by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces
Vancouver country trio The Heels were not always The Heels. They started out as the The Heals, thus the play on words of their debut album title, ‘Love, Heels’. Two-thirds of the group, Kyla Rawlins and Brittni Dominelli, had just ended difficult relationships and music was the catharsis that saw them through the hard times that they were enduring. This was not a time for tunes about crying in your beer but rather retribution, such as the song ‘Ex-Rated’ in which a jilted partner wants to stomp out her ex like a cigarette.
“Our ex’s were definitely the inspiration for that one,” Kyla explains, calling in from Vancouver. “When Brittni and I got together we were basically singing music to heal ourselves because we were going through really bad break-ups. Our ex’s were pretty much the exact same person, and the song was inspired by those type of guys that you can see coming. We basically got together at the darkest time of our lives so far. We just wanted to be together because it was so healthy. Eventually when we formed the band we thought we should change the name to the Heels and we came up with this really cool logo.”
When the band started out, Brittni’s sister Georgia was the third member, but she bowed out after their first single ‘Tombstone’ in favour of Bobbi Smith, a solo artist with 10 singles and three B.C. Country Music Association Awards. Georgia left to become a hairdresser but she continues to work in the background for the band as well as do their hair. With the starting line-up now set it did not take long for the group to find that their strength lay in their harmonies, which have been favourably compared to The Dixie Chicks and Wilson Phillips.
“Those comparisons are pretty mind blowing,” Kyla says. “The three of us have grown up with those bands and have been inspired by them, The Dixie Chicks in particular. We wanted to step away from the idea of having a lead vocalist and that really hasn’t been done before outside of The Spice Girls. We all have backgrounds in vocals so we wanted to share them on the album. I have a background in opera and I really like to sing high. Bobbi has a huge range and her bass baritone is just so powerful, and Brittni feels real comfortable in the middle. It’s tricky when recording because it takes three times as long but I feel that the outcome gives you a diverse kind of sound. People don’t really know who’s singing what but they know that they can hear a different texture.”
The group certainly has a unique blend and they decided that the songs to fit that sound should come from within. The Heels co-wrote all of the numbers and they showcase their harmonies through a wide range of material. The album kicks off with ‘We Can Country’, in which they quickly show that ‘ladies can country just like the guys can’. The current single ‘Fine By Me’ includes sweet acapella harmonies and a catchy chorus, while the group really rocks out on ‘He’s Not Where I’m Going’, a previous single release that garnered over 100,000 streams on Spotify.
“It was really important to pen our music ourselves with other co-writers. There is a certain kind of energy that comes from each song and people can feel that it really resonates within us. We just have to have that connection to the words especially when we’re performing the songs live, because there’s an authenticity that you can’t fake when you’re on stage. All of these past things come up when you’re singing in front of people and it’s super important for us to have a personal relationship with each song.”
Perhaps the key common ingredient in all of the songs is that they all do their part in furthering the cause for female empowerment in country music and beyond. We Can Country was fueled by an incident in which a Texas-based radio consultant suggested that female country artists were simply the tomatoes on top of the salad defined by the core of male country performers. Female artists such as Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, offended by the analogy, took to social media to express their anger in what became known as the #Saladgate scandal.
“That’s what inspired the song initially,” Kyla begins. “We just wanted to pump up women and make them feel empowered. We actually won’t even start a song unless it’s uplifting and empowering. The three of us have all been through stuff and we’re not about to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. It’s like, put on your heels or put on your makeup or whatever you have to do to make yourself feel one hundred per cent and don’t sit in that misery. We want every single person in the audience to feel that energy and leave every show feeling ‘I got this and I can conquer the world’. That’s kind of the whole purpose of the band, to heal the world with music.”
The Heels will be performing two showcases in Toronto and Burlington before spending the summer gigging around B.C. After that, they’re hoping for a tour that will take them through other parts of Canada. In the meantime the group feels that everything is beautiful, or Buddha-ful, if you want a more spiritual reference of their current state.
“Yeah, that works,” Kyla laughs. “I started this Vegan café thing called Buddha-ful eight years ago in order to fund the music career. It’s finally given me the freedom to do both, so I can go away whenever I need to. That was where Brittni and Bobbi and I met, so if it wasn’t for Buddha-ful the band would not exist.”
Durham County Band is a brand-new country foursome hailing from Southern Ontario. This group of talented and accomplished performers/songwriters makes their grand entrance onto the Canadian Country Music scene with their lead single, “Back Roads.” Featuring amazing guitar playing, signature riffs, stunning harmonies, and memorable melodies, Back Roads finds the sweet spot between classic and new country.
Canadian country superstar George Canyon has released his new album, “Southside Of Heaven”, a 12-track collection that reaffirms his renowned skills as both a singer-songwriter and interpreter. The album includes the single and Top 40 Canadian Country Radio hit, “More You”. George also tipshis hat to old friend Bruce Guthro by covering his classic ballad “Falling” (featuring Guthro on guest vocals), as well as the late great Stompin’ Tom Connors with a new rendition of his iconic “The Hockey Song”.
“I am very excited for the release of my new record as it has been in the works for almost two years,” George says. “It was so cool getting to work with my band live off the floor recording this album. I hope the fans enjoy it as much as we did making it.”
And to close things off, here’s one for all of the axe slingers out there. Jason Blaine has launched a very exciting contest in partnership with famed Toronto music shop Long & McQuade. A version of Jason’s charting country single, “Boy With A Guitar” – without the final guitar solo – has been shared at https://www.long-mcquade.com/news/3337/ Until June 18, fans are encouraged to video record themselves playing the missing guitar solo from “Boy With a Guitar” and post on their own social channels using the hashtag #BoyWithAGuitar. The selected winner and a guest will be sent to Alabama to partake in an exclusive full studio recording day with Jason at the iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where artists such as Paul Simon, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Rolling Stones have recorded.