Over the last few decades, there has been a storied history of country music that has emerged from Canada’s Prairie Provinces. If k.d. Lang, Paul Brandt and Terri Clark comprise some of the “old guard” of Canadian country music, it is Alberta’s Tim Hus and Corb Lund leading the charge for the new guard.
With six studio albums to his credit – and a seventh due later this year – Hus has been tirelessly undertaking anywhere from 150 to 200 shows per year for much of the last decade, earning fans from coast-to-coast without the benefit of commercial radio play.
He believes the somewhat natural pull he felt towards country music has much to do with the part of Canada in which he grew up.
“Finding my way to country music has very much been an organic thing,” he shares. “For myself as well as a number of other musicians from Western Canada, it was the influence of AM country radio in the Prairies that steered us in this direction. It was very much the dominant radio format, whether you wanted to listen to country music or not.”
He explains that even as his generation of Prairie musician moved into heavy metal, punk and other wildly diverse genres, many of them end up returning to country music at some point in their lives.
“I think it’s completely natural that when you’re a teenager and you move into the city, you are more likely to gravitate towards punk and heavy metal instead of country music. But then, after the show, you’d often find those same musicians playing country songs,” Hus says.
“For what it’s worth, that’s the way it is with a lot of people in the Prairies. Country music and a band like AC/DC are held in the same regard.”
Hus’s career in country music started innocuously enough: Growing up in Kootenay, B.C., Hus followed up his high school graduation by moving into the forestry industry, where he spent his summers planting trees and his winters at logging camps throughout the province.
“I had taught myself to play guitar and knew some old country songs so I’d haul the guitar out at these remote camps where we would be for a few weeks at a time. It was there that I wrote my first song, which seemed to go over well, so I felt inclined to start writing more.”
After landing a job working on a salmon boat on Canada’s West Coast, Hus spent his spare time performing in the clubs and pubs on Vancouver Island. As music began to take up more and more of his time, however, he realized that he owed it to himself to give making a career out of music the best shot he could.
“I received a lot of encouragement in those early days, but also heard from others saying I wasn’t going to be able to pursue music for a living. Someone told me that if I was seriously considering making a go of music, I should give myself five years to do it. That way, it if didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have anything in the way of regrets.”
Hus picked up his stakes, moved to Calgary, found a band and began playing everywhere and anywhere that would have him, including tractor pulls, and rodeo, as well as some of Western Canada’s smallest towns.
Singing songs that the blue-collar workers of the Prairies could identify with, Hus became a regional sensation, so much so that he began branching out his touring circles to include the remainder of Canada.
It wasn’t long before a renowned figure in Canadian music took notice of Hus’s work as well.
“I was playing at a show at a Prairie hotel when Stompin’ Tom Connors called the venue looking for me. He told me that he liked my work and invited me to go on tour with him,” Hus recalls. “Tom told me he liked the small-town themes that my songs focused on Canada.”
And though some have suggested Hus is the rightful heir to Connors’ Canadiana-themed crown, he willingly shuns such a lofty title, insisting that while he and his musical hero share an affinity for compelling storytelling, no one can fully take Connors’ place.
“I never patterned myself to be the next Stompin’ Tom or anything like that. It just so happens that the music I write resonates with Canadians from coast-to-coast,” Hus says. “That is among the biggest honours of all.”
What: Tim Hus & Travelin’ Band
When: Saturday Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Empress Theatre, Robinson Court, Downtown Moncton
Tickets are $27, plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at www.capitol.nb.ca.