – Tim Hortons donuts are good and all, but think of something that’s cooler to give. If you have albums ready… or even past previous EP’s,… share your merch… They love receiving this stuff, it makes them feel appreciated and that their time is worth it.”
ON AUTHENTICITY… “ALL OF US ARTISTS HAVE THESE WEIRD, CLICHÉ IDEAS OF WHERE WE MIGHT FIT IN THE WORLD. BUT THAT’S NOT NECESSARILY WHO WE ARE, OR WHAT’S INTERESTING ABOUT US.” – MICAH BARNES
From his experience as a vocal coach, Micah Barnes has learnt a thing or two about authenticity. “Most of us think front the outside in. ‘I would look good in this’ or ‘I would be famous in the video if I did this.’” To illustrate his point, he shared the story of one of his clients with me: a young singer signed to a major label. The look she projected in her marketing was that of a traditional girly-girly, but to Micah’s surprise when he met her, she was the typical “suburban girl,” in sweats and a ponytail. Under Micah’s guidance, she wrote songs about the other sides of her life, learning how big a part wardrobe plays for female singers in this industry. *
ON MUSIC AS ESCAPISM… “AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHEN WE GET ONSTAGE AND HAVE A GOOD TIME, I THINK OUR FANS RELATE TO THAT.” – BRIAN HARWOOD, KANSAS STONE
The emerging duo Kansas Stone isn’t shy to share the honest, gritty reality of trying to make it in the music industry. “We work day jobs just like everybody else. But at the end of the day, when we put those guitars on and get onstage, we put all our problems aside, let everything out, and have a good time. When we’re on stage, that’s our happy place, and I think our fans relate to that.”
ON WOMEN IN COUNTRY… “I THINK WE SHOULD HAVE MORE WOMEN ON THE RADIO. AND NOT BEING PLAYED JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE WOMEN, BUT BECAUSE THEIR MUSIC IS GREAT. IT SHOULD BE BASED ON QUALITY, WHERE WOMEN ARE BEING GIVEN THE SAME CHANCES THAT MEN ARE BEING GIVEN.” – ANDREA MORRIS, AM TO FM PROMOTIONS
For those of you not in the country world, women have had a steep uphill climb to make it onto country radio, as opposed to the paved road their male counterparts stroll. As county music is a genre where radio spins still make or break an artist’s career, radio tracker Andrea Morris has a lot to say. “ It’s great to see more women producing, it’s great to see more women in power at radio stations, and it’s great to see more women being played. While we are making inroads, I think saying a women should be played just because she’s a woman is very sexist.”
ON MUSICIAN PRIORITIES… “TAKE THAT MONEY, SPEND IT IN THE STUDIO, OR GET REALLY GREAT PHOTOGRAPHS DONE – ‘CAUSE THOSE WILL TAKE YOU FURTHER. AND THEN, WHEN YOU’RE READY, COME TO ME.” – STEFANO BARBERIS
Award-Winning music video director and “emotional architect” Stefano Barberis isn’t shy to turn away artists and paycheques if he feels they aren’t ready.
On Selecting Songs: “I think the song has to speak to you, no matter if you’re a program director, listener, or anyone else in the industry. It has to connect – we’ve always used the term ‘your life in a song.’” – Mora Austin, CICX Pure Country 106, Orillia
As a program director, Maura’s job is to choose which of the many songs pitched to her station are good for rotation. Her golden rule, ‘it has to connect’ clearly pays off, as she and her team brought home the Radio Station of The Year (Small Market) Award.
On Cowriting… If we just stick together, we can all rise together. Your peers right now will all rise together. Find your tribe.” – J.T. Harding
“When I got to Nashville, I thought ‘if only I could write with Craig Wiseman, if only I could write with The Peach Pickers, I’ll have a hit!’ J.T. laughed. “In Nashville there’s a thing: the freshmen always want to write with the seniors.” However, when his co-writer friend came up with the idea of forming a tight-knit group with all the other “Nashville freshmen,” their level of talent, determination and grind brought them all up to the top as a team.
On Being A Business Person… “Helping artists is like being a parent on Christmas morning, watching them open their presents.” – Debbie Z, Debbie Z Entertainment
Many people in the music business started out as performers themselves, before realizing that their gifts and life fulfilment is best found helping others. Music Publisher Debbie Z is one of them, and perfectly expressed how I feel about Pop of Colour (and she is now one of my favourite music industry people).