by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces
It has been quite the whirlwind year for Stuart Walker and his sister Jenna, better known as The Reklaws on Canadian country radio. Last summer they signed a record deal with Universal and they promptly scored a Top 20 hit with the effervescent ‘Hometown Kids’. Now they have followed that up with a three-song EP, ‘Long Live The Night’, and the title track has just hit Number One on the Canadian Country Sales & Airplay Chart. Stuart and Jenna agree there is one key moment when their fortunes took an upswing.
“Signing with a major label definitely changed our lives,” Jenna says over a car speaker phone, as she and Stuart are cruising back home to Cambridge after a business meeting in Toronto. “For so long we did it on our own and to now to have that family and that team behind us and supporting everything we do, that’s just the best. Having a Number One song with Long Live The Night on the Canadian singles chart means the world to us. It’s crazy to see that. To come from the writing room and all of a sudden see what it’s doing is just awesome. Once we heard the final mix of things it kind of came together and we knew that song had to be the next single and the title track.
“We had so many other songs ready to go for the EP and we still do,” Stuart chimes in. “If all goes as planned, once Long Live The Night has run its course we’ll drop another three-pack with a new single and that will go on until the end of the summer. Then we’ll drop the last three-pack and that will bring it to a full album’s worth of 10 songs that started with Hometown Kids.”
Jenna and Stuart are blessed with crystal clear voices and they alternate lead vocals on the songs and also add their distinct harmonies throughout. Music was in their blood from an early age thanks to the fact that they were raised in a family that simply loved to put on a show. They have three other sisters and one wonders whether they may eventually be added to the mix, turning the group into The Reklaw Five,
“Our entire family has a thing for entertaining,” Jenna says “I can’t explain it but we’re a lot to handle when we’re together. We grew up on an adventure farm that had pig races, a haunted house, haunted hay rides and a corn maze. Thousands of people would come to the farm and that’s how we got started, by dressing up as hillbillies and performing at the pig races. We never really stopped after that as Stuart and I both took vocal and guitar lessons and then decided we were going to be a thing about six years ago.
“As far as our other sisters go, our older sister is a chiropractor so she’s out of the musical mix,” Stuart continues. “Another one is in Grade 10 and like everyone else in Grade 10 she doesn’t want to do anything but be on her phone. The other one is 18 and she has a great voice so she’s a contender. We’re worried that Universal may find her and actually realize that she’s cooler than the both of us.”
The Reklaws can also thank family for giving them their name. When trying to come up with a name for the group Ma Walker suggested they simply spell their family name backwards. Jenna and Stuart loved the idea because ‘the name sounds like reckless and outlaws, which is very cool’. Now that the group had a name, the siblings headed for Nashville where they hooked up with some of Music City’s finest writers. One of the resulting songs, ‘Last Call’, written by the duo and Sara Haze (Lady Antebellum), can best be described as country with a little Ed Sheeran thrown in for good measure.
“That’s exactly what we were trying to bring in to our music,” Jenna says. “We love pop and rap and all kinds of genres of music and we wanted to make sure the three songs on the EP showed those sides of us. ‘Wish You Were Beer’ has a country vibe, Last Call has a pop vibe and the title track has both styles meshed together. We just want to show people what they can look for as we release more songs.”
The aforementioned Wish You Were Beer may be the EP’s highlight. It’s a humorous number in which the guy gives his girlfriend the heave-ho and takes up with a cold one instead because ‘she’s bubbly and costs a lot less money’. You might say that the song came about as a result of necessity being the mother of invention, in this case necessity being the need to go.
“We wrote Wish You Were Beer with Dakota Jay and Will King, who’s a country rapper of all things,” Stuart says. “We flew these guys up to write with us at a cottage for two weeks. On the last day of the trip they thought we would just take the day off to drink and relax. I said we needed one more song so we went out on a boat because we had to get out of the cottage and switch the atmosphere a bit. Will had to pee the whole time but he can’t swim so that was good motivation to do something quickly and we got the song done in 20 minutes.”
With spring on the horizon everything appears to be coming up roses for the band with a couple of Ontario dates, summer festival stops including Daughin’s Countryfest and Boots & Hearts and as yet unscheduled longer tour to follow. That’s a lot of time together on the road for this brother-sister act.
“You know there’s ups and downs to being in this type of situation for sure because at the end of the day you’re with your sibling all of the time,” Stuart says. “We do have our own routine and we try and stay out of each other’s way.
“The best part is that we’re not in a relationship so we can’t break up.” Jenna adds. “We’re siblings and we’re always going to be in each other’s lives and that’s the greatest thing. Even if we do fight and have little quarrels sometimes that doesn’t matter. We love what we do and we love that we do it together.”
Other Stuff: B.C. based singer Karen Lee Batten, will release her new studio album ‘Under The Covers In Muscle Shoals’ on March 9. The album was recorded entirely in Muscle Shoals Alabama inside the same landmark studio that produced hit records by Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynrd and Otis Redding. “There are no words to describe what it feels like to stand in the same spot as Aretha, Etta, Bob, Skynyrd, Redding and so many more,” says Batten. “To sing with their musicians, and to record with their producer – Rick Hall – the man that brought black and white musicians together to create music that would last for generations, in the room… I can say that this has been one of the most amazing highlights of my career.”
London’s Genevieve Fisher has earned Female Artist of the Year nominations at the last four Country Music Association of Ontario Awards. She has has earned six top 50 national country hits and her last two, ‘Take It On Home’ and ‘You Me We’ climbed into Canada’s top 20 and top 30 respectively. Genevieve is back with a new single entitled ‘Between You & Me’ and this sounds like it may just be her first Top 10. https://www.facebook.com/roman.mitz