The Rural Alberta Advantage content leaving their mark on our hearts with latest album The Wild

Nils Edenloff is fine if you want to consider it a Grey Cup after party to celebrate a Stampeders win.

Actually, to be honest the AB-raised frontman for T.O.’s The Rural Alberta Advantage wasn’t even aware that his band’s Calgary show Sunday, Nov. 26 at The Palace landed on the same night as the Canuck pigskin klassic let alone the two teams that were involved.

The trio is now in what Edenloff calls the “homestretch” of an extensive, month-and-a-half long North American tour with most sunny hours spent driving, most evenings on stage, and him not really clear on what day it is let alone the actual date or significant sporting event that might be on the horizon.

The run of shows are in support of The RAA’s fourth album The Wild, another gritty, vast, joyous open-skied offering that cements them as this nation’s Big Country — there’s a hugeness in the swelling, relentless sound that buoys the songs beautifully into the territory of casually, unassumingly anthemic.

Edenloff admits that the reception they’ve been getting while weaving their way from St. John’s to New York to Memphis, Seattle and back up to the prairies has been a heartening one, has kept them going.

“It’s one of those things,” he says, “we’re four records in at this point and people really hold some of our early stuff really dear to them. So the fact that we’ve made a fourth record that hasn’t put people off now and it’s still sort of growing, it’s nice.”

The run of dates has also been a good trial by fire for new member Robin Hatch, who replaces outgoing member Amy Cole, their keyboardist and bassist who departed amicably before The Wild’s recording.

Edenloff says the transition has been a fairly seamless one, with Hatch someone they call a “friend” and whom they’ve known since he and drummer Paul Banwatt first started making music in Toronto. She is, he says, a “perfect fit” in The RAA, someone who helped their fourth album become the wonder that it is.

“She definitely left a mark on it,” he says, explaining that her playing and ear also made him and Banwatt step their game up.

Another factor that left its mark on the record — most notably on the opening cut Beacon Hill — was an event that took place almost 3,800 kms from the Big Smoke, which was, ironically, the big fire in Fort McMurray. Edenloff spent most of his teen years in the Northern Alberta city, from Grade 8 until just before he headed off to university.

The blaze happened a year ago this past May, when the band was collectively “dipping our toe into the writing process for this fourth record,” beginning work on that first song.

“And kind of out of nowhere the fire happened,” he says, explaining that his mom and stepdad were actually visiting him in Toronto the weekend before and were en route home to Fort Mac when the evacuations began.

“It’s not like I ever really sit down and I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m going to write something about this.’ It’s sort of like a cloud … I feel like as we were honing in on the song and I was focussing on the lyrical ideas, it just seemed like I was always coming back to the idea of the fires.

“Obviously it was going to have an impact on me — it’s not the city where I was born, but it’s the place where I spent those formative years where you become a human being … it’s ingrained in me to a certain degree.”

And while that song is the most definitive proof of the impact the disaster had on him, there’s also a slight darkness of mood that hangs over the proceedings that could be seen as reflective of the haze that shrouded the region for a long period of time that summer.

Edenloff actually chalks that up to where he is in his life and career, questioning, or rather taking stock of the path he’s followed the past decade with The Rural Alberta Advantage.

“On my mind was a lot of, ‘We’re getting older,’ we’re thinking of the ways that we’re touching people with those sorts of things,” he says, noting that a number of their friends and siblings are having kids while they’ve chosen the eternal life on the road.

“We’re in a young man’s game, playing shows and stuff. So I think there’s a lot of thinking about the mark that you’re leaving on people and how you’re affecting things.”

It’s a theme that runs through the record. And it actually echoes a line in and sentiment of The Wild highlight White Lights, which features Edenloff singing, “Never knew the mark I put on you,” and which underscores the fact that he says he has “no regrets” over the at-times hard life that he chose so long ago, counting himself among the lucky to have the opportunity to reach people in such a significant manner.

He recalls a show in Red Deer where an RAA fan came up to him afterwards and told him how he’d been clean and sober for a few years, and credited the songs and the emotional impact they had on him and his life.

“It really hammered home the fact that there’s all these stories across the board and you’re touching people in these ways that you can’t even fathom,” he says.

“I can’t imagine stopping right now because I love the fact that I’m giving something of my emotional being and it’s leaving thumbprints on somebody’s heart.”

The Rural Alberta Advantage perform Sunday night at The Palace Theatre with opening act Yukon Blonde. For tickets please click here