A Canada Day in Ecuador
Canadian ambassador books Bay Roberts musician’s band for special gig
Bay Roberts native Andrew Mercer was busy lining up Canada Day gigs for his band Cod Gone Wild when he received an unexpected phone call.
A couple of months ago he was contacted at his Vernon, B.C., home by the Canadian ambassador to Ecuador’s assistant about playing a Canada Day show in the country’s capital city of Quito.
“It’s pretty exciting as we always play Canada Day. Every year we have surprise shows and get to travel. Last year, we did a show in San Francisco.”
Ambassador Pamela O’Donnell is from Nova Scotia and was looking for that perfect modern Celtic act for the show, which is being held in the gardens of the embassy.
When you’re the handpicked choice of a Canadian ambassador, you’re pretty much obliged to work your schedule around attending the event. That’s exactly what Mercer, who handles book- ings for the band, did once he received the call.
“We were in already in negotiations with a few places when we got the email asking if we’d be interested in coming down,” he told The Compass. “I had to go back to these groups and tell them something had come up. They were really great and understanding. Since booking the (Ecuador show) we ended up turning down three or four shows.
“What a great opportunity for the band.”
The opportunity came after the ambassador saw the band’s video for “Farewell to Nova Scotia” on streaming site YouTube. It was shot at the Okanagan Winter Carnival and features just a sampling of the band’s immense skill and energetic live show. It helps too that the song was one of the tunes O’Donnell was looking to hear at the show. It’s been six years since Mercer left his home province and headed west looking for a change of pace. That was Canada Day 2009.
Armed with a business degree from Memorial University, Mercer came to British Columbia without a position, but soon found one at the Okanagan campus for the University of British Columbia.
He worked there for three years before, in true rock n’ roll fashion, he quit his job and pursued music full-time.
Mercer was testing the waters on forming a band the very first day he moved out west. Arriving on Canada’s birthday, Mercer attended some of the local festivities where he met a journalist for the local paper who interviewed him about the move and his desires to find like-minded musicians.
“It always takes awhile to find the right people who have that chemistry on stage and musically,” he said.
The right people
When he did find them, Mercer said there was an instant chemistry amongst the group. Watching their live clips, it is not hard to see this is the case. There is the flowing stage banter and the movements based of those of their bandmates.
Aside from Mercer who sings and plays guitar, the group also includes drummer Chad ‘Rhino’ Carter, classically trained violinist Anjuli Otter and Canadian-Japanese bass player Roy Kawano.
Rhino, a heavy metal drummer at heart, has a term of endearment for the sounds he makes on the drums playing Celtic music.
“He calls it a ‘cod slap,’” said Mercer. “That’s the way that he played the snare drum.”
To that end, the drummer suggested that name for the band, but it was quickly nixed.
“If I went home and told my mother the name of the band was ‘cod slap,’ she wouldn’t let me in the house,” said Mercer. “We wanted to have cod in the name. With me being the only guy in the band from Newfoundland and travelling to B.C. to play in a Celtic band, I’m kind of the cod in Cod Gone Wild.
The band has produced three albums to date, each containing a rolicking mix of traditional tunes
A history of music
Mercer has been involved in music since his days at Amalgamated Academy in Bay Roberts. In high school, he was a member of Ocean Skye and spent countless nights playing in the clubs and pubs on George Street in St. John’s.
When he is not bouncing around the stage with Cod Gone Wild, he is the director of the Okanagan Celtic Choir in Vernon.
“I’m very proud of Bay Roberts and its one of the first things I say every show,” said Mercer. “I want people to know where I am from and I’m proud to represent Newfoundland and the music.”
Cod Gone Wild performs upwards to 100 shows a year, and the industry veteran couldn’t be happier.
“It’s been busy the last couple of years and it keeps getting busier,” said Mercer.
British Columbia-based Celtic band Cod Gone Wild will play a big gig at the Canadian Embassy in Quito, Ecuador on July 1. Fronted by Bay Roberts native Andrew Mercer (far left), the band will bring its energetic live show to the South American nation. Other members of the band are Anjuli Otter (second from left), Chad Carter (second from right) and Roy Kawano.