*This article originally appeared on HelloVancity
On an August afternoon with temperatures creeping into the mid-thirties, my only reprieve from the heat was the golf-cart ride that escorted me from the Boots & Hearts media tent to my interview with Canadian singer-songwriter, Tebey.
Cruising along a dirt path, I watched as people milled about their campsites, opening trailers and RVs that would be considered “home” for the next four days of what’s considered Canada’s largest country music festival. I was dropped off at a wooded inlet decorated with string lights, benches and Muskoka chairs, a stark contrast to the dusty open fields of the festival grounds. Clad in a ball cap and a casual black t-shirt and jeans, Tebey welcomed me to the informal cottage-like set up where we talked about his latest EP, Old School.
The title track, “Old School”, is a far cry from a traditional country song, void of any mention of corn fields, pick-up trucks or broken hearts. Instead, Tebey delivers a nostalgic anthem, heavily influenced by the music of his youth, likening the sound to Sugar Ray in the late nineties. In an age where kids are out hunting for Pokémon and sending Snapchats, Tebey sings of a simpler time when the drink of choice was Snapple, weekly episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were recorded on VHS, and your Reebok sneaker game was your status symbol in the neighbourhood.
When asked whether the current trend of new-country inspired the song’s release, Tebey insists the desire for connection trumped any trend. “I think people will relate to that song. Not everyone will connect to every song, but with (Old School) in particular, it talks about things that we all had growing up: 90210, listening to Nirvana, Reebok pumps and Walkmans…I think people are going to hear it on the radio and connect.”
Tebey, who currently divides his time between Nashville and his wife’s hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario, has written for the who’s who of the music world; One Direction, Fifth Harmony, Cher and Big & Rich (just to name a few). The married father or two says that when it comes to song writing, his work doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s going on in his personal life. “I’ve never really been an autobiographical song-writer. I love creating characters and that’s how I operate writing songs. I do write autobiographically at times, ‘Old School’ is all about things I’ve grown up with, but the challenge for me as a songwriter is how to say, ‘I love you,’ In a way that hasn’t been done before.”
Tebey gives credit to songwriters Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose, the trio behind Little Big Town’s smash hit, “Girl Crush,” for finding new ways to write about relationships, despite causing some controversy in the process. “It’s an example of brilliant song-writing, in my humble opinion. I’ve never heard that approach before. It did (create controversy), but in ‘Old School’ there’s a line about smoking marijuana in the chorus. That’s pretty controversial, too.”
The reference to herbal refreshment may raise a few eyebrows, but with his latest EP, Tebey remains committed to blending genres and bucking tradition in favour of music he can believe in. There’s an easy confidence about him, in the almost fifteen years since the release of his first single, “We Shook Hands,” Tebey has toured extensively, releasing two full length albums and several singles. While Tebey looks forward to his upcoming headline tour sponsored by Coors Banquet, his real priority is his family. While concert-goers looked forward to partying into the early hours of the morning, Tebey made Boots & Hearts a family affair by packing up the tour bus and making the long drive from Nashville to Oro-Medonte as a family unit.
After saying our goodbyes, I headed to the Front Porch stage to check out Tebey’s set, which doubled as a shoot for the “Old School” music video. That likeable confidence translated to his performance, with Tebey delivering a strong vocals that included a country cover of Avicii’s, “Wake Me Up,” that had the crowd singing at the top of their lungs as beach balls bounced throughout the crowd. From where I was standing, I could see Tebey’s daughter dancing in the front row, while friends and family snapped photos of the crowd that multiplied before their eyes. At the end of his successful debut on the Boots & Hearts stage, a humbled Tebey thanked the crowd who roared with applause. After signing autographs and posing for photos with fans, Tebey performed an acoustic set the next day and was spotted several times, dividing his time between the backstage area and taking in performances by other artists. With his creative wheels constantly turning, one can be sure that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with Tebey. As an artist who is constantly growing and honing his craft, his future looks as bright as the sun on a Boots & Hearts weekend.
For more information and details on Tebey and his upcoming shows, be sure to visit his official website.