By Keith Sharp
When Calgary country-rock duo TwoShine County announced that their debut six-track Ep is going to be titled, “Whole Lotta Love”, the obvious reaction is; “You’ve got to be joking”. I mean country may be the new rock but they wouldn’t go so far as to cover that Led Zeppelin classic…would they? Just the thought of Jimmy Page’s iconic lead guitar licks being covered by a banjo! Come on, let’s get serious here!
“Nothing to fear there,” reports Daron Schofield, laughing uproariously at the mere thought of he and partner Dennis Hann even attempting to tackle such a classic recording. “We do have a song called “Whole Lotta Love” but it’s not that song!” Instead it’s a pretty decent, r&b rock track on its own merit, one of three singles that have already enjoyed extensive airplay in advance of their debut record release.
On the phone in advance of a Thursday, December 17th concert at Calgary’s Marquee Beer Market where they are staging an Ep launch party for their peeps, Schofield feels the event caps off a highly successful year in which they received a nomination for the Alberta Country Music Association’s 2015 Rising Star award, (to be announced in January) chalked up some high profile concert appearances at this year’s Calgary Stampede and even opened for the likes of Blue Rodeo and The Sheepdogs.
“We are super excited about tonight’s event,” enthused Schofield, a Vancouver native who hooked up with Hann, a Newfoundlander in Calgary in early 2013. “It’s shaping up to be a fun night, a perfect way to cap off the year with a party in our home town, an event which bookends the year perfectly.”
Disillusioned with the gruelling struggles of performing with a series of low profile pop bands, Hann decided to pack in a live gig and instead focus on writing with Schofield whom he had known and worked with off and on over a period of time. The duo’s initial song writing attempts were well received by their close friends who encouraged Schofield and Hann to record their first three tracks, even before they had a name for their group.
“We came up with the idea of County because of the tight community of people who were supporting us and we added the TwoShine bit to represent ourselves,” Schofield explained. “The Country music community as a whole is very supportive. It’s not like being in a new rock band which has to survive in a very competitive environment. With the Country Music fraternity, everyone is very supportive and helpful in trying to assist you.”
TwoShine County were never more aware of this friendly environment than when they attended their first Canadian Country Music Awards in Edmonton in
2014. “We had enjoyed some radio success with our first single; “Make It With You” but we were totally green when we attended the event, thinking we wouldn’t know anyone. Yet all these people were coming up to us, saying they had heard our song on the radio and they were very supportive.”
TwoShine County left their mark with their own showcase event during the CCMA week and returned to Halifax in September for their second CCMA’s to perform at a key song writing circle event, performing with the likes of Bobby Wills. Schofield has his fingers crossed that the TwoShine County’s current success will translate into an even bigger profile when the next CCMA’s are staged this September in London Ontario.
Keeping their operation low key, working without management, a booking agency or a recording contract, Schofield and Hann are slowing solidifying their reputation, releasing three singles over the past two years; “Make It With You”, “Whole Lotta Love” and their latest single “Love That Song” before combing them together with three more tracks; “Firefly”, “Sunday Morning” and “Memory” for their debut Ep.
The duo’s big breakthrough came during this year’s Calgary Stampede Week when they were hired to perform during the afternoon at the Cowboys Tent (sponsored by The Cowboys Nightclub) at the Stampede Exhibition Grounds. It’s usually a thankless gig, performing in the afternoon’s to a disinterested audience but TwoShine County quickly attracted an enthusiastic crowd, to a point that the venue promoter asked if they would like to open for a series of `name acts’ during the evening’s festivities. This presented them with an opportunity to open for the likes of Alan Jackson, Sam Hunt, Emerson Drive and High Valley as well as key engagements with Blue Rodeo and The Sheepdogs.
“Some of the purists might disagree but Country Music is the new pop,” Schofield observed. “It’s pop because it’s popular which is what the term means. “I look at our audience and I see people in their teens and early 20’s. Yes we mix rock elements like guitars and big drums with a banjo in the arrangements but that’s what the new sound is all about. You look at Dallas Smith, those Cold Creek County boys and even what Johnny Reid is doing. There are obvious variations but when you hear a banjo or a steel guitar, you know what you’re getting.”
Schofield and Hann are excited by the potential of the six songs they have recorded, and one in particular “Love This Song” which contains a great lyrical chorus hook; “Love this song, crank it up to 11, play it so loud they can hear it in Heaven”. “I think everyone can identify with that lyric,” enthused Schofield. “Who hasn’t had a song that they personally might not like, but their significant other gets in the car, cranks it up and plays it so loud it becomes infectious.”
Right now, Two ShineCounty are solidifying their fan base with events like their Marquee Beer bash as they slowly but surely build a reputation at radio. Whether performing as a duo or going out with a full band, holding their own against Country Rockers like the Sheepdogs, the duo of Schofield and Hann are making a lot of positive moves in an extremely competitive market with a full record planned for the near future.