Stettler’s own Renegade Station has landed several nominations for the 10th annual Country Music Alberta Awards.
“About a year ago, the Alberta Country Music Association re-branded as ‘Country Music Alberta,” explained guitarist/vocalist Kent Nixon during a recent chat.
“It’s the same awards and the same format,” he said, adding that normally the awards ceremony runs the last week of January. This year, it’s been pushed back to late February.
Rounding out the band are singer/bassist Luanne Carl, guitarist Russ Carl and drummer Scott McKnight.
Nixon said that over the years, the event has grown amazingly, from the early days when it was held in a room in Red Deer’s Westerner Park.
“It’s just been building – both the Association and most especially the awards ceremony. You just can’t say enough about it.”
As to the nominations, the band landed a nod for ‘Group of the Year’, ‘Horizon Single of the Year’ for Don’t Hold Your Breath which was released to radio last spring, ‘Interactive Artist of the Year’ and the ‘Fan’s Choice Award’.
Being nominated in each category is of course a special honour, particularly the ‘Fan’s Choice Award’ and ‘Interactive Artist of the Year’.
“This is neat, because it’s primarily about social media – just interacting with your fans and doing different things for them,” Nixon explained. “Because there have been very few performance opportunities this past year, we did things like holding a ‘Quarantine Match Game’ online with all of us – especially when we couldn’t get together,” he said. “And we had some fairly incredible guests with us, too – both local and international celebrities.
“We are good friends with the Harris brothers from Storage Wars. Mark and Matt both agreed to be on the show for us,” said Nixon.
“It was pretty incredible – they are such cool guys. We also had Wendell Ferguson who is kind of a guitar god in the Canadian country music genre. He’s so funny and so incredibly talented, too! It was really, really cool. We had a really good reception for it. And it wasn’t serious either – it was fun! There hasn’t been enough fun in the last year.”
Looking back, the band came together almost accidentally as Luanne and Russ began attending and performing at a town variety show in Stettler.
There they met Nixon and McKnight and decided to create a band to play dances and parties – becoming the ‘go to’ act on the circuit. Their moniker of Renegade Station is also symbolic of the group’s approach to music.
As pointed out on their web site, the ‘Station’ part of their name is a nod to the vintage working steam train that is a tourist attraction in Stettler and which is a throwback to the region’s pioneering past.
In recent years, the band has also won back-to-back Association of Country Music in Alberta Awards as Group of the Year (2015 and 2016) as well as the ACMA (now Country Music Alberta) Fan’s Choice of the Year in 2015.
They also landed the 2018 ACMA Single of the Year for the terrifically-crafted hit Who’s Gonna Love Me Tonight. The tune also landed in the Top 50 nation-wide.
They also garnered a CCMA nomination for Songwriter of the Year for their tune 2:15 and Luanne was also nominated for CCMA Bass Player of the Year for 2016.
“We’ve got a little bit of hardware,” he added with a laugh.
Reflecting on the past year, Nixon said they were fortunate enough to have had about five ‘live’ shows.
“It’s been very difficult because one of the reasons you get into this in the first place – and it doesn’t matter if you are an actor, singer or a musician – is to get that feedback from the crowd. One of the things that we have learned this year is to try to perform, to the best of our ability, without an (in person) audience. This was a new one for us.
“You have to just give it your all even though there isn’t someone there watching you,” he said.
“On the other hand, I think we had five ‘live’ shows this year. We did a couple of days up in Fort McMurray in the casino which was just before COVID-19 hit in March. We also got to play at the Southern Alberta Music Festival in Mossleigh in August.”
Of course restrictions were in place, which made for something of a different vibe. But it was a joy to just hit the stage and connect with an audience.
In September, they also hosted a cruise-in concert in Stettler.
“It was like nothing we had done before, but it was cool at the same time. They stood up through their sun roofs, gave a yell and it was pretty awesome!”
Early in 2020, prior to COVID-19, they also performed at Ralph’s in Medicine Hat. “It’s one of the biggest country/western bars in western Canada,” he said.
“It’s a huge venue, and they just pack it all of the time.”
The final show of the year was at Edmonton’s famous Cook County Saloon in October.
As to performances over the years, the band has shared the stage with a who’s who of Canadian and international country music luminaries, from George Canyon and Carolyn Dawn Johnson, to David Lee Murphy, Emerson Drive, and Bobby Wills.
These days, there certainly has been time for reflection on the band’s journey so far and what makes being in the ‘biz’ the most fulfilling path to take.
“We are so lucky with our management group and the people that we have met over the years,” he said. “And with the different artists – we all get along really, really well.”
For Nixon, every step of the way with Renegade Station has just been a blast. And so very rewarding on so many levels as well.
“At the end of the day, it’s a cross between the feedback you get from a live performance and the actual process of making music with three of my best friends.”