Picture a flip flop wearing cowboy who switches seamlessly through country, bluegrass and folk songs and you have yourself Kevin Roy. A self proclaimed traveling troubadour of country music, Roy epitomizes the new generation of collaborative musicians.
The Bicycle Gang recently chatted with Kevin via email as he gets ready for his upcoming tour for his new album “Heartworm Highways”. You can see Kevin Roy playing tonight at The Capitol here in Regina. A check out his website for info, albums and future tour dates.
BG: Kevin Roy seems like a character from another time, tell us your history?
KR: I am an Alt-Country artist from Winnipeg, MB. I left a career as a school teacher three years ago to pursue a career in music fulltime. My music is deeply rooted in my past—who I am and where I am from. I credit a lot of what I do musically to my grandparents. My grandpa on my mother’s side taught me how to strum and pick a flattop guitar. On my father’s side, my grandpa was a seasoned harmonica player. Those are my two staple instruments—I learned a lot from them both.
BG: There is a revival of storytelling musicians brewing in the prairies, almost a collective of musicians. The Bicycle Gang has featured some of these artists—Colton Wall, Megan Nash, DB Willoughby to name a few. What do you think has caused musicians to group together and produce more collaborative, independent music?
KR: I think it’s an essential strategy for the independent artist. The public is generally unaware of the labour that goes on behind the scenes of a self-managed musician. Often times the smallest piece of the pie-chart of what we do is performing on a stage. Often times the bigger slices include: booking tours, writing emails, writing tour grants/completion reports, being a graphic artist, a publicist, and so on. Collaborating with other artists, piggy-backing on tours, co-writing, etc. are all great strategies we utilize to help each other out to continue on in our careers and hone our craft. I think we (as Manitoba/Saskatchewan artists) are lucky to have such an immensely talented and supportive scene of independent storytelling troubadours.
BG: What is your proudest musical moment so far?
KR: Completing ‘Heartworn Highways’, specifically, the day the boxes of albums took over my place. Not only am I excited to share this album with everyone, but I can’t wait to get out on the road so I can use my living room again.
BG: If you could change one thing—and it could be anything—what would it be?
KR: As an artist, there are literally hundreds of dollars in the music industry…the career is definitely a labour of love. We don’t do it to get rich, however, I do wish there was a reorganization of the hierarchy in the industry. Without the artist, there is no industry, yet, they are the last link in the chain, the last to get paid, or in some cases, they end up paying to perform. I am not saying all musicians should be wealthy. I have just seen far too many hardworking, unbelievably talented artists burn themselves out because of how the current system works.
BG: Your bebut album ‘Heartworm Highways’ was funded by a Kickstarter, and has involved some killer Manitoba musicians. How does it feel to be the one of the 35.86% with a successful campaign? (Tell us about building this album?)
KR: Successfully completing the Kickstarter campaign was a wonderful feeling. It was great to see support come from all over the Canada, the United States, and the World. Some of the rewards were claimed in Australia, Spain, and Thailand. It was great way to connect myself with longtime friends and fans, as well as many that I have yet to meet. The process was more work than I had imagined, but in the end I feel it has really created a positive sense of community around the album. Every donation helped bring this project to life!
As for the recording itself, it started as an EP originally, but there were just too many songs that begged to be on the album. In the studio we recorded live off-the-floor. We really wanted to build off of a live, organic sound. Some of my best friends happen to be some of Winnipeg’s most talented musicians—I really feel quite blessed. It can be pretty easy to get stressed or overwhelmed when the tape is rolling. I feel our team did an amazing job having fun with the treatment of the songs and the album. It was an amazing atmosphere, almost like a kitchen party jamming with your friends, only instead of a kitchen, you’re in a studio.
BG: A little bird told us you were very passionate about some other hobbies—woodworking, fishing and canoeing. Are you planning to be in the next Old Spice commercial?
KR: I’ve got nothing on Terry Crews. To pass the audition I’d need to chop down an 800-year-old Douglas Fir by hand, make over a thousand paddles with a single piece of sandpaper, haul in a Great White with an ultralight rod, and paddle the Northwest Passage in a dinghy. For now, I’ll just keep using my Old Spice Pure Sport Deodorant.
BG: What is your favourite place to play a show?
KR: I have always enjoyed house concert performances for eight to twenty-five people. There is just something special about performing intimate shows. I find seven or less can be uncomfortable, and twenty-six or more you lose that intimacy.
BG: What is one thing you can’t go on stage without?
KR: The intrinsic joy I get from sharing music with an audience from a stage. That, and pants.
BG: The Apocalypse is imminent, what is the last show you would see and where?
KR: I’d want to see Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris performing around the campfire at the lake. I feel that those two playing at night with the accompaniment of loons, a crackling fire, and the tremble of the aspens would be pretty magical.
BG: What does the future hold for Kevin Roy?
KR: I am looking forward to the road ahead. So far my music has taken me across Canada from coast to coast to coast (yes, we even flew up to Churchill for a few shows). I love travelling and meeting people along the way. I love hearing a good story as much as telling one. I can’t wait to bring the new album back to familiar faces and to places beyond.