Check out this summer’s Country music concert festival schedule and you will no doubt see the name of Hamilton Ontario’s Road Hammers featured on the majority of key event programs. From Swift Current’s Frontier Days July 1st until the Country Fest in Murillo Ontario August 19th, Messer’s Jason McCoy (guitar/vocals), Clayton Bellamy (guitar/vocals) and bassist Chris Byrne (with drummer Steve Broadhurst in tow) will perform at 11 such festivals in just over six weeks.
“I’ve played in arenas, theatres and on the back of a flat-bed truck but my preference is always to play outdoor festivals,” noted McCoy over the phone from his Minesing Ontario residence. “You get the passionate people at the front of the stage, you get the family groups further back, it’s a microcosm of society, they are a lot more looser than fans at a theatre or an arena where there are a lot more restrictions.”
Set to play at the schedule’s latest festival, the CMT Musicfest July 8-9 at Kitchener’s Bingeman’s Park, McCoy has witnessed first hand the growth and development of Country music festivals in Canada which has in turn promoted the establishment of a strong domestic Country music scene.
“All these festivals have a formula, it’s not a new business anymore,” McCoy explained. “As a musician, I’ve been around for 25 years and I’ve seen the evolution that has occurred. “You see events like Boots And Hearts come along late in the game after the festival circuit has been established but they are appealing to a new generation. They have new ideas, new inter-action with the fans. No matter what festival comes along, when they re-invent themselves they do it by adding value to the fans.”
With this thought in mind, McCoy is enthusiastic about Country Music Television (CMT), staging their inaugural festival in Kitchener bringing together an all-star lineup that features Eric Church, Kip Moore, Leah Daniels, Lindi Ortega and Meghan Patrick on Friday July 8th and The Road Hammers along with Tom Cochrane & Red Rider, Cold Creek County, The Zac Brown Band and The Washboard Union on Saturday July 9th (Tickets are $85.00 for one day or $149.99 for a two-day pass).
“Who better to stage a festival than CMT, they know what acts people like, what venue and what city they like,” enthused McCoy. “I think Kitchener is an ideal location for this festival, that’s a big rectifier of the whole thing.”
McCoy notes he is indebted to the CMT. Since they cleared some initial obstacles to go to air as the CMT in 1996, the network has nurtured domestic talent from the earliest beginnings of Shania Twain, Michelle Wright, Paul Brandt and Terri Clark through to today’s mega stars like; Dallas Smith, Johnny Reid, Tim Hicks, Chad Brownlee, High Valley and Autumn Hill and current crop of newbie stars like Cold Creek County and Meghan Patrick.
It was CMT that latched on to the newly-formed Road Hammers in 2006 and devised a two-season reality show which chronicled the band’s struggles to obtain a U.S record deal while supporting the band’s debut, self-titled released which went on to win a CCMA award (Group of The Year) and a Juno Award for Top Country Recording in 2006 plus claim two further CCMA awards in 2007.
McCoy, an established solo artist in his own right, who has recorded seven studio albums (the last being `Everything’ in 2011) joined forces with Bellamy, Byrne and former drummer Corbett Fransz) to have some fun recording `truck-driving’ Country rock songs as a career extension and found a solid following for the band’s high-energy Southern influenced style.
“Balancing a solo career with a band career is like balancing a two-headed coin,” explained McCoy. “With a solo career you have all the responsibility on your own shoulders but with a band you have none of that responsibility, it’s all split between the other members.”
The band’s efforts to launch a U.S career hit a wall when their 2008 `Blood Sweat And Steel’ release was torpedoed by the bankruptcy of their American label. “The label was owned by lawyer guys and we were contractually bound not to record until it was all resolved, it was a very painful time for everyone in the band,” recalled McCoy. “We were forced to split up and go our separate ways but that didn’t work out too well so when we got our letter of release from the label, there was no question of not getting back together again.”
Their 2014 re-launch `Wheels’ which included a cover of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Roll On Down The Highway” with guest vocals from BTO’s Fred Turner has re-established The Road Hammers, a major live act. They were back on the charts with “One Horse Town”, in November 2015, a track they recorded with Tim Hicks, and according to McCoy, the band is currently in the writing process for a new record that will be released after the band finishes their festival obligations.
Having made his mark as the resident host of the Country Music Association of Ontario Awards and having also served a spell as a radio disc jockey for Ottawa Country Music station 101.1, McCoy is recognized as being a multi-talented performer.
“In the beginning I started out as a very rigid performer, I was very self conscious and quiet on stage,” noted McCoy who has developed as a star personality. “Having now grown and evolved on stage, I find that I come by this honestly, I’ve really learned how to work crowds and I find a great pleasure in entertaining. I love to write songs and rock out on the guitar but I love the overall arc of entertaining, it’s a skill only a lifetime of performing can give you.”
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