It’s hard to believe that it’s been half a decade already since it all began. Although for the first 4, or so, summers I was primarily the only writer there were a lot of people behind the scenes that ensured that I could get to the festivals and events. Here’s my look back at the first 5 summers.
Having been an off and on blogger for a few years covering topics from politics to American Idol but never really focused in on one topic. It wasn’t until early 2011 when I was contacted by the Ottawa Citizen about taking on the Capital Hoedown in the summer of 2011 that I really honed in on a specific topic, at the time that was country music and, of course, more specifically, the lineup of the Capital Hoedown.
After that first summer wrapped up I knew I had to continue writing, I couldn’t just stop until the next Hoedown was on the radar. It was at that time that I started writing the Tech Connection Blog, a regular blog about technology and social media (I ended the blog last year to focus all my efforts on Sound Check). For the first winter that kept me busy and allowed to continue to hone my writing skills and style. Of course early in 2012 the Hoedown, more or less, self destructed and my coverage of this, and efforts to advocated for those who failed to get refunds really put the blog on the map. Naturally with the fall of the Hoedown the future for the Hoedown Blogger seemed bleak. But a few months later a new opportunity arose as the Citizen asked if I’d be interested in covering Ottawa Bluesfest that summer. At that time it was decided to rename the blog Bluesfest Blogger but not long after my first Bluesfest was in the history books invites started to come in from other events, not just in Ontario but across Canada. In late 2012 I was officially on the guest list for the 2nd annual Boots and Hearts Music Festival and the Boots and Hearts blogger blog was born, although the name didn’t last for long. As I began my pre-event coverage in the early spring of 2013 my new friends and Boots and Hearts suggested that rather than having multiple individual blogs I should consider rebranding and creating one blog for all; A few weeks later Sound Check Blog was born, to this day I give credit to Laura at Republic Live for giving me that little push in the right direction. Had that not happened Sound Check as we know it today may not exist.
A few other events took place in the coming months before festival season would arrive, including the Ottawa Citizen’s monetization of their blog section. This meant that all of my readers would now be forced to pay after reading x number of articles, something I didn’t think was fair considering as I blogger I was not paid. I weighed out my options and finally decided that the best move would be to develop a new site and go independent. Was it a risk? Absolutely, the Ottawa Citizen is a huge media machine with a marketing budget in the millions and the clout that others can only dream of having. I could go independent and Sound Check could fade away and never be seen or heard from again…but we all know that didn’t happen.
2013 would be a busy summer for me event wise. Not only would I be covering Boots and Hearts and Ottawa Bluesfest I had also been invited to cover the Tim Horton’s Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival and won a trip to Calgary in July for a VIP Calgary Stampede experience with WestJet, ok that trip turned out to be less than VIP but that’s another story. It was at Boots and Hearts that the first stories published to the new Sound Check Blog website, at first I published to both platforms so as not to completely cut out the readers. But the first event that was published exclusively to the new site was my coverage of Tim Hicks and Kira Isabella at the Spencerville Fair.
2014 would prove to be the next big test for Sound Check. Record invites to events across Canada but employment issues on my end were putting a major damper on the summer festival season as I simply couldn’t justify the travel and expenses involved with attending many of the events when I could barely afford to keep up with my regular household expenses. It was around that time I had started talking to a Country Music Junkie on Twitter named Corey Kelly. Corey was looking to get into blogging and wanted some tips on how to get started. In our conversations I discovered that Corey lived in the GTA and knew country music better than…well probably better than country music itself. Seeing as he was already attending several of the events that I had on my radar for that summer I offered him a shot to cover a few of those events to earn the media credentials for Boots and Hearts later that summer. It was a rocky start but he accepted feedback and proved he was willing to work so, thanks to Boots and Hearts, I gave him my media credentials for Boots and Hearts. It was a difficult for me to hand over the reigns of Sound Check to someone I had never met, especially seeing as I spent the weekend of Boots and Hearts at a family cottage with little reception to be able to follow his coverage as in-depth as I might have wanted to. But in the end the feedback from Boots and Hearts was positive and Corey became an official member of Sound Check.
In early 2015 we started the process to rebrand the site from a blog into more of a magazine format to make it easier to find content. On February 1 we flipped the switch and went from Sound Check Blog to Sound Check Entertainment.
2015 is proving to be one of our most ambitious years yet. More interviews, more events and this year we are even taking the driver seat in an event and presenting this summer’s Spencerville Stampede for which booked all of the acts.
Festival season in Ontario is just getting started and we’ve already been present at the following major events:
- Bestival Toronto
- Amnesia Rockfest
- Burlington Sound of Music Festival
- Brockville All-Ships Festival
- Jason Blaine Celebrity Charity Golf Tournament
- Autumn Hill CD Release
- 22nd Annual Tim Horton’s Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival
- 1000 Islands Regatta
- Shania Twain Ottawa (tentative)
- TD Ottawa Jazz Festival
- RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest
- Way Home Music and Arts Festival
- Capital Country Fest @ Spencerville Stampede
- Boots and Hearts Music Festival
- and more…
Most memorable moment for me over the last 5 years would have to be seeing Fun at Ottawa Bluesfest a few years ago. The moment that Nate Ruess’ emotions got the best of him after hearing 30,000 fans sing his songs with him. It was an incredible moment to see a superstar of that calibre humbled by his fans.
Coolest experience to date: Jason Blaine’s Celebrity Charity Golf Tournament, not just having all access but sharing a pre-show dinner with the celebrity’s. Kind of surreal that in five years I went from a nobody to a guy that had dinner with Tim Hicks sitting across from me, Chad Brownlee and Jason Blaine beside me, and them knowing who I am and what I do.
Most memorable interview: Dear Rouge. This category, for me, doesn’t have a lot of nominees considering that Corey has done that bulk of the interviews to date. But the opportunity came up for me to interview Dear Rouge as they prepare to hit the road across Canada this summer. The entire 30 mins that I spoke to Danielle and Drew felt much more like a conversation between friends catching up than an interview.
Most anticipated act of the summer: This one is a tie for me between Dear Rouge and Autumn Hill. I’ve been a huge fan of Autumn Hill since the first Boots and Hearts I was able to attend. Unfortunately I missed their performance at Boots and Hearts and have been itching to see them ever since. Dear Rouge has only been on my radar for a few months, since being introduced to them by my step-son. The first time I heard their sound I knew they were going to be huge, the last time I felt like that about an artist was when I first heard the Killers.
Most anticipated concert tour: Dean Brody and Paul Brandt’s Road Trip Tour. I’ve been a fan of Paul Brandt as long as I’ve listened to country music, I’ve been lucky enough to catch him live several times. Dean Brody connected with me several years ago with his song “Trail in Life”. My wife heard it first and she played it for me and, being adopted, it really hit home for me. Since that day Dean and I have been playing cat and mouse and I have not managed to cross paths with him. He performed at Boots and Hearts in 2013 but weather and logistical issues kept me from seeing him, although I did hear part of “Canadian Girls” as we were arriving at our campsite.
Behind the scenes
As I mentioned earlier there are so many people behind the scenes that indirectly make Sound Check possible. First and foremost our spouses and families. I know I can speak for Corey when I say that words cannot describe how grateful we are to them for their support. Sometimes media accreditation status isn’t known until mere hours before the event and some events keep us busy for several days straight. To this day we are 100% volunteer run, everything we do is for the love of music. Without the support of our families none of this would be possible.
I’d also like to personally thank Laura at Republic Live, we’ve had a direct line of communication with Laura for 2 years now and she and her team are incredible supporters of what we do. Thanks, as well, to all of our label contacts at Universal, Sony, Warner and of course all of the incredible PR companies that keep us in the loop when their artists have events coming up that we need to cover.
Thanks to the artists who keep making the music, as long as you keep making it we’ll be here to promote it. And thanks to the festivals across Canada and the world that year after year stage these artists and give them a platform to showcase their talents and then invite us out to cover them.
Special thanks to everyone at the Ottawa Citizen who played a part in getting this incredible venture off the ground. Thanks to the Capital Hoedown for existing, even if only for a couple of years, and thanks to Mark, Joe and AJ at RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest for helping keep the blog alive after the Hoedown left and for their continued support now that we have gone independent, it is truly an honour to be invited back year after year to cover your incredible event!
I personally need to thank Corey Kelly. Without him it’s all but certain that Sound Check would’ve faced it’s final curtain last summer but thanks to his efforts at events in the GTA and throughout the winter developing our relationships with the major labels we are stronger than ever! Thanks to Trish Cassling for lending her photographic talents to help our words look good with some amazing pictures.
But most of all, thanks to you. The reader. By coming back day after day to read our latest review or interview you above all make this possible. Without you we would be nothing.
The next 5 years are going to be exciting, we are really excited that we will be working with Sean Sisk of Sisk Photography at events starting this summer in the Ottawa area, I’ve been search for a photographer to add to the Ottawa team for some time now and finally connected with Sean and his wife Erin at Jason Blaine’s charity event and am excited that we will be doing some work together. Sean has a solid reputation as an event photographer (was recently the official band photographer for The Offspring at Rockfest) and I look forward to him becoming part of the Sound Check team.
To kick off the next 5 years we’ve got a special treat for our readers. We have managed to get 2 full event passes, with Camping to the SOLD OUT Boots and Hearts Country Music Festival being held at Burl’s Creek August 6-9. If you want them share this post on Facebook or Twitter (or both) and answer the following question: Name the publication that Sound Check was founded under and eventually split off from to become an independent blog! Be sure to tag us in the post so we know you posted it. Contest closes next Sunday at midnight. Winner will be announced on Monday morning, June 29!