by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces
You might say that Canadian singer songwriter Tebey is a study in diversification. There aren’t many artists who can lay claim to having written an R & B smash (‘Cause A Scene’ for Teairra Mari and Flo Rida in 2009), and contributed two songs to One Direction’s multi-platinum sophomore album ‘Take Me Home’, while at the same time maintaining his core career in country music. Since 2003 he’s put out two full-length albums and a dozen singles but his new release, ‘Old School’, is his first EP.
“I’m always kind of writing and recording songs,” says the transplanted Burlingtononian who now calls Nashville home. “Even today I was starting to look at some songs and starting to play for the next record. The reason I like EP’s is because it lets you get music out more frequently. Your typical EP has five songs on it and we tossed on a bonus track, ‘Wake Me Up’. That song was on my second album but we were still growing our fan base at the time. A lot of people don’t know it or weren’t sure that it was my song because Emerson Drive were featured on it. I’m hoping if all goes well we’ll release another EP in late March of next year if not sooner. I like the idea of giving fans five or six songs at a time and putting them out more often.”
The first thing you’ll notice about Tebey’s songs is that they’re hook laden, but it’s his unique viewpoint on things that appears to be his stock in trade. In ‘Jealous Of The Sun’ the singer expresses envy toward the sun, moon, stars and other elements that interact with his main squeeze when he’s not around, and on his newest single he describes himself as a ‘Lightweight’ when it comes to describing his feelings for his new love. For Tebey, perspective is everything.
“I think that’s half the battle, finding a different way to say things,” he begins. “I can’t claim credit for the title of Lightweight which came from my Nashville co-writer Cole Taylor. He’s from Georgia and I’m from Canada so we come from very different worlds. We were able to find some common ground talking about what we listened to when we were growing up. We both listened to country music but we also had a common love for Usher, and those influences are how that song kind of came about.”
[styled_box title=”Tebey – Lightweight” color=”black”][/styled_box]
It’s admirable that Tebey has stayed the country course given the success he has experienced writing songs for pop and urban artists. One wonders if he was ever tempted to find a boy band in Canada to use as a vehicle for his songs, or to simply ditch his acoustic guitar for a hoodie and a wireless microphone in order to dole out R & B à la The Weekend.
“No, not really,” he laughs. “The One Direction thing just kind of happened. I didn’t sit down and write for them. I write pop music a lot on the side and the songs found their way to the band through my publishing
company. Although I like R & B and pop, I’ve always pictured myself as a country artist and I’m really happy within that genre. I love the fact that we’re able to push the boundaries a little more which is cool. Current music fans have very eclectic tastes in music as one moment they’re listening to country music and the next song on their IPad or IPod is by Drake. I’m happy that country music is allowing us to expand and experiment while staying within the genre.”
Tebey probably pushes the envelope most on the title track Old School, a song that features DJ scratches and a funky little guitar part destined to become an earworm. When Tebey performed the song at the recent Country Music Association of Ontario Awards (CMAO’s) he had the audience dancing in the aisles. Still, there is something very old school about Old School in which he name drops Nirvana and references the television show Beverly Hills 90210. It’s another decidedly 90’s flashback, however, that fuels the song.
“I grew up in the 90’s so I was a big fan of Sugar Ray and stuff like that,” he says. “I just tried to channel them and that late 90’s sound. I listened to everything while I was growing up frorm Alan Jackson to George Strait, and at the end of the day it would be Nirvana. I’m just having fun, man, writing songs that I love and I’m not really worrying about how they’re going to hit people or anything like that. We just wanted to let go of the reins a little bit.
Another catchy track, ‘When The Buzz Wears Off’ (CMAO song of the year winner), is about a cooling relationship as opposed to the ebbs and flows of his career.
“Sure, there are moments when the buzz wears off,” he admits. “It’s a really hard business that we’re in and I have my down days and up days. You really have to take advantage of the highs when they come along. A couple of weeks ago I found I was going to have a song on the new Justin Moore record which is cool because he’s a pretty big country artist in the States. But there are times when it can become frustrating when radio is not playing your record as much as you’d like or whatever. For me, the biggest buzz still comes from being up on stage. We just played the Cavendish Beach Music Festival in P.E.I. and when you’re in front of 20,000 people who know the words to your songs, that’s pretty incredible. I live day by day and take it from there.”
Look for Tebey in your town later in the year as he headlines a major tour sponsored by Coors Banquet appropriately called ‘First Come, First Served’, with dates to be announced soon.