Why Maren Morris Hitting Number One Matters, And Why It Shouldn’t

On Friday morning, Maren Morris excitedly announced on her social media channels that I Could Use A Love Song will become her first solo #1 hit on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart. It is a major achievement for the young country singer who has turned heads with her voice, energy, and most importantly talent since she introduced herself to country fans.

It’s a big deal for Maren Morris, it’s exciting for her fans, and it should be. Having the number one song in the country should always be seen as an achievement. However, in the case of Maren Morris, and other female country stars, this achievement and excitement comes far too infrequently and that matters too.

Almost 2 years ago exactly (Jan 19, 2016) Morris released her debut single My Church. The song launched her career, became her first top 10 single on the country airplay charts (reaching #9), and went on to win a Grammy for Solo Country Performance of the Year in 2017. Now, I understand that it takes time for new singles to chart and climb the charts to reach their highest point, including #1. But, if we use the last two years as a sample size of 104 weeks, we can see the ongoing trend, and unfortunate reality, that it really doesn’t matter how long a female country artist waits, or how good her song is, number one probably isn’t coming.

In 2016, four weeks of 52 saw solo a female artist at #1 On the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Both Carrie Underwood (Heartbeat, Church Bells) and Kelsea Ballerini (Dibs, Peter Pan) earned and celebrated those spots, as they should have. In 2017, only two weeks out of 52 saw the same result, with Lauren Alaina (Road Less Travelled) and Carly Pearce (Every Little Thing) each earning one week at #1.

In two full years of country music releases from women, six songs accounted for less than 6% of weeks spent at #1 on radio in the country. That’s not good.

If we want to start splitting hairs and getting generous to make the numbers look better we can add six more songs that were duets featuring female artists. But it should be noted that all of them were released and listed as singles by male artists featuring their female duet partners. With that increase 5.75% turns into 12.5%, and that’s still not good.

Carly PearceEvery Little Thing (Nov. 25, 2017)Kane Brown ft Lauren AlainaWhat Ifs (Oct. 28, 2017)
Lauren AlainaRoad Less Travelled (Apr. 22, 2017)Thomas Rhett ft Maren MorrisCraving You (Jul. 22, 2017)
Kelsea BalleriniPeter Pan (Sept. 24, 2016)Kenny Chesney ft PinkSetting The World On Fire (Nov. 5, 2016)
Carrie UnderwoodChurch Bells (Jul. 30, 2016)Dierks Bentley ft Elle KingDifferent For Girls (Oct. 1, 2016)
Carrie UnderwoodHeartbeat (Mar. 26, 2016)Chris Young with Cassadee PopeThink Of You (Mar. 14, 2016)
Kelsea BalleriniDibs (Mar. 5, 2016)Luke Bryan ft Karen FairchildHome Alone Tonight (Feb. 13/20, 2016)

I’m going to take one minute to try to ensure that none of this is twisted. I believe that male country artists deserve to reach #1 on the charts if they release good music and the achievement is warranted. And there are groups and duos with female members that have topped the charts as well. But, like all requests and attempts to reach equality and/or fairness, this is not about putting down one side to raise the other up. This is about recognizing, and acknowledging that all the pats on the back we’ve given ourselves as fans and industry have not remedied the issues that became widely recognized with Tomato Gate in May of 2015.

And that brings us to something else that happened on Friday. About an hour and a half before Maren Morris tweeted about going number one, Kelleigh Bannen tweeted about a meeting she had where and she was told, “the numbers still say women don’t want to listen to other women”.

To learn that an artist was told this in a business meeting about her career is sad and discouraging. And I acknowledge that as neither an artist, or more importantly, a woman I truly cannot comprehend the full weight and impact of that kind of statement.

But as a man I do feel qualified to say that a three-part response to that tweet talking about how great of an ally you’ve been to female artists in country music is misplaced at best and a “not all men” statement at worst.

I have great respect for the career, accomplishments, philanthropy, and work of Bobby Bones. However, I don’t believe that replying to Kelleigh Bannen’s frustration and displeasure with statements like “All the meetings I’m in while discussing format in macro sense, it’s the opposite.” and “Rome won’t be rebuilt in a day. But some of us started nailing together boards a long time ago” is helpful.

We get it Bobby, you’re a friend to women and support them on your show. But it doesn’t change the systematic flaws that resulted in 5.75% solo female #1 hits in 2016/17, or an even smaller 3.3% since the chart started in October 2012 (9 of 271 weeks).

The list of women who have made great country music in the last two, three, four, five years is incredible. And yet, artists including Miranda Lambert, Cam, Jennifer Nettles, Kacey Musgraves, Reba, and even Taylor Swift (before her genre-shift) haven’t reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Country Airplay charts since its debut on October 20, 2012.

Note: This post has been entirely focused on the US market, but could be replicated for Canada where the charts are eerily similar in their lack of female representation, and have seen no Canadian women reach the top in that five year period.

Country music fans, artists, and other industry members have long known about the quality and talent that Morris brings to the table. Hell, her album, Hero, reached #1 on the sales chart. But here we are, 43 weeks after I Could Use A Love Song debuted, celebrating it as her first number one single. It has earned and deserves every single one of the spins that it receives at country radio. It is a well written, well sung, and well produced track. And, it has certainly earned that #1 spot on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.

Note: In September 2016 during 5 Quick Questions interviews, Shae Dupuy and Kira Isabella both named Maren Morris as the artist they thought people should be paying more attention to. And in October 2017, three-time Canadian Country Music Association winner for Female Artist of the Year, Jess Moskaluke gave the same answer in her 5 Quick Questions segment. It is no secret that Maren Morris has been, and continues to be, one to watch.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any quick and easy solution for this situation. It seems to me that the only remedy would be the decision of country music radio program directors to play more songs by women more often.

As fans we have the opportunity to use our personal platforms, like social media, to advocate for the female country artists we love. We can request their songs be played by our local country stations, and we can continue to stream, download, and share their music.

Leave a comment here with the name of the female county star and the song you think deserves more radio spins. And if you know the contact information for your local radio station (Email, Phone, Twitter), include that too. Every little bit helps.

I would encourage you to do all of those things while we wait to see a more advanced shift in the country music radio landscape and charts.

In the end, we should celebrate every artist and song that reaches #1 on any chart. But we should be celebrating because of the achievement, not because it hit the 1 in 30 women’s #1 lottery.

Better Half: Sykamore Feature and 5 Quick Questions

2018 is just getting started, but Sykamore is already in a groove.

The 26 year old country music singer/songwriter from Carseland, Alberta has a brand new EP, Self + Medicine, her first music video (Better Half) has been released, and Jordan Oström is taking it all in as she prepares for what comes next.

We caught up with Sykamore on the phone to talk about her music and more – and we already can’t wait until we get to do it again… in person.

The first thing we talked about was the release of Self + Medicine, and what it’s felt like for the young artist. Sykamore told us that the album had a series of potential release dates that lead to the official release on January 5, 2018… and that because of the three or four times she thought it was going to come out before, she feels really good that it truly is now out to the world.

While we talked about the EP, we asked if there were any points of inspiration (from people or experiences) that shaped her writing. We learned that the songs from Self + Medicine were written over the period of a few years, with no singular point of outside inspiration connecting them. However, she did tell us that she feels they are connected, that they all share her point of view, her vantage point of the human experience and how she’s processed people and events in her life.

Two of the songs on this new EP have already lived a life to early fans of Sykamore’s music. Houseboat and Better Half have already been released as singles, nearing a combined 250,000 spins on Spotify. But now, with their inclusion in this releases, they’re getting a second life. We asked about it, and Jordan told us that she’s especially seeing that with Better Half. The EP release and the music video have combined to put the April 2017 single back in front of people, and they’ve been responding with wonderful positivity. She told us that she’s frequently seeing tweets and messages from people shouting out the track and sharing it with their social circles.

As we talked about Better Half, we talked about the music video. Sykamore still sounds almost surprised that this is her first official video, but she certainly sounds happy with the way it turned out.

She told us that she always knew she wanted to wait until everything was able to come together to make a video the right way. She didn’t want to cut corners or rush the process, and so when the small and passionate team came together to make the video for Better Half, it was done the right way. And over two days they shot, with an airplane, motorcycle, and a bad ass car to create the visual spectacle she wanted to present to the world.

We also talked about what comes next, as this project sees the light and hits the public. And for Sykamore, that means it’s time to start working on the next one. She told us that she’s chomping at the bit to get moving on what comes after this 2018 EP. That she’s ready, and that part of her will always feel like the reason you release an album is so that you can make the next album.

And when we asked what she sees when she thinks about those songs and that next album, she told us that she hopes to take a chance, to present and share something that people haven’t seen and heard from her before. As an artist, it’s clear that Sykamore wants to push herself, to see what she’s capable of and how far she can go. This isn’t about finding and staying in a comfort zone – and we’re sure we’ll see that reflected in the next new music from the Calgary-based performer.

While we had Sykamore on the line, we got her to play a round of 5 Quick Questions with us – a sequel to her first round during 2016’s Canadian Country Music Week in London, ON.

5 Quick Questions with Sykamore

Q1: First song you performed in front of an audience?

Sykamore: You Are My Sunshine
– Jordan told us that she sang the song when she was about 4 years old at a family reunion, thanks to her grandparents pride in the talent of their grandchildren.

Q2: First album you bought?

Sykamore: The Road To El Dorado soundtrack.
– As a big fan of Elton John, the album purchase made a ton of sense to her.

Q3: Dream duet partner?

Sykamore: Lady Gaga and Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine)
– After their collaboration on Hey Girl from Gaga’s latest album, Joanne, Sykamore has both of these talented women on her list.

Q4: Favourite place on earth to be?

Sykamore: The family farm at home in Alberta.
– She was worried about this seeming like a lame answer, but with some very understandable perspective she explained that the more she’s away the more she appreciates going home to the familiar and calm and happy place.

Q5: Artist you think people should be listening to?

Sykamore: Leaving Thomas.
– Sykamore singled out the Calgary duo for their sound as well as their social media presence. And we wholeheartedly agree with her recommendation that you check out the LT Show on YouTube, featuring Sue-Z. AND we think you should be ready for their self-titled debut EP coming January 26, 2018.

Related: 5 Quick Questions with Sykamore at Canadian Country Music Week 2016

Self + Medicine isn’t the only big thing that’s happened recently for Sykamore…

In mid-November 2017, Jordan announced that she’d been signed to Home Team Publishing, joining Rhett Akins, Thomas Rhett, and other hit makers to hone her skills and keep pushing herself as a writer.

We talked about how it all came to be, and the “followed a tweet to Nashville” story, asking for a little longer tale than that, and Sykamore helped fill it out for us. She told us that she had followed Rhett Akins on Twitter, and he followed her back, which sounds simple enough, and cool when you think about her as an emerging artist and him as a successful writer and singer. After that Rhett listened to some of Jordan’s music that she had tweeted out and had online, he sent her a DM (she told us that she thought she might be getting catfished at first) and invited her down to Nashville to meet and talk music.

After she was convinced that it was for real, she made the trip, went to Akin’s house, saw all of the dead animals on the wall, and they started talking about songwriting. He told her he wanted to help her grow as a songwriter (talent recognizes talent) and after more time and more conversations, Sykamore was signed to Home Team Publishing.

Sykamore told us that it’s been really cool to work with Home Team. That it’s been amazing to go to Nashville and be surrounded and supported by these prolific and talented and successful writers. She told us that it’s humbling to be in the room and watch what they do, to see how they accomplish things. And, that she’s learning and doing her best to act like a sponge, soaking in all of the knowledge that these colleagues and mentors have to share about the craft.

To finish up our call and conversation we asked more about what comes next in the form of shows, writing, plans, goals and more.

We learned that plans are being made for the next single release from Self + Medicine (but we aren’t allowed to know what it is yet), and that Sykamore hopes to be on a bunch of stages this summer to play her new songs for country music fans. We also learned that when it comes to goals, she has two sets.

The artistic goals, the ones that Jordan wants to keep in mind every time she’s working on music, include being vulnerable, taking chances, and pushing herself to see what new things she can write about and connect with listeners on.

The career goals include some big ones (we love ‘em) that include playing at The Opry and the Ryman Auditorium, as well as headlining her own tour(s) as her career progresses.

The last thing we asked Sykamore was if she had any final thoughts she wanted to leave with readers and listeners, and she told us that most of all she hopes that people listen to the new music and like it – that they find a connection point and can feel the music.

We like that. That’s what music is about. So hit play and listen to Self + Medicine now and find your connection.

Stay up to date with Sykamore online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for all of the important updates to come…

Self + Medicine: Sykamore, Album Review

2018 is starting with excitement and new music for Sykamore, as the 26 year old Carseland, Alberta native releases her new album, Self + Medicine.

The six song EP is a combination of unreleased tracks and previous singles, and showcases the voice that will endear her to fans, and the songwriting chops that earned her a publishing deal with Home Team, the publishing house run by Virginia Davis, Rhett Akins, and Thomas Rhett.

Throughout the EP we hear songs of love and heartbreak – solid material for country music. It’s uplifting and lovely, it’s sad and sweet, it’s youthful and emotional, and it’s a set of six songs that offer an opportunity for connection with listeners who are willing to close their eyes, listen, and be taken on a trip through their own stories.

Self + Medicine also does a great job or varying tempos, mixing up the beats, and giving listeners something new to key in on (past her voice) in each song.

From the opening notes of We Were Alright (the longest song on the EP) to start the show, to the playful shout of “Take that all you Hillbillies!” at the very end of Dance Card, Sykamore makes the most of her 21 minutes of album. And while we wish there were about four more songs here to prolong our listening experience, this is a strong start for the Calgary-based artist.

Note: The nod to 90’s classic, Don’t Rock The Jukebox, in Dance Card, is one of my favourite little moments on the EP. And if you love Alan Jackson, you’ll likely love it too.

The first time we saw Sykamore live was in late 2015 when she hit the stage in Toronto at The Phoenix for a one song showcase performance. That night we heard the young Calgary-based singer/songwriter perform Houseboat, which was released as a single in April of 2016 and appears as track number five on Self + Medicine. We’re glad the track made the record so that folks who may not have heard it before get a chance to now.

The current single, Better Half, was released in April 2017, and has received new life with the release of an official music video (her first) on December 29. The song is a good time, sweet and easy to get into, and paints the picture of the kind of supporting relationship that we’re all hoping to be lucky enough to have when good turns to bad.

These six songs are a great introduction to country music fans that don’t know Sykamore, and they’re a fantastic reward for fans that have been with her over the last few years.

Listen to Self + Medicine today and leave a comment telling us which track is your favourite!

Sykamore, Self + Medicine Tracklist

1. We Were Alright
2. Playing The Fool
3. Hayloft
4. Better Half
5. Houseboat
6. Dance Card

New Music Spotlight: Sir Rosevelt, Sykamore, Marianas Trench, Tucker Beathard, and EXES

The new year is here, and while we hope 2018 brings a lot of new experiences, opportunities, and music – one thing remains the same… we are here to share new music that we dig.

So, here are five songs that we think deserve your attention and spins. We’ve got a mix of pop/rock/country on the list, we’ve got Canadian talent as well as American, and we’ve even got a unofficially released track to share with you all.

Ready? Let’s Do This!

The Music

Artist: Sir Rosevelt
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Genre: Pop
Related Artists: Zac Brown Band, Sam Hunt, The Cadillac Three
Single: Hurricane
Notes: Zac Brown’s side project is a lot of fun, and while it’s different than what country fans of Zac Brown Band are used to, it’s worth a listen for adventurous ears. Hit play and enjoy the Sam Hunt-esque vibes, the choral support, and the new music.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Sykamore
Hometown: Carseland, AB
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Jess Moskaluke, Madeline Merlo, Andrew Hyatt
Single: Better Half
Notes: With a brand new EP coming on January 5, Sykamore ended 2017 with her first official music video. We’ve known the song, Better Half, for a while, but now that it’s got a video, the album, and some wider exposure, we’re sure that more people will be picking up on the Alberta country singer/songwriter. Enjoy.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Marianas Trench
Hometown: Vancouver, BC
Genre: Pop/Rock
Related Artists: Hedley, The Summer Set, Every Avenue
Single: Rhythm Of Your Heart
Notes: Marianas Trench knows what they’re good at, and Rhythm Of Your Heart is another example of that expertise. The pop jam from the Vancouver group comes with a video game themed lyric video that is as much fun to watch as the song is to listen to – and sets our expectations high for the official video to come.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Tucker Beathard
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Chase Bryant, Drew Baldridge, Eric Church
Single: chasing you with whiskey
Notes: chasing you with whiskey hasn’t been released to iTunes or Spotify, and the video wasn’t posted to his official Vevo channel – but Tucker did share the link through his social channels, and it is him singing the song. Here’s what we do know: we like this track, we like the way Tucker sounds, and if this is a glimpse of what’s coming next from Tucker Beathard, we like that too.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: EXES
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Genre: Pop
Related Artists: Ella Vos, Luna Shadows, Glades
Single: Taxi
Notes: This indie electro-dream-pop track came to us from Spotify, and we’re glad it did. Exes share a beat laden pop tune that pairs Allie McDonald’s voice with a backing track that allows for a smooth groove. They say they write songs about their exes, and if that’s the case, Taxi certainly fits the bill.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Cavendish Beach Music Festival 2017

The folks at Cavendish Beach Music Festival have been busy today. We’re here to give you all the #CBMF2017 news and there’s lots of it. Where to start?

Let’s start with the newly announced Tailgate Party on Thursday, July 6th. This free event allows you to check out the venue, pick up your wristbands and enjoy some awesome music. Our good friends Johnson Crook are part of the tailgate party along with John King, DJ Bad Ash and Mountain Faith Band.  You can expect some great music from all of these acts and a tailgate party is just the thing to get you ready for the weekend.

Also announced today is the official Cavendish Farms Kitchen Stage Lineup. Heading up the Kitchen Stage is CMA Award-winner and multi-platinum selling artist Billy Ray Cyrus. Supporting acts include Amanda RileyDJ Bad Ash, Eloie Richard, EmiSunshine, Endless Summer, Jason Price, JJ Shiplett, Rawlins Cross, Rik Reese, Sykamore, The Good Brothers, The Lovelocks, The Mountain Faith Band, The Stanfields, TJ King  and Tony Jackson.

We don’t have the daily schedule yet, but we’ve broken down the artists by day for you.

Friday, July 7th

Little Big Town

High Valley
Gord Bamford
Brandy Clark
The Good Brothers
Port Cities
Endless Summer
Mountain Faith Band
Rawlins Cross

Saturday, July 8th

Kip Moore
Kane Brown
Chad Brownlee
Canaan Smith
Madeline Merlo
Andrew Hyatt
Makayla Lynn

Sunday, July 9th

Zac Brown Band
Brothers Osborne
Tim Hicks
Aaron Goodvin
Jessica Mitchell
Lucas Hoge

For your full weekend lineup check out the Cavendish Lineup Page.

What else do you need to know? How about ticket info. Tier One tickets are on sale right now for $169.00. There are VIP options, Sunroof Options and Hayloft Reserved seating options. Check out all the ticket info here.

Additionally, there are some pretty amazing food vendors for you this year including the return of Mr. Donair.  And last but not least… Cavendish Beach Music Festival is running a Mother’s Day Contest. Check out their Facebook Page for all the details.

Coming Soon: JUNOFEST 2017 – Ottawa, ON

The JUNOS are coming! The JUNOS are coming! But, before we get to the JUNOS, we’ve got JUNO Week and JUNO Fest.

JUNO Week starts March 30th with the JUNO Cup Jam.2017 JUNO Cup Jam poster Featuring performances at The Bourbon Room with Adrian Sutherland (Midnight Shine), Amanda Rheaume, Barney Bentall (High Bar Gang), Cosmo Ferraro (Ferraro), Darryl James (The Strumbellas), Devin Cuddy Band, Doug Oliver (Cold Creek County), Gord Bamford, Jay Bodner (Eagle & Hawk), Jim Bowskill (Blue Rodeo/Sheepdogs), Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), JJ Shiplett, Jon Gallant (Billy Talent), Jonathan Roy, Matt Sobb (MonkeyJunk), Matthew Barber, Menno Versteeg (Hollerado), Peter Kesper (NQ Arbuckle), Steve Marriner (MonkeyJunk), Beard Guy (Walk Off the Earth), Tim D’eon (Wintersleep) and Vince Fontaine (Eagle & Hawk/Indian City). I’m overwhelmed at the talent in that list and you’ll be overwhelmed by their performances. Tickets are just $25 and they’re on sale now.

One of my favourite highlights of the week happens next. On March 31st, the JUNO Cup pits NHL Legends against Canadian musical greats. This game is always a hoot and the lineup this year is stacked! Watch as Brad Dalgarno (New York Islanders), Brendan Bell (Ottawa Senators), Chris Phillips (Ottawa Senators), Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators), Gary Roberts (Toronto Maple Leafs), Jim Kyte (Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators), Luke Richardson (Ottawa Senators), Mark Napier (Montréal Canadiens,Juno Cup Edmonton Oilers), Paul Coffey (Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins) and Troy Crowder (New Jersey Devils) coached by Grey Cup Champion Henry Burris from the Ottawa Redblacks vs. Aaron Pritchett, Adrian Sutherland (Midnight Shine), Amanda Rheaume, Barney Bentall, Beard Guy (Walk Off The Earth), Chad Brownlee, Cosmo Ferraro (Ferraro), Dallas Smith, Darryl James (The Strumbellas), Devin Cuddy , Doug Oliver (Cold Creek County), Gord Bamford, Jay Bodner (Eagle & Hawk), Jim Bowskill (Blue Rodeo/The Sheepdogs), Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), Jon Gallant (Billy Talent), Jonathan Roy, Kathleen Edwards, Matthew Barber, Matt Sobb (MonkeyJunk), Sam Roberts, Steve Marriner (MonkeyJunk) and Vince Fontaine (Eagle & Hawk) with Legendary Ottawa 67’s bench boss, Brian “Killer” Kilrea coaching The Rockers.

Watch for more names to be added to these lists! And yes, tickets are $20 and on sale now, you can get one here!

Friday, March 31
and Saturday, April 1 we get JUNOfest, over two nights, the music2017 JUNOfestfestival features more than 100 artists playing on stages in more than 15 venues across Ottawa and it’s an integral part of the 2017 JUNO Week. You can see Kelly Prescott, Caveboy, Repartee, The Dirty Nil, Dilly Dally, Bleecker, The Julian Taylor Band, Sykamore, The Abrams, Cold Creek County, Common Deer, The Strumbellas, Stuck on Planet Earth, The Honest Heart Collective, Colin Linden, The Balconies and so many more acts!

Wristbands are only $30, they’ll get you into all of the venues and you can get them here. You can check out the schedule and plan your weekend by following this link. 

On April 2nd we get to the big show, the JUNOS. This year’s lineup features more than 35 JUNO nominees, including Shawn Mendes, Arkells, The Strumbellas, The Weeknd, Monster Truck, Alessia Cara, The Tragically Hip, Chad Brownlee, Coleman Hell, Marians Trench, The Dirty Nil, Whitehorse, Tasha The Amazon, Holy Fuck, Cold Creek County, and more! For the full list of nominees check out the official JUNOS page.

There are so many of our favourites are in the lists above and we can hardly wait!

5 Quick Questions with Sykamore!

While we were in London, ON for Canadian Country Music Week we had the chance to catch up with Carseland/Calgary, Alberta’s Sykamore to learn a little more about her with 5 quick questions.

Sykamore also volunteered to answer a bonus question – which we love – so check that out, find her single, Houseboat, on Spotify, and stay tuned for more from this emerging Canadian country star.

Q1: If you’re headed out on a long drive and you can only listen to 1 album on repeat, which album are you choosing?

Sykamore: Maren Morris, Hero

100% yes. People know who Maren Morris is because everyone has heard My Church and 80’s Mercedes… but people, you really need to listen to the rest of this album.

Q2: Think back for us, what is the 1st song you remember knowing all of the words to?

Sykamore: Achy Breaky Heart, by Billy Ray Cyrus.

Are we surprised? No. Are we proud of Sykamore for admitting it? Yes. This song took the world by storm… and I still know all the words to it too.


Q3: When you aren’t working on music, what is your favourite thing to do?

Sykamore: Find great food.

Whether she’s making her own or finding new restaurants, Sykamore told us that food is a major driving force for her. Particularly good Mexican food, which she can’t seem to get enough of.

Q4: What is the most important thing for you to have when you walk into a songwriting session?

Sykamore: A notebook.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again… notebooks are the best. And it seems that we’re not the only ones that feel that way!

Q5: Can you give us a prediction for the 2016-17 NHL season?

Sykamore: The Calgary Flames will make the playoffs.

We asked this question in September before the season started… and as of now the Flames are on the outside looking in with a lot of hockey left to be played. Let’s see how this goes.

Bonus: What artist do you think people should be paying more attention to than they might be right now?

Sykamore: MacKenzie Porter

We really like this answer. We’ve been in on MacKenzie since we first saw her at Boots & Hearts in 2013 (and did our 1st Q&A with her). And now there’s new music coming that we keep hearing is amazing… and we can’t wait!


1 year ago

5 Quick Questions with Jojo Mason!

Back in September we had a chance to sit down with emerging country star Jojo Mason for a little hangout during Canadian Country Music Week in London, ON. And since we had him sitting still (mostly) for a few minutes, we decided to rope Jojo into playing along for a little 5 quick questions action.

Jojo is one of the coolest and most genuine dudes you’ll ever meet. His smile and laugh are contagious, and there is nobody more thankful for what’s happening in his life. Pure energy. That’s what this guy brings.

So, when you get the chance to see him on stage, take it. And now, enjoy 5 quick questions (and some photos from our hangs and his live show) with Jojo Mason…

Q1: What is the 1 album you can put on repeat on a long drive and not need to swap it out?

Jojo: Dallas Smith, Side Effects

It’s a new record, but it’s really good, so we’re not surprised to hear Jojo give this answer. In fact, we’d love to sit with him and sing along to One Little Kiss.


Q2: What is the first song you can remember knowing all of the words to so you could sing along?

Jojo: I Wish, by R. Kelly.

This is pretty freaking impressive. Any youngster that can both follow along and learn the words to something that bounces back and forth as much as I Wish is on the right track to becoming a singer.

Q3: When you aren’t working on music, what is your favourite thing to do?

Jojo: Playing pickup hockey.

Like the good Canadian boy that he is, Jojo likes to strap on the skates and play. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

Q4: When you’re going into a songwriting session, what is the #1 thing you need to have?

Jojo: Comfy clothes.

Jojo made a pretty strong case for needing comfy clothes when he’s getting ready to write. It makes sense that you can’t concentrate and let the creativity flow if your jeans are too tight!


Q5: What artists do you think we should be paying more attention to than we are right now?

Jojo: Sykamore and Lanie McAuley

Jojo even gave us tracks to listen to… He’s Mine from Sykamore and Pour Me One More from McAuley. Give them a listen, he’s not wrong.


1 year ago

Bright Lights, Big Country: Jess Moskaluke, Madeline Merlo, The Lovelocks & Friends in Toronto

On a Thursday night, at the start of the Holiday Season, country music fans from across the GTA packed The Phoenix Concert Theatre for a busy night of music from new artists, radio favourites, and free pizza.

The Bright Lights, Big Country show (hosted by KX96, KX94.7 & Pizza Nova) brought 7 artists to the stage, including 2015 CCMA Rising Star, Madeline Merlo and 2014 & 2015 CCMA Female Artist of the Year, Jess Moskaluke – and from 8 to 11:30 the place was in a constant state of happy as fans sang and clapped and danced along to the songs coming from the speakers.

Note: We sat down with Madeline Merlo pre-show to talk about 2015 highlights, plans for 2016, Christmas, whiskey, and more. Check it out HERE!

Eric Ethridge Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixThe Bright Lights, Big Country show did a great job of keeping the action hot on stage by bringing up 3 emerging artists for showcase opportunities. Eric Ethridge, Dani Strong, and Sykamore all hopped up to sing one song each for the crowd, and none of them disappointed.

Keep any eye on Eric Ethridge in 2016, this dude has got the sound and energy and look to end up on more stages and more venues, and in front of more people as he continues to make a name for himself. And here’s a little shoutout to Travis Wood and Gavin Slate for writing the song that Eric sang on Thursday night, Lips Don’t Lie. Keep an ear out for that one.

The night of country was kicked actually kicked off with a little acoustic fun from another rising star, Jesse Labelle.

Labelle came out to greet the crowd, guitar in hand, and did a great job of warming up the crowd. Why Wouldn’t We and Heartbreak Coverup for feet moving and smiles on faces… and then the big pop came when Jesse invited an old friend up on stage to turn up the heat.

Mike Robins (one half of Autumn Hill, who had a HUGE 2015) added his voice and guitar and screaming fans to the mix, and together with Labelle, belted out Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ and Keith Urban’s Somebody Like You. It was a treat for the fans, and it certainly looked like the boys enjoyed it too.

After Mike left, Jesse finished things off with Some Kind Of Good. A pretty apt description of his set.

Also with a full band set, playing a hometown show, and doing a great job of it, were The Lovelocks.

Ali and Zoe have been hard at work making new music, playing shows all over the place, and sending out Christmas cards to supporters over the last little while, so it was extra nice to get a hello and hug backstage before the show… but the real treat, as always, came when they took the stage.

With a nice selection of songs we’ve heard the girls sing before, including I Do Not, Dance, and Born To Love PLUS a cover of Joni Mitchell’s River, we got songs we could sing along to and a little taste of Christmas.

We can’t wait for the new music coming from The Lovelocks in 2016, and for more live shows to enjoy.

Madeline Merlot Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixNext in the feature spotlight was 2015 CCMA Rising Star, and overall sweetheart, Madeline Merlo.

Madeline took the stage with her band and got a nice pop from the country fans in attendance, which must have made an impact because it didn’t take long for her to look out and say, “Wow, there’s a lot of people here!”.

Madeline mixed her songs with a little cover action to put on a fun little set at The Phoenix. Originals including I’m Alive, Sinking Like A Stone, and Honey Jack, paired well with a taste of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind and a funky mash-up of Miley’s We Can’t Stop and Sam Hunt’s House Party.

There are bigger stages coming for Madeline, and a new record in spring 2016 is going to give her more fuel for the fire, and the crowd more to sing along to.

Jess Moskaluke Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixLast, but 100% certainly not least, was the Bright Lights, Big Country headliner, back-to-back CCMA Female Artist of the Year, Gold Certified, sweetheart of a person, Jess Moskaluke!

It was easy to see that this was what the crowd had been waiting for when the noise level and energy in the room found new heights as Jess grabbed her microphone. And she didn’t waste any time getting in gear and rewarding them for waiting for her turn.

We’ve seen Jess a few times, on stage and off, over the last couple years, and we can tell you that she is getting better and better and better each and every time. The power in her voice rings through the speakers and right to your music loving ears, her energy reflects that of the crowd, giving it back and not just taking what she’s being given, and she looks happy to be doing what she’s doing.

Jess Moskaluke Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixThursday night was Jess Moskaluke’s first headlining show in Toronto, and much of the MDM Recordings family was there to see it. It was a celebration of success and love for a woman who is leading the way for a new generation of female singers in Canadian country. It’s pretty safe to say that they’re all pretty proud of her – and it won’t be the last time she anchors a concert in the GTA.

Before we get to the set list we have to tell you the little secret Jess told us all… the new single, coming in the not too distant future, will be Elevator, which is an awesome choice from the Kiss Me Quiet EP. AND to close out the show, during the encore of Cheap Wine & Cigarettes, Ms. Moskaluke got an assist from labelmate and crowd favourite, Chad Brownlee. It was a great way to end a great night of country music in Toronto.

Jess Moskaule Bright Lights, Big Country Set List

♫ Night We Won’t Forget
♫ Used
♫ Kiss Me Quiet
♫ Good For You
♫ Good Lovin’
♫ Light Up The Night
♫ If You’re Not In it For Love
♫ When He’s Drunk
♫ Strong As It’s Ever Been
♫ Leave The Night On
♫ Lightning Bolt
♫ Take Me Home
♫ Elevator
♫ Alone
♫ Cheap Wine & Cigarettes

More Photos from Bright Lights, Big Country

Dani Strong

Dani Strong Biright Lights Big City Toronto The Phoenix

Eric Ethridge

Eric Ethridge Bright Lights Big City Toronto The Phoenix

Madeline Merlo

Madeline Merlot Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixMadeline Merlot Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixMadeline Merlot Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixMadeline Merlot Bright Lights Big City Toronto The Phoenix

Jess Moskaluke

Jess Moskaluke Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixJess Moskaluke Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixJess Moskaluke Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixJess Moskaluke Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixJess Moskaluke Bright Lights Big City Toronto The PhoenixJess Moskaluke Bright Lights Big City Toronto The Phoenix

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