The compelling country sounds of Calgary-based Travis Pickering will be featured July 21st at West Stettler Park.
Pickering is slated to perform as part of the Entertainment in the Park series. Showtime is 7 p.m.
Pickering has opened for numerous artists such as Julian Austin, Kenny Hess, The Good Lovelies, Oscar Lopez, Jo Hikk, Dick Damron and others.
“My dad was always musical. He played in a few bands when we were younger, but when we came into the picture and things got busier, he put down the guitar for a lot of years. But he was quite successful throughout the Columbia Valley with his band,” explained Pickering of his roots in music growing up in B.C.
So for a time, music was in the picture but not at the forefront.
“I later came back home just in time to head off to university. I had a roommate who had a guitar that she never played, and it really annoyed me,” he added with a laugh. “I made her a bet that I would learn how to play her guitar before she did.
“I probably spent more time playing her guitar then actually going to classes!”
He had also done some singing over the years as well, but it didn’t really take off until he was in his later teens.
“So I started getting some gigs around the home-town scene – playing every spaghetti dinner, or at funerals or weddings – as you do – cutting your teeth wherever you can.”
At 17, he even tried out for Canadian Idol.
“I made it through two rounds, but I didn’t make it to the celebrity judges,” he recalled, adding he was told he was a bit ‘too country’ and a bit ‘too green’ at the time for what they were searching for.
But the experience served to build his confidence. “It also really kind of planted the seed.”
Next up, Pickering’s gigs started popping up across the Columbia Valley as well.
He and his dad also formed a duo, performing for about 10 years together until Pickering relocated to Calgary in the fall of 2019.
He connected with a booking agent, and things started off with a bang. “I started out with CCMA week in 2019 and had a really good six-month run – and then COVID hit.”
Fast forward to now with the pandemic gradually fading away, and Pickering’s performance in Stettler will mark one of his first shows since things essentially ground to a halt last year.
“It’s exciting. A little nerve-wracking too, because when you step back from something, it’s hard to get that momentum going sometimes. But I am so ready for it – I’m more pumped then ever. I also have more of a respect for it, because music is something that you never think is going to disappear at all. And when COVID hit, it kind of did for a lot of people.”
Still, Pickering was able to share his musical gifts to a degree early in the pandemic with folks in seniors’ homes.
“We did a bit of a tour called ‘Serenading Seniors’. We did about seven senior centres, and we would perform out in the front courtyards and be kind of mobile around the buildings,” he recalled.
“For a musician, there is no better feeling in the world then performing for a seniors’ home because they just appreciate music on a different level. It was huge for all of us.”
During that time, he also co-wrote a couple of tunes for his friend Shelley Lynch who had a six-song album deal.
“Dreams and Gasoline was the first one, and it had a really good run on the Canadian indie country countdown and on the charts on Music Row in Nashville,” he said.
“The second single – Make it to Memphis – is still climbing the charts – I believe we are sitting at around number 24 on the Canadian indie country charts and around number 81 on Music Row. It’s been exciting to watch that, and it’s been giving us hope throughout this whole pandemic situation.”
One of his most profound writing experiences came after the tragic loss of a close friend. “The song See You Later just flooded through me – I wrote it in about 10 minutes. The whole process was really surreal – it just happened that way. I was just saying what was on my mind,” he said of the poignant piece.
For Pickering, there couldn’t be a more fitting genre than country.
“It’s songs with a purpose,” said, recalling days on his grandparents’ farm listening to artists like Johnny Cash and Steve Earle. “There is also a ‘relatability’ with the songwriting that has really resonated with me,” he added.
“I just love songs that you can relate to and sink your teeth into. That’s always what I aspired to be – something who could write a song with purpose. If you can reach out and touch someone with your music, that’s all you can ever ask for.
Next up in the Entertainment in the Park series is Off the Rails – scheduled for July 28th.
Rounding out the season are the Wheatland Band on Aug. 4th, TEN02 on Aug. 11th, Tap 9 on Aug. 18th and Ryan Langlois on Aug. 25th.
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