Canadian Musician - November/December 2017 - Page 36

On Oct. 16 th , 2015, Sony released the band’s debut LP, Till the Wheels Come Off. Its lead single, “Our Town,” cracked the top 10 on Billboard’s Ca- nadian country chart and spurred 18 busy months of tours, festivals, and everything else involved in a major label album cycle. “We just stuck to the plan and we knew it would work,” Oliver says, sounding as much like a seasoned re- cording artist as the CEO of a success- ful tech startup. That plan was to be calculated, contemplative, and ensure that any move they made was a step towards their end goal. “It takes time to grow your business, but everyone was onboard. We knew it would take time, and we put the time in.” Now, Cold Creek County is right in between the release dates for a pair of EPs. The first, Homemade, dropped on June 2 nd , and bears a few distinct differences to the band’s debut re- lease. One is the slant towards a more traditional take on country music, compared to Till the Wheels Come Off’s more modern sheen. The more obvi- ous, though, is the voice at the centre of the stereo field. Between the two releases, the band replaced original frontman Brandon Scott with newcomer Ches Anthony. In the same period, long- time collaborator Jordan Honsinger became an officially-minted member, cementing Cold Creek County as a six piece: Oliver on drums, Anthony on lead vocals and guitar, Honsinger on banjo and backing vocals, Trevor MacLeod on lead guitar and vocals, Josh Lester on guitar and vocals, and his brother Justin on bass and vocals. The story of how Anthony joined the ranks is, in true Cold Creek County fashion, an interesting one – part good planning and part good luck. “I was sitting around on the inter- net and went to YouTube and typed in ‘great singer,’” Oliver begins. One of the first videos to come up was Anthony doing a vocal cover of Chris Stapleton’s take on “Tennessee Whiskey.” “I kinda kept him there in my back pocket,” says Oliver. The band had already scheduled a few auditions with some semi-established vocalists, but after those came and went, Oliver still found himself drawn to the tattooed fellow from Saskatchewan. “[The other singers] were great, but there was just something eating at me, saying we should go with someone that doesn’t have a name for themselves yet,” Oliver offers candidly. He put in a call to Anthony and invited him to Ontario for a tryout. The singer said he could make the trip in 36 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N about three weeks; Oliver countered with 48 hours. Ten minutes later, An- thony sent Oliver a screenshot of the itinerary of the flight he’d just booked for the next day. “It’s quite a thrill – that’s for sure,” says Anthony in early fall 2017, think- ing back to a whirlwind few months. When he first got the call, Anthony had been doing a lot of session work on vocals and guitar. He was also working in a studio and taking bar gigs whenever he could to keep the bills paid on the back of his passion. If all went well, the opportunity being pitched from the other end of the line would be exactly what he’d been striving for. “I was … I don’t want to say ner- vous, but just kind of a stranger,” An- thony admits. “I just didn’t know what to think.” Musically, he fit right in – that much is made clear over the course of Homemade – but there was a deeper level of compatibility there that both sides had long sought. Call it “small town synergy.” Prior to Honsinger becoming a formal member (he’s from Burlington, ON), MacLeod was Cold Creek Coun- ty’s resident city slicker, coming from the bustling metropolis of Stratford, ON, population 30,000. The others trace their roots back to rural Ontario, and in fact, had to cross Cold Creek to get to one another’s houses for rehearsals in the early years. The pop- ulation of Anthony’s hometown of Dalmeny, SK? 1,700. “Joining this brotherhood, we all share a lot of the same kinds of interests,” says Anthony, whose work experience outside of music includes ice road trucking, working the oil patch, and corralling wild boars. “We did a lot of the same things growing up, so it’s a cool thing to just kinda jump into and feels like it fits good. It did seem like it was meant to be, just hanging with these guys and jamming.” For the audition and subsequent rehearsals, Anthony stayed at the Lester family farm near Trenton, ON, pretty much “living out of a Walmart bag.” After being invited to officially man the microphone, he was hoping to fly back to Saskatchewan to pick up his truck, instruments, and other belongings and generally just get his life in order, but there wasn’t really time for any of that. Instead, he bought some new underwear and got back to work. Some variation of the phrase “putting in the time” comes up repeatedly in conversation with Oliver. It’s clearly a key pillar of Cold Creek County’s career plan. Ches Anthony Doug Oliver Jordan Honsinger Justin & Josh Lester