While spending the weekend at the Manitoulin Countryfest last month we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Royalty Records recording artist, and New Brunswick native, Tristan Horncastle.

Tristan Horncastle

Tristan Horncastle

SC: We are sitting with Tristan Horncastle at Manitoulin Countryfest. It’s a pleasure to meet you Tristan.

TH: You too. Thanks for having me.

SC: Your Manitoulin experience didn’t turn out quite as you had expected.  Tell us kind of what happened today.

TH: It’s been a long rough day, you can put it that way. I’m from Fredericton, New Brunswick, and I think it’s an hour time difference. Anyway, I was up at 3:30 yesterday morning and caught my plane, there was a little delay with the plane, went from Fredericton to Ottawa and Ottawa to Toronto. We handed our guitars on when we got on the plane and when we got off  in Toronto there was no guitars.

SC:  Oh no!

TH:  Yea, so we talked to a couple people, they told us to wait at the oversize baggage. We did that for an hour and went back and talked to some people, and they were sitting in a bin out back in storage ready to go back to Fredericton this morning coming, with us. But the whole point of them coming off  the plane with us was to come here and play Manitoulin Countryfest. So, that was two hours tied up. We finally got a rental car and we drove as much as we could towards the ferry until we realized we weren’t going to make that and had to spin around and go back up around Parry Sound which was another four and a half hours. So, needless to say, we never got here until about 7:30 tonight. So, we did make it in one piece. The cops are probably still looking for us. (laugh)  We burned some fuel for sure and definitely did some speedin but we got here and see its a great venue, great bunch of people here. We really wish we had of got to play the stage. Thanks to Gord Bamford and the crew. Gord got me up on stage. We did some Johnny Cash for everybody. Great reaction from the fans and thanks to everybody who bought my CDs and 100.7 for playing my singles.

SC: Yes, I think what little the people did hear of you, they liked very much.

TH: Awesome.

SC: You started singing in church at 6.

TH: I did. Solos.

SC:  Solos even, at 6 years old.

TH: With no guitar.

SC:  My goodness, that’s amazing.  And playing guitar at 11.

TH:  11 ya, that was my birthday wish when I was 11, I wanted a guitar so that’s what I got.

SC: And that was in New Brunswick?

TH: Yep, Fredericton.

SC: Describe the moment that you knew that music was the path for you and what inspired you to take that path?

TH: Umm, I guess it was kind of in both sides of my family growing up. I was always singing something, definitely country music. I’m a big 90’s country fan. Grew up on Merle Haggard,  Waylon Jennings, Hank Snow, Don Williams. Alan Jackson is my all time guy. But, I guess I met my fiance 9 years ago around a campfire in Chipman New Brunswick where my Mom is from. My Mom  grew up on a farm there and I had a cousin that, when I was 18, started me going to Chipman on Friday nights and hanging out around the bonfires and they always got me to drag my guitar out. So, I used to play guitar around the fire and I guess I gotta thank all my friends and family that just kept at me to get my guitar out and play. I always thought, you know, that I’m just another person beatin on a guitar and singing some music, everybody’s having some drinks, and it’s not that good but it was always a passion in me and it started to come alive. I always believed in chasing your dream and in the small town of Chipman there’s a lot of great musicians there and singers and no one ever took the leap or risk to try it and you’ve got to do that. I said I’m not going to be someone when I’m 50, 60 years old telling my kid that I wished I had of tried something.

So, I got on full time with the City of Fredericton, I think it was 2007. I started when I was 16, still in high school, flagged in the summers, then I got on as casual. I got on full time, that’s what I worked for and I said if I can get on there and kind of build a platform for myself, I am going to go after music. Two years ago I asked for a year leave of absence from work and this January I signed my papers.  I left a 35 year pension job and this is what I do now.

It’s been an amazing ride, without my family and my fans it wouldn’t be possible. My band mates, Matt Mazerolle, my guitar player I met four years ago, he’s been phenomenal. He’s just young. I feel like I’m getting old. I used to be the youngest when I started the band in 2008 we started a band called Southern Drive. Now I’m the oldest.

SC: You are the oldest. You’re not very old.

TH: No, well I guess. I’ll be 30 this March.

SC:  Oh, you are very young looking.

TH: Thanks. Thanks.

SC:  Honestly, I wouldn’t have put you at 30.

TH:  Well, you made my day. After my long day, you made my day.

SC:  So what was the defining moment that caused you to take that leap. Was there something at that particular point?

TH:  Well, I guess our little band that we started in 2008, Southern Drive, played some local pubs. I wrote my first song and our local radio KHJ played it back home and we just kind of went from there and things started rolling and playing more and really got a fan reaction. So we kept playing and I met Matt and things started to go further. We actually watched Jason McCoy at Long and McQuade back home, is where Matt and I met, and I called him the next week and said, hey I need a guitar player. Matt Mazerolle was up for guitar player of the year at the CCMA’s. He’s 23 years old and from Minto New Brunswick. He’s got 2 brothers but he’s the brother I never had. He’s now my road manager/show advancer. We took a leap four years ago and paid money out of our own pockets, went to Smoky Lake, Alberta and opened for Dean Brody acoustically. Then we came home, went to CCMA’s that year, played a bar called On The Rocks on Jasper Ave and Rob Smith from Royalty Records was there. Two days later we get a Facebook message and he wanted to meet at Starbucks so that’s where that kind of got started.  We met, we talked, and when I got home he said he wanted to have a phone chat so I basically got on board with Royalty Records for distribution and they’re our label now. We did a little showcase last CCMA’s in Edmonton with Sakamoto Entertainment and Paul Biro, Ron Sakamoto, and Shawn, Ron’s son were there and they signed us to a booking agreement. It’s been amazing the last two years.

SC: Those are good people to have behind you

TH: Amazing people. Ron Sakamoto is in the Hall of Fame at the CCMA’s. His story we got to see at last year’s CCMA’s of him growing up. I think they were the first Japanese family to settle in Alberta and that was his dream that he wanted to book acts. I think he was 19 when he booked Alan Jackson in Canada.

SC:  Nothing like starting at the bottom.

TH:  Really, my favourite artist.  But anyway, again it goes back to chasing your dreams. And I believe whatever it is you want to do, if you believe in it and work hard and focus on it, it will get you where you want to go.  We just finished a new album. I got to work with Tim McGraw’s engineer, Julian King, down in Nashville and just finished a brand new record down there, looks like a February release.

We’ve got the first 3 singles picked.

SC: Three already?

TH:  Ya, we’re just that excited about the new stuff.

SC:  When can we expect the first single to hit the airwaves?

TH: Well,  I’m not real sure. I’m going to say October just to be safe.  We released ‘Recreation Land’, the last single off our last album a couple months ago.

SC: And you want to give it some time.

TH: Ya, we’ll let it rock for a little bit this summer. We’re just really excited with everything coming 2016 is going to be a big year for us. I think we have a good team behind us. You know we are all working as a team together. I think that’s what it is all about. We are here to work together and not to have someone be the big fish. It’s good.

SC: Ya, I think you need good people around you. Let’s switch gears here and do a little fun thing.

TH: Sure

SC:  I’m going to ask you some questions and you can just answer them quickly. They are easy.

Your favourite movie?

TH: Days of Thunder

SC:   Food?

TH:  Ice cream. Does that count as food?

SC:  I love ice cream so it’s food to me.

TV show?

TH: Umm, I was going to say Walking Dead but I’m going to go with Prison Break

SC:  Artist in any genre?

TH: Alan Jackson

SC:  What’s your way to manage stress, a spa visit, fishing, Prozac? How do you blow off steam?

TH:  Well, I’ve got two kids at home. I’ve got a daughter who was 6 in January and a little fellow who is 15 months the first of August so I’d say that’s my “blowing off steam”, when we hang out. My little girl’s got a four wheeler and so do I and we go out back for a ride or just hanging with them. She’s a mother hen to my little guy. Being home, relaxing is my stress reliever. I’m starting to get some grey hair so I definitely must have some stress sometimes. I always tell the barber to cut my grey out but it doesn’t work.

SC: Personally, I wouldn’t have any hair if the grey was cut out.

TH: They say if you have grey hair that you will have hair a long time. If hair doesn’t turn grey then you are going to lose your hair early. So, grey hair is a good thing.

SC:  Star Trek or Star Wars

TH:  Ew, neither. I’m not a fan.

SC:  Oh, that’s interesting because I’m not either. I’ve never actually seen Star Wars.

TH:  No, I can’t say I have either.

SC:  Seriously. I knew I liked you for a reason.

TH:  Star Trek I think I watched maybe one episode and asked why the guy had a bar across his eyes and that was it. I never watched it again.   (laugh)

SC:  That’s interesting. Okay, do you have an iPhone, an Android or Blackberry?

TH: I have an iPhone and I’m not having good luck. I’m on my third one. I guess I dropped one in the lake so I’m on my second but I’m not having good luck with them. It’s freezing a lot on me.

SC:  I have an Android and hopefully it’s working and we’re recording this interview. Or I’ll have to go back to my hand written notes!

TH:  I’d like to have a flip phone or a bag phone again.  Bag phones are good. Those things would go anywhere.

SC: What was the best advice you have ever been given, career or personal?

TH: Chase your dreams.

SC: So your song, on Royalty Records, ‘A Little Bit of Alright’ charted at #34 in 2014 or is that correct?

TH: It was #32 media base and #33 tracked.

SC:  How did that affect your career?

TH: It was awesome. I guess I released ‘She Brings The Beer’ independently before I got hooked up with Royalty and I think we hit #54 with that one, got on with Royalty and broke top 40. And it’s a whole new ballgame once you break top 40. You get the second half of all the radio looking seriously. 32 is a big first number for us for sure and it’s been our claim to fame. We did a Sammy Kershaw east coast tour with Georgette Jones, George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s daughter, and a local Moncton guy, and Matt and I opened up acoustically. To pull up stools with the spot lights on you and 2000 people in the crowd, pitch black that you can’t even see anybody, and start singing ‘A Little Bit of Alright’ and they cheer the first 5 or 6 words like an old country song that you play, it was a pretty neat feeling for sure. It was pretty awesome.

SC:  So you mentioned ‘Recreation Land’. Tell us about that song and how you and your team chose it to be the single out now.

TH: Well, two things, it is fun and its country. We were sitting in Nashville writing songs for the last album. Bart Butler is one of my producers. His dad did all of George Strait’s radio. Bart wrote Thomas Rhett’s last #1, ‘Make Me Wanna’ with Larry McCoy. Larry and I wrote a song on my new album. Bart and I and Aaron Goodvin, whose from Alberta, wrote five songs on my new album. Aaron has been a big part of where I am today for sure. Aaron hunted me down and begged me to go to Nashville. I met Randy J Martin from Edmonton, Alberta. Randy brought me out for a couple weeks and introduced me to Aaron as a songwriter. Randy and Aaron have believed in me since four or five years ago, since this all started. Aaron said I needed to come to Nashville to record. So we did a 6 song EP there and then we went back and did the ‘A Little Bit of Alright’ album. We did the 6 first songs and compiled them with 6 new ones. It’s just been an amazing ride.

Bart and I sat down in his Dad’s old writing shack and it’s just George Strait platinum stuff on the walls. I had goose bumps the first time I was in there. I told Bart one night that we need to write a song called ‘Recreation Land’ and he said “what in the heck is recreation land?”  So I tried to explain that it is our fun land at home, where you take your four wheeler out or your snowmobile, or you drive down a back road, start a bonfire, well that’s our recreation land. So, after a little while of talking him into it, that’s what we wrote. And we just had fun with it. It’s stuff people can relate to, homemade hot tub in the back of a jacked up pickup truck. That actually happened. A buddy of mine back home built one in the back of a pickup truck at Cavendish Beach Music Festival five or six years ago. All the stuff in the song is stuff that has been done. It’s just a fun song that we didn’t really care how it does, we just wanted to get it out to radio and let people hear it. It’s been great.

SC: I think a lot of people could relate to that. Certainly, we country people can.

TH: Absolutely. Absolutely.

SC: You are going to be back in the Maritimes, actually Halifax, in September for the Canadian Country Music Week as a Rising Star nominee.

TH:  Ya, I’m still trying to soak that one in.

SC:  Well you are in good company with the current nominees and many past winners who have gone on to stardom. What does it feel like to be acknowledged by the industry at this stage of your musical journey?

TH: It’s huge. Like I say, I’m still trying to soak it in. You know when we got the actual final nominations and my picture was in with some great artists, it’s still sinking in. And it will really sink in when we sit down at the awards show September 13th in Halifax.

We’ve got some stuff  I think is going to happen down there. It’s going to be neat to see a lot of Albertans and people from out around who have never been to the east coast, to see them in our beautiful spot. It’s nice for us to go away and go into radio stations. One was in Leduc with Jenn Dalen and we talked about lobster. Jen said she’d never had any because they are $20 for a pound in Alberta.  So, I said, when you come to Halifax we will get you lobster. Now we are going to have lobster races. Everyone is going to get a lobster from the store and we are going to have lobster races in our hotel room for Royalty Records.

SC:  Oh my gosh!

TH: Yes,  it’s definitely an east coast thing. But, no, I’m excited to have the people and the CCMA’s come to the east coast and see it for themselves and, like I say, just to be nominated, that’s a win for me.

SC:  Well, it gets your name out there across Canada. It’s on the ballot so any of us who are voting, if we didn’t know who you were, it causes you to look up that person. So, enjoy the whole thing and we look forward to seeing where your journey takes you and we’ll see you in Halifax.

TH:  Sounds good. Looking forward to it. Thank you so much.

If you would like more information on Tristan you can connect with him online:

website: www.tristanhorncastle.ca

Facebook: www.facebook.com/tristanrhorncastle

Twitter: @Thorncastle

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8d-lOJF0QfK-LQSTxO8Lmg