~ CORY CHURKO ~
Our 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' for the month of July is one of Canada's most talented imports that has had incredible success across North America! Cory Churko has enjoyed a multi-faceted career in the music industry for over 30 years!
He grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada in a little city called Moose Jaw. His father was a music teacher who taught him how to play piano and guitar at an early age. When he was seven, his parents started a family band with his sister and brother and played a lot of weddings and parties. When they started getting really good, his dad took them out of school so they could start playing clubs across Canada. He was in 7th grade and took his education through the Correspondence School right through grade 12.
After the family band decided to call it quits he moved to Vancouver with his brother and formed a rock band. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before they parted ways and he decided to go back to school. In order to have money, he began busking the streets which allowed him to hone his fiddle chops. If he hadn’t done this street performing he wouldn’t have been ready for what was to come. Once he graduated from animation school, he got an amazing job working on a globally syndicated kids tv show called Beast Wars Transformers.
A few months later he got a life-changing call out of nowhere, left on his answering machine from Mercury Records in Toronto. The label was looking for a young, energetic fiddler to play in the band of one of their artists who just happened to be Shania Twain. Two weeks later he was playing on the Late Show with David Letterman show in New York City! Now when he looks back he realizes how important it was that he played on the streets busking for spare change. What he thought was the lowest point in his life was only preparing him for something much greater and 22 years later he still plays guitar and fiddle with Shania Twain and is currently her Musical Director.
Cory is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, violin, keyboards, mandolin, bass, and vocals) but has made a living in between tours working as a digital editor and mix engineer in Los Angeles. And as if being an award-winning musician weren't enough, Cory's behind the scene credits are equally as impressive. As a mix engineer and programmer, he has worked with such music production giants as Robert Mutt Lange, Mike Shipley, Nigel Green, and Rob Cavallo. Being able to wear a lot of different hats in this industry has helped him survive the lean years.
He also played for over a decade with Kelly Clarkson, following her win on American Idol. From playing with Kelly, he landed a year playing with Reba McEntire. He is now an L.A.-based musician residing in southern California with his wife, Jody, and their two dogs.
When he's not touring with Shania you can check him out with his side project 'TOQUE' who are currently creating a lot of buzz in the music industry. The band formed of Canadian musicians is himself, Todd Kerns, and Brent Fitz who play with Slash and Shane Gaalaas.
From humble beginnings playing on the streets of Vancouver for spare change to performing on the Super Bowl Half Time Show with Shania, he has worked incredibly hard to get where he is today and is a testament to making dreams come true. Watch for Cory as he'll be rejoining Twain, the top-selling female country artist of all time, for her Las Vegas residency show at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, December 2 – 21, 2021, and February 11 – 26, 2022.
~ MIKE LITTLE ~
Our 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' for the month of June is not only a well-rounded touring and studio musician but is also a producer and songwriter. Mike Little is one of the most recorded and highly sought-after keyboard players in North America. Born in Victoria, BC, and raised in Vernon, BC, Mike now calls Calgary, Alberta his home.
Mike is a classically trained piano player but has also spent over 35 years studying Hammond B3, keyboards, and specializing in Rock, Country and Blues. With over 30 years of experience in the music industry, his notable work as a session musician has secured him 2 JUNO Awards and multiple gold and platinum records. As well as being a prolific studio musician, songwriter, and producer Mike has spent over 30 years touring extensively as a backing musician to many of the biggest names in music. He has played and toured with artists such as BB King, George Canyon, Richard Marx, Colin James, The Rankin Family & Johnny Reid. Some of the other artists he has done back up for or recorded with are The Road Hammers, Paul Brandt, The Hunter Brothers, Jess Moskaluke, The Washboard Union, and Gord Bamford.
Mike is a 17-time CCMA nominee and has won the CCMA Keyboard Player Of The Year award 3 times. While he is most recognized as a veteran Hammond B3 organist, Mike is well-versed in all things keyboards and production. His understanding of a vast variety of musical genres, compositions, and sounds makes him a first choice for both artists and studios to work with.
Joining George Canyon's Band as keyboard and accordion player in 2006, he took on the additional role as bandleader in 2009. Mike's impressive music achievements to date include TV appearances on CMT, CBC, Canadian Country Music Awards shows, and George Canyon videos 'Just Like You', 'I Believe In Angels', and ‘When Love Is All You’ve Got’ with George Canyon featuring Richard Marx.
His projects have secured radio, television and licensing placements including work on hundreds of radio singles and top 40 releases. He has also written over 50 radio songs for artists including Canyon and The Roadhammers. He has produced and played on major label titles that have held top chart placements around the world and streamed over 40 million times.
In addition to songwriting, production, and touring, Mike’s passion is in business, mentorship, and teaching. He owns Canada’s largest backline company and a private music school for over 20 years called 'The Universal Keys'. If your dream is to achieve success as a professional musician or you just want to take your skills to the next level, 'The Universe of Keys' provides an opportunity to study with one of the world’s leading keyboard experts. Mike has taught thousands of students, many of whom have achieved success in the music industry. Many of them have gone on to play for multiple Grammy Award-winning artists such as Ed Sheeran, Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line, and more.
Mike feels very fortunate to have had two wonderful music mentors as his music teachers who inspired him growing up. His piano teacher Louise Rose was a “Raylette’ with Ray Charles and also played piano with Aretha Franklin. She introduced him to blues, chording and playing by ear. His organ teacher was Robbie King who was a session musician that played with Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and Bryan Adams. He inspired his love of the Hammond B3 organ which has become his “main axe” as a keyboard player.
Along with his wife Candace Lacina he has launched a band called “The Hello Darlins” that they formed in 2019 that is an Americana project. His wife used to sing back up with Shania Twain and also did a radio single with Charlie Major last year called “All Your Love”. They have written songs together for years and backed up many great artists but this is the first time they have stepped out of the shadows to “do their own thing”. The response has been phenomenal as they have 500,000 streams already on 4 singles released and they recently received the news that they are number 4 on the charts in Denmark for the “EuroAmericana Charts”. During covid they have had the time to finish their album and it is being released on June 11th.
We wish Mike the very best in his new venture and can't wait to see him perform in person one day!
~ TYLER VOLLRATH ~
If our 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' for the month of May ever decided to pen his own memoir he'd have enough life & career experiences and accolades to write a small novel! Starting at an early age, Tyler Vollrath was surrounded by music and the magical sound of the fiddle. He grew up listening to his grandfather, “Lefty”, and uncle, world-renowned fiddle player, Calvin Vollrath, at family gatherings and competitions around Alberta. By the age of ten, his interest was peaked, he picked up the fiddle himself and has never looked back.
Throughout his childhood, Tyler competed successfully in many fiddling competitions and in 1993 was awarded the Grand North American Old Time Fiddle Championship, becoming the youngest winner ever at the age of 19. And if that accomplishment wasn't enough Tyler won that very same title for the second time in 2002. Following school, his musical direction and focus shifted and Tyler began performing with country music bands. Although fiddle is his primary instrument, he is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist with a toolbox that includes guitar, banjo, mandolin, and vocals.
For the last 20 years, Tyler has been performing with some of Canada’s top recording artists, to hundreds of thousands of fans, all across Canada, the USA, France, Germany, Austria, and even had the opportunity to play for our troops in Kabul, Afghanistan. In addition to these live concerts, Tyler has performed on multiple TV and radio programs and is a regular in the studio, appearing on many radio charting recordings. He's been blessed as a musician as he's had the opportunity to do Grand Old Opry performances at both locations at the new Grand Ole Opry House and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The Grand Ole Opry performance was also made into a documentary titled "Stepping Inside The Circle", which was featured at the Toronto International Independent Film Festivall (TIFF).
Some other memorable performances include multiple appearances on The Canadian Country Music Association Award shows, The JUNO Awards, The IHeart Radio MMVA’s with BEBE REXA alongside Brett Kissel, a command performance for The Queen of England, a Canada Day & New Year's Eve performance at Canada’s Parliament Hill, Canada’s Walk of Fame, Canadian Consulate in Germany and every major Country Music festival in Canada.
His extensive list of recording artists he has performed with over the years other than Brett Kissel includes Dean Brody, George Canyon, Charlie Major, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Gord Bamford, Aaron Pritchett, Chad Brownlee, The Washboard Union, Tenille Townes, Jim Cuddy, Paul Brandt, and Allan Doyle. He's also accompanied Dan Davidson, Meghan Patrick Jason McCoy, Michelle Wright, Tim Hicks & Jess Moskaluke just to name a few. During his extensive touring with Brett Kissel, he's had the privilege to open for Brad Paisley. In February 2017, he and Brett's band had the opportunity of a lifetime when they opened for the top-selling solo music artist and one of the greatest entertainers of all time, Garth Brooks in Edmonton, Alberta to a crowd of more than 18,000! Garth was in the midst of a massive world tour and during his unprecedented run of 9 sold-out shows in Edmonton, tour sales set a new record for selling 5 million tickets in 60 cities! For Tyler, it definitely will be a performance that will never be forgotten!
His awards include being a 4 time Canadian Country Music Association 'Fiddle Player' of the Year and he has also won the Canadian Country Music Association 'Specialty Instrument' Player of the year for the mandolin in 2014. He is also a multiple Alberta Provincial Fiddling Champion.
His studio recording sessions include Brett Kissel, The Washboard Union, Dan Davidson, Serena Ryder and multiple other independent Canadian recording artists. He's also worked with T. Graham Brown and Darren Walters who recently put together an online recording session and video with last year's CCMA All-Star Band Winners. On a lighter side Tyler's even gotten in a little taste of acting as he can be seen jumping around as a purple dinosaur in the Dan Davidson video "Found", and as a hostile "Borg" in his "Say We Did" video.
Tyler's solo career also took off with the release of his highly anticipated groundbreaking instrumental album, "Coast To Coast", which takes listeners on a musical journey across Canada's fiddling styles and features duets with 12 of Canada's most highly accomplished fiddlers. Tyler can also be found in many country music videos including Brett Kissel's video for his chart-topping #1 hit Radio single "Airwaves", gold single "Cool With That', and "Anthem".
To commemorate his role as part of 'The Brett Kissel Band', Tyler has been presented with several Gold records for the songs 'Airwaves', 'Started With A Song', '3.2.1.', 'I Didn't Fall in Love With Your Hair' and many more. The list keeps growing as Brett and his band keep catapulting to the top of the charts with one single after another.
We've had the opportunity to see Tyler perform in action many times over the years most recently last September as we traveled 6 hours to see him with Brett perform at a 'Drive In' concert in Ottawa, Ontario. Kissel was the first during the pandemic to attempt a 'covid friendly' 'socially distanced' Drive In Concert tour which sold out in over 20 cities across Canada. Accompanying Brett, Tyler & the band left the audience wanting more with an energy-filled show and it took every ounce of energy we had not to jump out of our car that night!
Tyler, with your incredible professional work ethic and immense musical talent we look forward to seeing you perform for many, many more years wherever your bright light decides to shine!
~ CHAD MURPHY ~
Our 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' for the month of April is a guitarist that we're sure you've admired in some capacity if you've been following the tops acts of Canadian country music in the past few years. Originally from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Chad Murphy has been living in Ontario since the fall of 2016. He has spent many years playing with amazing East Coast acts like Mallory Johnson, Brothers In Stereo, Chris Kirby and The Marquee and Mick Davis & Thin Love to name a few. Growing up in a musical city like St. Johns afforded him the opportunity to cut his teeth playing with truly world-class musicians both in the studio and on stage to gain invaluable experience in the practical applications of the craft even during his studies at the Memorial University School of Music in Newfoundland.
Often called on for work as a sideman and Music Director he has been able to work in very diverse projects covering everything from Rhythm & Blues to Hard Rock. He believes that diversity is truly the key to a career as a musician and something which he continues to pursue by constantly pushing himself to grow and learn all he can. During his time in Newfoundland, he afforded himself many opportunities to do just that by never backing down from a challenging musical role and immersing himself in whatever the job called for to make sure he could execute it with as much confidence and conviction as possible.
Since moving to Toronto he has been lucky enough to play with even more incredible artists including multiple award-winning Meghan Patrick for whom he also holds the position of Musical Director for her band. He is also blessed to be Kelly Prescott's right hand man in her professional and personal life. Kelly is one of the Top 8 Canadian country artists chosen to be SiriusXM's 'Top Of the Country' 2020/2021 semi-finalists. Her musical roots go way back as she is the daughter of Tracey Brown and Randall Prescott who are well-respected musicians in the Canadian country music scene for decades from the band Prescott Brown.
Chad has also had the opportunity to accompany top artists like Alan Doyle, Colin James and Terri Clark. He's also backed Kyle Cook on his solo act who has been the lead guitarist of Matchbox Twenty for the past few decades. He considers himself blessed to have had the opportunity to tour extensively across North America and beyond. This past year saw him pick up his first nomination for the Canadian Country Music Association 'Guitar Player of the Year'. We know this is just the first of many more nominations he'll be up for during his music career!
Aside from playing with these incredible artists, Chad has been teaching online music lessons for the past 5 years and has thoroughly enjoyed being able to devote more of his time to those pursuits during the interruption to a normally busy schedule to pass on a deep love and understanding of music that he truly enjoys sharing. With over 15 years of experience in this field, it is a constant motivation for him to help people discover their own voice and provide them with all the knowledge and wisdom he has gained from all his musical endeavors.
We hope that Chad will soon be back on the road doing what he loves most performing for audiences across Canada and we look forward to finally meeting this talented guy once that happens. Until then keep your eyes open for Chad as has a new business venture on the horizon which we just know will be successful as everything he seems to touch musically turns to gold! .
~ MIKE SANYSHYN ~
In our opinion, there is nothing that makes a country song resonate sweeter than hearing a fiddle in it. Our March 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' has been making beautiful music with his instrument for three decades now and has a list of accolades that makes him one of the biggest stand-out fiddle players in Canada. Mike Sanyshyn is an artist, musician, instructor, composer and studio session player. He is well respected in the music community and is known as a mentor for up-and-coming fiddlers. His signature sound has been recorded on hundreds of CDs and millions have heard Mike’s fiddle on the Vancouver Olympics introducing Whistler 2010. He has played in a dazzling array of situations over the years from performing with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra with recording artist Aaron Pritchett and acting as Musical Director for the 2020 BC Country Music Association Industry Awards to big concert and festival appearances.
Mike is a first-call studio musician, well-respected fiddle instructor and judge as an artist he has released 3 CDs and an original book of music. He's already had quite the career! He is a 3rd generation fiddler following in the tradition of his father Evan and grandfather John. He was born in the beautiful and rugged peaks of Coleman Alberta, in the Crowsnest Pass. He began playing the fiddle at 8 years old and it became a passion for him after watching 'Ontario Old Time Fiddler Winner' Al Cherny on CBC’s Tommy Hunter Show.
At the age of 12, Mike and his family moved to White Rock, British Columbia. It was there that his opportunities in music began to flourish. In the midst of learning various styles from Canadian Old Time to Bluegrass, Celtic, Swing and Metis Fiddle, Mike also studied Classical music for five years which helped him “get the proper technique” and it's definitely impacted his career in a positive way.
At the age of 22, Mike was selected to play for recording artist Duane Steele in a band hand-picked from across Canada. Their first show was opening for Nashville stars Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw. That was his first introduction to touring and being exposed to large crowds. He's also had the opportunity to open for Trisha Yearwood, Terri Clark, Prairie Oyster and many other acts. Subsequent opening spots included Alan Jackson, Big and Rich, Merle Haggard and Shania Twain and he has also graced the stage with Ian Tyson, Randy Bachman, One More Girl, Johnny Reid and Nashville star Luke Bryan. His introduction to the national televised scene came with appearances on The Rita MacNeil & Friends Show and an appearance on the Canadian Country Music Awards. Mike has also been featured on numerous videos for the likes of Aaron Pritchett, Chad Brownlee, Lisa Brokop and Duane Steele.
He's also had the opportunity to play in some capacity with artists like Meghan Patrick, Aaron Goodvin, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Dallas Smith, The Reklaws, Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Gord Bamford. This impressive list also includes Deric Ruttan, George Canyon, Jann Arden, Doc Walker & Patti Loveless!!
Mike was named the BC provincial Champion 4 times, placed in the top 3 at the Canadian Grandmasters Fiddling Championships, the best finish ever for a BC fiddler to date.He's also won the BCCMA Gold Achievement Award for Fiddle /Mandolin. He's been nominated several times for 'Fiddler Player of the Year' at the CCMAs and won a CCMA in 2007 for All-Star Band for his fiddle playing. Rest assured there are precious few fiddlers, Canadian or otherwise, who can or ever will make that claim. He's also contributed to the CD 'Then And Now' which features duets with inductees of the Canadian Country Music Hall Of Fame.
The last major concert he performed at was a sell-out at The Commodore Ballroom for Canuck County Rocks in March 2020. He was a part of the back up band for this event playing not only the fiddle but the mandolin, banjitar, and percussion for The Heels, Jojo Mason, The Odds, Kadooh, Shawn Austin, Madeline Merlo and Aaron Pritchett. Immediately after that event the dates he had on the calendar all came to a crashing halt. It was then that he decided to focus on getting a home studio set up and he's been tracking fiddle, mandolin, banjitar and background vocals since for several artists. He's also been focused on his side project with his band 'Jackson Hollow' releasing a quarantine video with them in 2020.
During the pandemic, one of the positive outcomes for him has been that he's had the time to reorganize his life and had the opportunity to be able to work on some of the behind-the-scenes part of the music industry. He's been writing and collaborating with other artists and musicians. He's currently recording a fiddle tune that he and one of his musical inspirations, Calvin Vollrath have co-written together which is to being featured on his newest CD to be released this year. His band Jackson Hollow have completed their debut album and are planning on releasing singles starting in the late spring.
At a time when the music industry has almost come to a standstill, Mike has been lucky enough and creative enough to find a way to continue working on a regular basis. We're hoping for his sake the industry will quickly recover in 2021 and we will be lucky enough to have the chance to see Mike perform in person very soon! Until then Mike, keep making beautiful music in the way only you know how!
~ RYAN DAVIDSON ~
February is typically thought of as the month of love and we just know you're going to love our 'Featured Musician' that we've picked for this month! Edmonton, Alberta's Ryan Davidson is a household name in the Canadian country scene as he has been a freelance guitarist who has performed and recorded professionally for 25 years with some of the biggest country music artists this country has to offer! Currently, he is the guitarist for one of the most decorated artists in Canadian country music, Gord Bamford, who currently has 26 Canadian Country Music Association awards, multi Juno nominations and is the only 2 time winner of Nashville's CMA Global Country Artist of the Year award.
Ryan is also the guitarist for the horn band Vinyl Hampdin. This super-group has a collection of stellar musicians that defies genre, can only be described as 'rocked-out seriously funky jaw-dropping ear candy' with killer horns, a world-class rhythm section and stunning lead singer Lisa Dodd who is a multiple CCMA 'Bassist Of The Year' from Alberta, Canada who also is part of Gord Bamford's band. They are a force of nature with one goal in mind and that is to create modern 'deep pocket sticky fun music' at the highest possible level. They feature band members from the band Chicago, The David Letterman Band and Maynard Ferguson. I encourage you to check them out at www.vinylhampdin.com. What a treat for the ears!
Ryan is a Grammy nominated guitarist who holds a Master of Music in Jazz Studies from the University of North Texas. In the Country music world, he has performed with many renowned country artists. Along with Gord Bamford, Ryan has been fortunate to have shared the stage and/or recorded with great musicians from the country music genre such as Dallas Smith, Brett Kissel, Dean Brody, Chad Brownlee, JoJo Mason, Lindsay Ell & Meghan Patrick. During his career he's also worked with artists Dave Alexander (Asleep at the Wheel), Brad Johner, Jason McCoy (of the Road Hammers), Jason Blaine, Shane Yellowbird, Duane Steele, Corb Lund, Deric Ruttan, Kira Isabella, Patricia Conroy, Adam Gregory & Jamie Warren along with many others. That is quite the impressive musical resume and shows what an ultimate professional Ryan is known to be in the Canadian country music scene.
He has been nominated 8 times for Canadian Country Music Association “Guitarist of the Year” and has took home the award twice in 2012 and 2015. In addition, he can be heard on 2 Juno nominated country records, Gord Bamford’s “Country Junkie” and Brett Kissel’s “Started With A Song” that were both nominated for 'Country Album Of The Year'. For the first time, Ryan has been nominated for the Country Music Alberta 'Musician Of The Year Award' this year and we've got our fingers crossed that he wins! You can check out their 10th annual award show on Sunday February 28th streaming live at 7 PM MST.
A few other past acheivements worth mentioning is that back in 2010 Ryan recorded 'LAB 09' with the The One O'Clock Lab Band for which the group received 2 Grammy Nominations! With that band he shared the stage with jazz legends Dave Brubeck,James Carter, Eddie Gomez and George Garzone. He has also performed at the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver & he has also played for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas five times in the past.
Aside from some early pandemic drive in concert shows with Gord Bamford, he's been practicing a lot and has been doing some recording and videos for people at home during Covid. Having hit the music industry hard and with so little on the calendar and an uncertainty as to when he will perform again, practicing and educating himself on the guitar has permitted a positive mental health environment for him during this difficult time.
Past musical inspirations for Ryan have been movie soundtrack composers like Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman and he has been great influenced musically by such big names like Danny Gatton, Chopin, Bach and Mozart. With inspirations like that you can certainly see how and why Ryan has achieved such success in music during his career.
We've only had the opportunity to see Ryan perform a few times with Gord Bamford and with the 'All Star Band' at the 2019 CCMA after party in Calgary but we've been super impressed with him every time! We can't wait for live shows to return so we can once again see Ryan perform and hopefully have the opportunity to finally meet this amazingly talented guitarist!
~ THE AGENDA ~
We're happy to start 2021 off with a bang! For our 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' of the month for January we have not 1, but a 4 pack of musicians! Each of these guys not only help support several country artists but their own band itself is starting to really make a mark of their own in the Canadian music industry! “The Agenda” is a production team and band based out of Toronto, made up of members Al Rowe, Mark Rynkun, Rich DaSilva, and Will Hebbes. The boys met while attending Humber College’s Music Program and became friends right away. With Will on guitar/vocals, Rich on drums, Mark on bass/vocals, and Al on vocals, guitar, and keys, their skills aligned with one another rather well. They started working together and playing for various artists soon after meeting, quickly realizing how well they worked with each other. From cutting their teeth playing in bars to eventually stacking their resumes by playing for artists on tours, festivals, and records, the boys continue to create and develop their production company, “The Agenda.”
Over the last five years, “The Agenda” has produced for many names such as Leah Daniels, Beverley Mahood, Kris Barclay, Alessia Cohle, Graham Scott Fleming, Justine Chantale, Dylan Wallace and many more. They have played for various artists every year at Boots & Hearts Music Festival, are the annual house band at the Magna Hoedown Showdown, have been nominated twice for Country Music Association of Ontario Producers of the Year, and most recently played as the house band for HarmoniaFest. Here’s a little info on each of the members!
Mark Rynkun, the bassist of “The Agenda,” is from Mississauga and has been playing music professionally for well over a decade. He comes from a wide background of genres, including rock, soul, world music, jazz, and country. His hard work and dedication to his craft have led him to many exciting opportunities, like playing for Deric Ruttan, Gord Bamford, The Abrams, David James Music, Genevieve Fisher, Leah Daniels, Small Town Pistols, and more. Currently, Mark is part of an original up and coming rock band called “My My Sugar.” Mark takes the lead on the admin work for The Agenda, speaking directly with clients and booking studio time and sessions.
Originally from Whitby, Will Hebbes has made Toronto his home for the last several years. During that time, he has worked his way to the top as a well-known guitar player, working with acts like Amanda Marshall, Jim Cuddy, Steven Page, Jarvis Church, and Beverley Mahood to name a few. You can always count on Will to make you feel 100 times better. His energetic personality goes a long way with the artists he works with. He’s a bucket of fun to be around, and you can always find him in the studio or on stage making music with his three best friends.
Rich DaSilva, the drummer of “The Agenda,” is a highly respected player in the country music scene. From Cambridge, Ontario, Rich has been nominated four times for Canadian Country Music Association drummer of the year. You can often find him on the road with Jess Moskaluke, or playing with artists like The Reklaws, David James Music, Deric Ruttan, and High Valley. The energy Rich brings to the drums is electric, and he is the backbone of the band. His leadership helps to keep everyone in check, and his mixing and editing skills are a key role in The Agenda.
On top of his own musical journey, Al Rowe spends a lot of time in the studio mixing music for The Agenda. He’s a wizard on the computer and often takes the lead on running a session. Originally from Scarborough, Al’s first band, “Aberdeen” toured Canada multiple times and appeared in the movie Camp Rock 2. From there Al has toured and played for acts like Genevieve Fisher, Beverley Mahood, Amanda Marshall, Leah Daniels, and David James Music. Al is also a solo artist and is currently releasing his own original music. It’s hard to find something Al can’t do, which is why he wears many hats in The Agenda.
Together, Rich, Will, Mark, and Al form a pretty great team and are continuing to make a name for themselves in the music scene. They love what they do and feel pretty great about being able to work with their best friends in a field that they love. We've been blessed to see them several times backing artists making them shine on any stage they're on and together they are unstoppable. With some exciting new artists in the works, The Agenda is looking forward to 2021 as they continue to grow their production team and create music!
~ DAVE KIRBY ~
Our December 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' of the month is someone the 'Two Christines' have been following and watching grow for the last several years! Dave Kirby grew up in a very close knit family in Oakville Ontario, has resided in Nashville for a time and is currently back living in Toronto living with his longtime girlfriend Amanda. He's been playing guitar for as long as he can remember and decided to pursue an education in it graduating with Honors from the Bachelor Of Music in Guitar from Humber College in Etobicoke Ontario in 2012.
Since graduation he has been working as a freelance guitarist for artists of all levels. He's played everything from bars and coffee shops to arenas and large scale festivals for over a decade now. You may recognize him as he's been Madeline Merlo's lead guitarist for a number of years now and he chalks his experience playing with her as musically the best time ever in his life so far.We've seen him play with Madeline several times over the past few years and being a front man in her band always makes her show sound amazing with his guitar playing always on point!
The first time we really noticed this talented young man was about 3 1/2 years ago when we started following a country/rock indie band called Kentucky Rails. If that name sounds familiar it's because they were a finalist in the Boots & Hearts Music Festival Emerging Artist contest in 2017. The band resinated with so many fans gaining momentum very quickly. They played a few festivals in Ontario including Trackside Music Festival in London Ontario. They even had the opportunity to move to Nashville and write & work with a well known manager/producer recording several singles. Unfortunately as fate would have it things didn't end up working out but all of the guys from Kentucky Rails are still a band of brothers musically.
Dave has also had the opportunity to work with up and coming country indie artist Alli Walker and country sweetheart Kira Isabella. He was also given the fantastic opportunty to work with the talented Shawn Austin once and stated it was probably one of the best experiences he's had performing. Dave understates his musical talents. As a master in electric and accoustic guitar he is also accomplished singer. He is versed in multiple genres - jazz, pop, rock, funk, blues and country music. He even transcribes music creating charts for multiple parts.
With Covid 19 turning everything upside down in the music industry this year there has been a positive side for Dave. He started his own business/website www.davekirbymusic.com which has become his platform to exhibit and share his passion for playing the guitar with the widest audience that he can reach. For his entire career as a guitarist he's been teaching guitar lessons privately but was always really frustrated by the fact that every time he went out of town for a gig or tour he would have to sub out his teaching. So being the creative young man that he is he moved all of his teaching online offering online video courses as well as virtual one on one lessons as a way to modernize his teaching and maintain a higher level of commitment to the growth of his students. He's developed an online teaching community where students can sign up for courses that he's written so they have access to lessons whenever they want to learn. Since March, he's had nothing but time to focus on his side business and it's really taking off for him. There is of course a massive learning curve whenever anything with computers are involved, but it’s been fulfilling and challenging in an interesting way for him to develop this whole online teaching idea. Lately, he's learnt a lot about Ableton which is software designed to be an instrument for live performances as well as a tool for composing, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering. He's been able to help artists with backing tracks, as well as provide guitar tracks for various recording projects all through his own setup.
He draws his inspiration mainly from several of his musical peers with a few of them being Graham Mallany, Justin de Graaf, Ben Miller, Mark Wilson, Jason Barry & Geoff Torrn. Along with these talented musicians he really looks up to Madeline Merlo.
Whether as a part of a band, or as part of a musical event or as a musical backdrop to a corporate event, this young man gives an artful fantastic performance and brings his professional A game .... every time. It's been a privilege to watch Dave follow his dreams thus far and we're wishing you the best in your future musical endeavours!
~ JEFF BROWN ~
November's 'Featured Musician' of the month is a young man that we've been wanting to showcase for some time now. Over the last few years we've probably seen Jeff Brown play at least 2 dozen times with several different artists all over Ontario and we're always in awe of the growth he's had during this time. Originally from Beamsville, Ontario and now based out of Toronto, Jeff predominantly identifies himself as a Country-Rock-Blues player, working as a session player and side-man for various artists throughout the GTA and Canadian Country music scene.
It was clear from an early age that Jeff was meant for a career in music. He got his first guitar at 10 years old and by the age of 12 he was already performing at fairs and festivals and playing local bar gigs in the Niagara region where he grew up.
During his early years of learning the guitar, he was mesmerized by rock and blues guitar heroes such as Stevie Ray Vaughan Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads and Slash. As his musical tastes evolved in his teens, he was exposed to Scotty Moore, Brian Setzer, Vince Gill, Albert Lee and Brent Mason, influencing a big passion for country guitar.
By 16 he had begun touring professionally with Rockabilly group “The Memphis Cats” accompanying several 50’s impersonators such as Elvis, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. What an amazing experience this must have been for him at such a young age and learning the music of these legends has probably helped make him the well rounded musician that he is today.
After graduating high school, Jeff attended York University majoring in Jazz Guitar but left after two years to focus on performing and touring. He began building a reputation in the studio and on stage touring and working Indie Country Artist Mike Lynch, Canadiana Country music singer, songwriter., and tribute acts such as Steve Michaels “Elvis - Comeback to 68” and “Aloha from Hawaii”, Scarecrow “The Best of John Cougar Mellencamp” and Take It Easy “The Story of the Eagles”.
Networking in the Canadian country music scene over the next few years, Jeff has had the pleasure of working as a side-man for Mackenzie Leigh Meyer, Ryan Langdon, JoJo Mason, Kansas Stone, Marshall Dane, Kris Barclay, Jess and Tay Music, Kelsi Mayne, Suzi Kory, Alessia Cohle and Nicole Rayy. Most recently Jeff performed in the studio playing guitar, banjo and mandolin on Chris Labelle and Genevieve Fisher's duet “Rhinestones” produced by Paul Giggliotti.
Jeff has since returned to school to complete his Bachelor of Music Degree at Humber College. Over the past three years he is proud to have studied with notable Toronto guitarists Emile d'Eon, Nathan Hitz, Tony Zorzi and Lucian Gray.
During the time off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Jeff’s well-rounded country/rock roots were noticed by The Washboard Union, in their search for a new guitar player. He was invited for an audition and soon after offered a position in the band. Jeff is overly excited to join the Washboard team, and can’t wait to get out on the road and start the next chapter with the band! When we heard the news of him joining The Washboard Union we were extremely excited for him and very proud of him! We can't wait to cheer him on as he accompanies this CCMA Roots Artist Of the Year and 3 time CCMA band of the year as soon as it's safe to hit the road in 2021.
Currently Jeff is in the process of recording a multi-genre instrumental guitar album. Stay tuned for its release in 2021! We wish Jeff the best of luck in his music endeavours in the coming year and have no doubts he'll be soon be up for his own CCMA award in the next few years! Watch for great things coming down the pipe from him VERY soon!
~ CHRIS BRAY ~
When it comes to musicians we're very blessed to know this amazing young guy whose immense talent is as big as his enormous heart. Our 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' for the month of October is Chris Bray. Hailing from the suburbs of Etobicoke, Ontario, Chris is a guitarist/vocalist best known for his electric guitar playing and background vocals accompanying many acts in the Canadian country music scene. From the early age of 12, when he first picked up the guitar, his heart longed to have a career in music. Starting a band was a huge goal for him in his teens and he formed one with his friends playing mainly pop punk songs from bands like Blink 182 and Sum 41. It wasn’t until Chris heard the guitar wizardry of Randy Rhodes, Eddie Van Halen, and many other influential 80’s guitar players, that he became infatuated with becoming better at his craft. In his 20s, Chris started to discover fingerstyle, bluegrass, and country guitar playing citing Tommy Emmanuel, Brent Mason, Vince Gill & Brad Paisley as his influences to name a few. He spent countless hours learning songs and solos from guitarists in a variety of different genres. Ultimately guitar became Chris’ passion as he began to explore the many styles and techniques the instrument had to offer and this ending up forming him into the well rounded guitarist he has become today.
In the pursuit to learn more about music and production, Chris attended Humber College in Toronto where he graduated from the Bachelor of Music program. From his time at Humber he was fortunate to meet Mackenzie Leigh Meyer, and shortly after enrolling, starting a country cover band called ‘The Dukes’ that they both fronted. “After hearing MacKenzie’s amazing voice in the auditorium I knew I needed to start a band with her”. Being out of the live scene for some time playing with ‘The Dukes’ along with 2018 Boots & Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase winner Kris Barclay helped Chris hone his craft, both singing and guitar, playing many of the popular country bars across the GTA. Playing with both Mackenzie and Kris were huge influences on him becoming a better singer. If it wasn’t for MacKenzie encourging him he probably would still be super shy about singing so thank you Mackenzie because Chris has one of the best voices we've heard in the Ontario music circuit!! And Kris Barclay brought such a cool phenomenal attitude behind everything he sang that Chris tried to make sure his harmonies matched that attitude and that definitely motivated him to become even better.
Chris has since gone on to accompany many live acts over his past 7 years in the country music scene, as well as doing studio work as a guitarist/ vocalist. He accompanied 2019 Boots & Hearts Emerging Showcase winner David Boyd Janes on his entry of a Kane Brown cover 'Good As You' that got noticed by the festival that helped seal the deal for David winning the contest last August. It currently has almost 25,000 views on Youtube. With his biggest studio achievement to date being also working with David Boyd Janes alongside the legendary Nashville producer Jamie Tate on David's song “Ready for a Good Time” which was picked up by the Montana's BBQ's food chain as their theme song in a nationally aired commercial. Besides his music career, Chris also owns and operates an online/in-home music school where he teaches guitar called: “Six String Guitar Lessons” which keeps him exremely busy when he's not on the road touring.
Chris has remained very busy is the past few years building his musical resume playing with Canadian country artists David Boyd Janes, Kris Barclay and up and coming acts Dean James, Mackenzie Leigh Meyer, Dustin Bird, Evan Farrell, Suzi Kory & Jess and Tay Music. His most recent and biggest recent accomplishment is joining the band of 2020 CCMA Male Artist nominee Jade Eagleson and even though the threat of Covid 19 has hit the music industry extremely hard this year he has still been able to get in on several 'Drive In' concerts this summer in Edmonton & Toronto performing with him as his lead guitarist.
'The Two Christines' are blessed to have gotten to know Chris on a personal level over the past two years and are fortunate enough to consider him a good friend. We've always been so impressed with his musical work ethic and its always evident at any show we've see perform him at whether it be an acoustic performance in a small venue or with him shredding with his electric guitar on a big stage that he helps push the artist he's performing with to shine to the best of their ability. He always exudes such an air of confidence performing and always adds a special element of excitement to any stage he graces and with that we know this is going to help take him much further in his musical journey. We can't wait to see what's ahead for Chris and we know he'll succeed in everything that comes his way! This is JUST the beginning for him!!
C To C Canadian Country Music Insider
Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada