When fires began consuming Fort McMurray, Alberta a little more than two weeks ago, Canadian country music artist and reigning Canadian Country Music Association Male Artist of the Year Gord Bamford felt a great sense of disbelief as he watched the tragic events unfold. Although he calls Nashville home now, Australian-born Bamford moved to Lacombe, Alberta as a young child.
Despite the more than 600 kilometres that separate Lacombe from Fort McMurray, Bamford lauds the city as helping given him his legs in some of the earliest days of his career.
“Having grown up in Alberta, I spent a great number of years in the province and played a lot of shows there,” Bamford relays. “To say what happened to Fort McMurray is terrible would be a gross understatement.”
In a show of solidarity with residents of the distressed city, Bamford has been enlisted to highlight one day of Porkapalooza, a three-day music festival in Edmonton that will also boast performances from Diamond Rio, Hey Romeo and others.
All proceeds from the concerts will be donated to the Fort McMurray Fire Relief Fund.
“It is an honour to have been asked to perform. I’ve been somewhat flooded with calls to perform at various benefit shows, and while I would love to accommodate them all, this one resonated with me the most.”
Bamford is no stranger to the world of philanthropy. Approximately ten years ago, what began as a charity golf tournament has evolved into the Gord Bamford Foundation, a charitable organization that has thus far raised almost $2.5 million for a variety of causes including children’s hospitals across Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe and the Make A Wish Foundation of Northern Alberta.
“I grew up in a small town and wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of a lot of people along the way. Times are tough for the Alberta economy these days, and having the opportunity to give something back means a lot to me.”
Among the causes championed by Bamford is his foundation’s affiliation with MusicCounts, a charitable organization charged with ensuring that children across all social standings in Canada have access to a music program at their school.
Since 1997, MusicCounts has donated upwards of $8 million to schools across Canada, the tally of which includes a hefty $100,000 donated by Bamford’s foundation.
“It’s such a shame that music programs always seem to be the first things cut when it comes to budgets being trimmed. Not everybody wants to play hockey or football, and to remove something as vital as music from children’s lives is a step in the wrong direction,” he says.
“School is where it all started for me; we have to be sure the mechanisms are in place to help support the next generation of country music stars.”
Indeed, it is jarring to think that without music programs in school, Canadian country music fans might not have ever heard a note from Gord Bamford. Now seven albums into his career, Bamford sought to shake things up with the release of his latest studio effort, Tin Roof, which was released this past April.
“I had essentially worked with the same producer, Byron Hill, for each of my prior studio albums and felt it was the right time to explore working with someone else. Byron is still a great friend, I simply felt that bringing in a fresh set of ears and new perspective into the studio was the way to go this time. With each prior release, I felt as though I was getting better, but I also began feeling as though I was also just going through the motions to a certain extent. I’ve never taken anything for granted, but making Tin Roof with Phil O’Donnell was the revival I needed to feel that hunger and drive again.”
In speaking with Bamford, gratitude is a recurring theme. Despite having already accumulated an enviable track record of radio hits, he says he still gets nervous with the release of each new single and new album.
“It’s always exciting to be getting new product into the hands of your fans,” he says. “It’s a little nerve-wracking too though, because you’re always wondering when your time is going to be up and when audiences might tune out. With the release of every new single and every new album, I lay it out there and just hope the diehard fans are still there. So far, they haven’t let me down, for which I am nothing but grateful.”
What: Gord Bamford with special guest Joe Nichols
When: Friday May 20, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $49.99 plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone 1-866-943-8849 and online at www.casinonb.ca.