Those who recall the series Canadian Idol back in the mid-2000s might recall a certain young gentlemen whose strong country musical leanings vaulted him pretty much to the top of the competition.
Jaydee Bixby, who landed in second place in that competition, is excited to be performing at Entertainment in the Park here in Stettler on July 22nd.
According to his bio, for generations, his relatives have been known as the Hillbilly Bixbys in Drumheller and he grew up singing at bars and rodeos with his parents’ family band.
His latest CD, Work in Progress, was released in 2013.
Looking back, Bixby was just 17 when he participated in Canadian Idol in 2007.
From there, the singer’s life was a whirlwind of high-profile shows and media attention. He opened for icons like Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney and cracked the top 10 on the Canadian albums chart with his debut disc Cowboys and Cadillacs in 2008.
“I got to go on tour, and that was the best thing about it,” he recalls of those hectic days in the wake of his Idol experience. “I know that some folks really like making the CDs, but for me, it was all about being in front of a crowd and being on the road. I couldn’t think of a better place to be.
“Those were my high school years, and obviously, I wasn’t in high school,” he added with a chuckle. “I was out doing my thing and having a good time doing it.”
He recalls the Idol phase as rushing by. “I didn’t really even have time to process everything while it was happening,” he explained. “It wasn’t until a few months after the show when I was out at our family’s property in B.C. that I was thinking like, wow, did that just happen? So it was a great experience, but it was just so fast,” he said. “My young brain had a hard time processing it all at that point.
“I didn’t really understand how much my life was going to change after that.”
He did return to high school for a few weeks after the Idol frenzy subsided, but that didn’t last too long because of his new found popularity and attention. “It was quite a change!”
Bixby said the best learning experiences he ever received as an artist came via life on the road – and that’s a passion that has never wavered.
“It’s been a great big, open, educational experience for me,” he explained, adding that when he looks back, he can hardly believe the crazy pace of those early years. “We were playing all of the festivals and all of these dream gigs I had always wanted to play ever since I was a kid,” he added. “I also got to meet a lot of people who I had idolized in the music industry.”
Meanwhile, according to his bio, he indeed continued to mature as a performer and a composer.
His next project, Easy to Love, was released in 2010 and was again followed by an extensive touring stint.
“Just a big old tour bus and my band. Whether we were playing a sold-out show in Halifax, Nova Scotia, or we were in the middle of the bald-headed prairies in Manitoba, that was the happiest I could ever imagine myself.”
The aforementioned Work in Progress was recorded in Vancouver with Bixby and guitarist D Klinger co-producing alongside returning studio collaborators John Webster and Bill Buckingham.
In addition to classic country, the musicians tapped into the spirit of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll. “I don’t think there’s anything like it. I love the simplicity of that kind of music. It’s a story and a song, and I like that you get to hear every word I say when I sing.”
Since then, life has taken a few twists and turns.
His father was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, eventually passing away a few years later. “I stepped away from everything, and I was blessed to have the kind of industry where I could take the time. We all ended up staying at their place in Sylvan Lake. We stayed together for Christmas, too. His cancer was progressing, though.”
Bixby had to leave for a short stint in Ontario at the time, and upon his return his father passed away shortly afterwards.
“I’m so lucky that I got to spend that time (with him),” he said, recalling his father’s profound influence on him as a musician. “We had done a bunch of shows together as the family band,” he added, also clearly grateful for the family’s rich musical legacy that stretches back generations.
Today, Bixby, who turns 30 in August, is preparing to get married and he’s also a father, so life continues to move forward with brand new experiences that are shaping him as both a man and as an artist.
“There are times when you are just going for months on end, and you kind of lose it a bit,” he said, referring to his creative fire. “I feel like that is just part of the roller coaster ride that is life, or really anything that you go out to do. There are good times and bad times.
“I think that especially now, it’s come back to the passion for it again. I have two-hour drive into work and a two-hour drive back home each day, so I’ve been using that time to start listening to music again.
“There was a long time when I went without listening to anything,” he said, adding that he’s also been getting back to the roots of music he grew up listening to. “For me, I was raised like it was 1956 in my household. A lot of the music my mom and dad played in the family band was geared towards those eras – those earlier styles of country.”