Joel Kaiser Digs Into Country’s Roots

joel shoot1There is a country renaissance taking place in Canada, spearheaded by the likes of Moncton’s own The Divorcees, Alberta’s Corb Lund and Montreal’s Joel Kaiser.

What all three of these acts have in common is their dedication to preserving the legacy of country music before it became so heavily influenced by pop music.

Promoting a solo EP that was released this past summer, Joel Kaiser performs at Moncton’s Plan B Lounge, located at 212 St. George Street, this coming Monday evening.

Kaiser is the first to admit that he feels as though country music has largely lost its way over the course of the past couple of decades. Many country music purists recall when Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and others ruled country radio.

“Things have definitely changed and evolved since the 1940s and 1950s, not only in respect to country music but with respect to everything,” Kaiser says. “I feel that musically, society has definitely lost their way. Country music radio used to be about acts like The Carter Family while today, you’ve got people like Taylor Swift on the radio. In some ways, I feel as though music has become nothing but a dollar sign and unfortunately, people looking for a big hit and a big cheque has cheapened country music.

“That being said, I feel that there has always been people like me in the underground playing real country music and standing up for talent and content. There is a lot of amazing real talent in country music these days including two of my favourite acts, Moncton’s Divorcees and The BackYard Devils. Anyone thinking country music has died should take the time to see these bands; you will certainly change your mind.”

Some of Kaiser’s desire to pursue his musical destiny could be attributed to the likes of Hank III, the grandson of the legendary Hank Williams Sr. Hank III is a musical nomad of sorts, as comfortable playing “classic” country songs as he is playing punk rock.

Asked if Hank III has been inspirational to his work, whether musically or otherwise, Kaiser says that going against the grain has always sat well with him.

“I have always been a rebel and have always leaned towards things that go against the grain,” he says. “I am not into pop culture and have little desire to follow rules so when I found Hank III, I was immediately drawn to him and could relate to his ‘outlaw’ views and style of music that he was playing. I grew up as a punk and heavy metal head so standing up for something that I believe in has always been important to me. Taking a step back to look at Hank III, he showed me that I can pursue my dreams and ideals without compromising my values.”

Growing up, Kaiser says that music was a constant in his household. Thanks to his older brother, he was exposed to the likes of Cypress Hill, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and more, helping give him a well-rounded appreciation of various musical genres. His exposure to country music like Randy Travis came courtesy of his mother.

This diverse musical upbringing is well suited to Kaiser’s hometown of Montreal. A vibrant, musical community that boasts the likes of indie-rock heroes Arcade Fire and has given rise to punk bands like The Doughboys, country, folk and roots music isn’t something that the city has a grand reputation for. Despite this, Kaiser says that being a country band in the city has worked out rather well for the group.

“When I started playing country music with The Devil’s Own, playing the style of music that we were was actually a blessing. There weren’t a whole lot of other bands like us in the city and as the result of that, we got to play with many different styled bands. We had a little bit of a country music influence but the songs were also a little on the rocky side which afforded us to play with heavier acts. We have played shows alongside punk rock bands, heavy metal groups, rockabilly bands; you name it. It has seemed to work rather well for us so far.”

Article published in the December 14, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript