By Roman Mitz, Open Spaces
Cold Creek County drummer Doug Oliver is busy doing some hardwood flooring in his Toronto home when he takes five to talk about the band’s new album ‘Homemade’. The group underwent its own renovations of sort, replacing lead vocalist Brandon Scott with new front man Ches Anthony, and making banjo/vocalist Jordan Honsinger a full-fledged member after touring with CCC for the past 18 months. While the addition of Honsinger is a logical move, Scott’s departure is surprising given the band’s very successful previous album ‘Till The Wheels Come Off’, which sprouted four country Top 40 singles and led to them winning Top Group Honours at the Country Music Of Ontario Awards, handed out Sunday at the award ceremonies staged in London Ontario.
“It was just creative differences, really,” Doug explains. “Brandon’s actually working on his own EP right now and we’re completely behind him. We love that guy but sometimes those things just happen and you have to move on. We have Ches on lead vocals and he’s a great guy. I found him when I was cruising YouTube and this video came up with him singing the George Jones song, ‘Tennessee Whiskey’. I called him up and asked him if he wanted to hang with us. He said he could come down in about two weeks, and I asked him if he could make it 48 hours. Ten minutes later he sent me his flight itinerary and he’s been here ever since. He kind of just came into this and now he’s been thrown to the wolves.”
Ches, whose past jobs included ice road trucking and corralling wild boars, hails from Saskatoon and he’s the only member who is not from Southern Ontario. Doug is originally from Hastings, Honsinger is from Burlington, brothers Josh and Justin Lester are from the Trenton area, and Trevor MacLeod is from Stratford. When the boys went to each other’s houses to practice they had to cross Cold Creek, which splits up the county, thus the band’s name. While Doug now lives in the big city, he and his mates will always remember their origins and that small-town pride is captured on the EP’s title track and first single.
“I live in Toronto but I’ll never forget where I got my start,” Doug says. “That’s the way it is with all of the guys. It’s a very honest song and we definitely want to show where our roots come from. The premise behind the number is wherever you get to in life, just remember where you got your start and where you came from. I wrote that song and two others with two great Canadian writers Travis Slate and Gavin Wood. The other tracks came from outside writers who we met just by making connections. You just pay attention to these great writers and then try and form a relationship. Over the years we’ve made some connections in Nashville and that lead to a new song from the Brad Paisley camp called ‘Money’.”
While most of Homemade is dialed down somewhat from their previous release, Money takes off on all cylinders. It’s the scrap heap, however, that gives the song its sonic roar rather than any studio wizardry.
“As far as the vocals go, I think we’re coming into our own in terms of developing our own sound. We really pride ourselves on our vocal harmonies and by bringing Ches and Jordan into the mix it simply adds another layer. I think it still captures the Cold Creek County vibe, so to speak.”
2016 was a banner year for the band as they collected a Juno Award nomination plus three Country Music Association of Ontario Awards, including Best Group and Fan’s Choice. (“To get recognition for anything is a great honour, but the music world is a very tough one so to get that acknowledgement is very humbling.”) Still, the group feels they have nowhere to go but up, and this is reflected in the rollicking first track ‘It’s About To Get Good’. ‘Ain’t That Complicated’ is another humdinger propelled by Doug’s pounding rhythm behind the kit, reminiscent of his work in My Darkest Days, the rocking outfit in which he moonlights.
“My Darkest Days is on hiatus right now because the focus is on Cold Creek County,” he says. “We like to bring in different genres into the music. It’s cool because there are so many different elements to country music. We want to be a very diverse band and not just a one-trick pony. You throw enough things at the wall and something will stick. We love pop melodies and some loops and stuff like that, but we really love the broken down, very organic stringed instrument sound.”
Nowhere is this organic sound more evident than on the closing two tracks, acoustic versions of Money and Homemade. Even when they’re unplugged, this band packs a wallop.
“Those two songs, when you play them that way and break them down, there’s a magnitude of sound that comes out of just the harmonies over an acoustic guitar. It’s kind of one of those goose bump moments. You can always add the bells and whistles during production but when you break it down you get those surreal moments.”
Cold Creek County will be bringing both the surreal, and bells and whistles to this summer’s festival circuit, including the Stars and Thunder Festival in Timmins, and the Boots and Hearts Festival in Oro-Medonte. Following that they’re planning to record another EP which will serve as a bookend to Homemade.
Other New Stuff: Be sure to check out the new single from Kingston’s Amanda Sadler, “Cross My Heart”, from her upcoming EP. The single showcases Amanda’s unique sound as she blends contemporary, pop and romantic country tones.