It’s hard to imagine things going more right for the James Barker Band than they did last year.
The Toronto quartet landed onto the Canadian country scene with a summer, swimming hole splash, thanks to their debut EP, appropriately titled Game On. It yielded several CCMA nominations and handful of singles that climbed the charts, including Lawn Chair Lazy, Just Sayin’ and their No. 1 hit Chills.
Perhaps the only bump in the road?
Well, actually, it was the last time they rolled into Calgary for their Country Thunder set last August.
“Our bus broke down when we were in Calgary last time,” says James Barker with a laugh.
“It was actually on the way to the show and it was right beside the venue. We pulled up and we blew an air line — our brakes locked up and everything — but we were so close, we were able to push our gear from the bus into the venue and still make the show, while we called a mobile mechanic, and he was able to come out and fix the problem.”
Hopefully the same won’t befall them when they hit town Friday, Feb. 2 for what should be a hot-on-the-inside mid-winter show at Cowboys Dance Hall.
Barker seconds that.
“It’s a little too cold to be doing that now,” he says with another laugh.
Prior to the band’s Cowboys show, Barker spoke with theYYSCENE.
Here are excerpts from that interview.
Q: Congratulations on 2017 and I can’t imagine 2018’s going to be any different for you, except maybe bigger and better.
A: Yeah, 2017 it was a crazy year. I feel like we were all over the map, you know, we were across Canada a number of times and down to pretty much everywhere in the United States as well, so hopefully 2018 is more of the same.
Q: For the first time out to have people react to it in that way, that’s got to show you you’re on the right path.
A: I don’t know what we’re doing right, but we’re doing something right, I guess.
Q: You’re still working this EP, obviously, but you do have a new one on the way don’t you?
A: Yeah, I mean we don’t have any hard dates or anything like that, but we’re going to have a whole new collection of music here, I would imagine some time in 2018 — in fact it would be good to get ’er out right now. It’s pretty exciting times.
Q: What kind of success have you been having down in the States?
A: We released our first single Chills back in October and I think it’s just about to break the Top 50 down there — I mean songs move a lot slower than they do up here in Canada. But we’ve had it picked up by — gee, I don’t even know, 40-something stations down there so far. And we just booked our first handful of shows (for the year) down there, we’ve got a couple of dates coming up in February at the House of Blues — which is going to be pretty crazy, in Anaheim there — and just started to book up our summer festival season down there. So things are just starting to take off down there.
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Q: Is the U.S. where most of your attention’s going to go after this current tour?
A: I don’t know about most of it, we’ve got a full summer and fall booked up with festivals all over Canada as well. I think being Canadians we want to make sure that you really stay true to your roots and you give your Canadian fans everything you can and then try to do the American thing as well. When we got into this it’s always been the idea that if we can get to as many people as possible — it doesn’t matter if they’re Canadian, American or from overseas — we just want to be able to enjoy this ride with as many people as we can from all over the world.
Q: The tour you’re doing now, this is the most extensive one you’ve done right?
A: Yeah, absolutely and it’s our first headlining tour, which is a whole different ballgame, a lot more responsibilities when you’re the name on the marquee.
Q: How much new material are you inserting into the set?
A: We’ve got a pretty good combination of new stuff that we’re trying to add in — because this is a headlining tour, you have the creative license to do that and take a few minutes to show people some new songs that are in there along with the songs from the first release.
Q: I’m guessing there are a few well chosen covers inserted in as well. I did see reference that growing up you listened to a steady diet of country music — one name that stuck out to me was Corb Lund, a good Alberta boy. Are you a big fan of what he does?
A: Oh, I love Corb’s stuff. I have every one of Corb’s albums and I’ve had the opportunity to see him live a couple of times … so I try to fit in Corb anywhere I can. His songwriting style is so unique and so cool.
Q: So you do a Corb cover?
A: There’s a little acoustic section in the middle of the show … I’ve done Corb a couple of times in that, so there’s a pretty good chance when I’m out there in his home turf I’m going to be doing that.
James Barker Band perform Friday, Feb. 2 at Cowboys Dance Hall. For tickets and more information please click here.