by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces
George Canyon has pretty well done it all. In the last quarter century he’s carved out a significant musical career, while also taking turns as an actor and radio show host, and he’s even dabbled in politics. It’s been five years since he last recorded an album but he’s certainly made up for lost time with the newly minted “I Got This”. As of this writing it is not only the top country album in the land but the first two tracks, the title tune and “Daughters Of The Sun”, are the best-selling country songs in the nation. George laughs at being compared to The Beatles in terms of simultaneous chart entries, as he calls in from Red Deer where he’s setting up in a club on a stop of his ‘Jekyll and Nothing to Hide Tour’.
“It feels a little weird having the two top songs,” he admits. “I’ve never had that in my entire career of 26 years. It’s very humbling especially since it’s been a while since I had a new album out. The tour has also been amazing so far with the last five shows being full sell-outs. The crowds have been so kind and they’re singing back the new material. It was freaking me out a little because the record just came out.”
The show in Red Deer is a homecoming of sorts for George, who lives with wife Jennifer on a ranch just outside of High River, which is about two hours away. This is a plus for him as he finds it tough being away from the love of his life when he’s on the road and going coast to coast. While he didn’t write the aching ballad “The Hardest Part Of Being In Love” (a Johnny Reid co-write), he certainly connects with the song’s sentiments.
“I feel that way every second of every minute of every day,” he says. “We’ve been married for 22 years and when my wife came out to the tour stop in Edmonton she said it should be getting easier but it’s actually getting harder. It’s been very hard on me because I’m the one that leaves so I’m the one that’s most alone. It’s heartbreaking but it’s exciting at the same time to know that we have each other.”
At times the album sets a very nostalgic tone as George harkens back to simpler times on another ballad “The Way It Was”, while the jaunty “Sesame Street” weaves together images of Magnavox televisions and swing sets. He remembers his roots and this helps keep him grounded when, as the former song suggests, things begin ‘spinning too fast.’
“I’ve been very blessed as I always have my wife there and I’m a strong Christian man. My faith is in knowing that none of this is by my hands. I think maturing in the business helps as well. It may have taken a while to clue me in but I did grow up eventually.
“Our daughter Madison also helps keep me grounded and that’s why I really love the song “Some Horses” on the new record. She just turned 16 a few weeks ago and she’s an incredible horseback rider, cutting horses particularly, and she’s competed all over North America. She got a scholarship at a boarding school on Vancouver Island, so my wife and I are freaking out because she’s away from us. If you take Some Horses line for line it’s a love song about a guy who’s lost his girl. For me the song is all about Maddie and every time I sing it I get choked up because I miss her so much.”
George is pleased to have an album of all new original songs and he receives a strong helping hand from such gifted Nashville writers as Shane McAnally and Shawn Camp. The singer says that he created song writing relationships when he first went down to Nashville and although he hasn’t been back in a few years, he’s thankful that “all the guys welcomed him back with open arms”. Johnny Reid has also been “like family” for 20 years and he and George co-produced half the record and did a splendid co-write on the song “Remember Me”, which the latter says was written for the fans. The entire album, in fact, was created with his fans in mind.
“When we play live there are always big drums and guitars so we decided to have some fun with this record and make something that we would want to sit and listen to,” he begins. “I don’t usually sit and listen to my albums much after I make them. I’ve listened to this one a lot and it puts a smile on my face every time. That says a lot to me as a producer and engineer; we’ve created a record that’s fun to listen to.
“There are even a few musical quirks like the little Reggae organ thing at the end of “Only The Radio Knows.” It just worked out so well and sounded so cool. My band are just such incredible musicians; I’m the weakest link on stage big time. I just let them be creative because everybody’s got great ideas. That song is the first one in my career that I actually recorded to pay homage to radio for being my partner throughout all these years and for playing my material.”
While on tour George has continued to produce his CCMA-nominated radio show called Down East Country, which can be heard online and on several major east coast radio stations. He’s also still taking casting calls for film roles after his tour is over, furthering an acting career that has seen him appear in several made-for-television films and in a hilarious recurring role as the head park ranger in the Trailer Park Boys series. In 2014 he also had a brief fling in politics when he sought the Tory nomination in the federal riding of Bow River, before deciding not to pursue things. The reason he threw his hat into the ring initially is because he felt that incumbents were too involved in party politics and weren’t doing enough in terms of representing the people that put them in office, including farmers and ranchers. Farmers and ranchers are also the subject of the reflective closing track, “Footprints”.
“Yeah, that was a bonus track that we put on to pay homage to the farmers and ranchers. My grand-dad had a farm before I was born and he lost it to the bank. I was reminiscing about my childhood and thinking about what you leave behind as a footprint, that is, what your legacy’s going to look like. I’m blessed to have music as my legacy and I hope people can listen to it for years to come. The farmers and ranchers work so hard and we take it for granted, and I wondered whether the thought ever crossed my grandfather’s mind about whether he was leaving a legacy, because he certainly did leave one.”
George’s Jekyll and Nothing to Hide Tour carries on through mid-March and after that there will be another album, and we certainly won’t have to wait five years for it to drop.
“We actually had a few other songs that we held off and they will be on the new record which will follow by the end of next year. I’m grateful for the longevity in this business; actually I’m surprised, shocked and grateful all in the same breath. I was told a long time ago that if I got five years in this industry that would be awesome, and if I got 10 years it would be unheard of. To have 26 years is extremely humbling, and to have the fans that I have is incredible.”
by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces