Nice Horse on the rise

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Frank PEE­BLES Ci­ti­zen staff fpee­bles@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca

Nice Horse is per­haps the most un­likely coun­try band in Cana­dian his­tory, if you as­sess each band mem­ber and how they came to­gether. The four are Katie Rox on banjo and gui­tar, Tara McLeod on elec­tric gui­tar, Brandi Si­do­ryk on bass and Krista Wodelet on drums. All of them sing ex­cep­tion­ally well.

To­gether Nice Horse is bash­ing the na­tional air­waves with siz­zling party an­thems like Pony Up and Jim, Jack, John­nie & Jose.

Their ini­tial of­fer­ing is an al­bum called There Goes The Neigh­bor­hood. The over­all at­mos­phere of this pack­age is get­ting com­par­isons to Brett Kis­sell and Wash­board Union (per­haps a re­sult of their main pro­ducer, Jeff Dalziel, also be­ing their pro­ducer), but you can also feel lines tied back to the likes of Farmer’s Daugh­ter, Alabama, Roseanne Cash, The Gatlin Broth­ers and The Zac Brown Band.

McLeod is the lead gui­tar player in famed On­tario metal band Kit­tie. She was listed as a “gui­tar player to know” by Gui­tar World Mag­a­zine, while Gui­tar Player Mag­a­zine did a fea­ture break­ing down her gear pref­er­ences and play­ing style.

Rox is the found­ing vo­cal­ist in Goth-pop band Jaka­lope with techno-metal star Dave Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails Fame. She also sang backup for Mandy Moore and had a duo with Sim­ple Plan gui­tarist Sébastien Le­feb­vre.

Si­do­ryk was trained as an opera singer, French horn player, she was in the navy (which has a band), and si­mul­ta­ne­ously had two quirky Van­cou­ver indie bands go­ing at once – Bee­keeper and Sid­ney York.

Which brings us to Wodelet, who was the other half of Sid­ney York. They were get­ting plenty of pop cul­ture at­ten­tion with tunes like Cold In Here, Weapons-Grade Love, Weird For You and Elec­trolove. With Si­do­ryk’s French horn and Wodelet’s bas­soon, how could an indie-pop band fail, right?

Wodelet said they just per­formed a Sid­ney York show the other day at a fundraiser. It was the first time they’d done that ma­te­rial in about four years. They pow­ered down their pre­vi­ous projects when they and their buddy Rox started song­writ­ing and at­tend­ing in­dus­try func­tions to­gether as mu­tual sup­port.

Even­tu­ally, it be­came chronic and some­how, it be­came coun­try. Wodelet said that de­spite their metal, techno, Gothic, geek-rock, op­er­atic and clas­si­cal back­grounds, there was a lot of agri­cul­ture in the fam­ily up­bring­ings of some Nice Horse mem­bers, and with­out try­ing at it, the rich soils of Al­berta yielded this flour­ish­ing new band.

“If, 10 years ago, some­one had said to me ‘you’re go­ing to be the drum­mer in a coun­try band’ I’d be like um­m­mmm, what?,” said Wodelet, laugh­ing. “I did start my mu­si­cal ca­reer in clas­si­cal mu­sic. I was into rock and pop, mostly, grow­ing up, but what I did my­self was clas­si­cal. That’s what I went to school for. Ac­tu­ally, I have more de­grees than I need, as an or­ches­tral bas­soon player.”

She joked, but not re­ally a joke, that her par­ents are fi­nally start­ing to see the value in all that school­ing.

She and Si­do­ryk ac­tu­ally at­tended the Univer­sity of Toronto’s mu­sic school at the same time but some­how never met. They were in­tro­duced when Si­do­ryk was work­ing as a WestJet flight at­ten­dant, met Wodelet’s sis­ter who was also in that job, and the in­tro­duc­tions got made be­cause of the fam­ily mu­sic con­nec­tion.

Wodelet did meet some­one else at univer­sity, though, who would in­di­rectly play a role in all of this. Cana­dian bas­soon star Nad­ina Mackie Jack­son is a prof at U of T, she’s a renowned pres­ence on the Cana­dian sym­phony or­ches­tra scene, has a flair for blue hair and fan­tas­ti­cal per­for­mances, and also does a duet project with folk leg­end Valdy. She was born and raised in Fran­cois Lake and Prince Ge­orge.

Wodelet nearly melted when she heard that her univer­sity men­tor was from this area.

“I’m re­ally glad you brought her up. When I started play­ing in Sid­ney York, and started do­ing kooky things like get­ting a pickup in­stalled in my horn and run­ning it through gui­tar ef­fects ped­als, Nad­ina was one of the few clas­si­cal play­ers who looked at me and went ‘that’s re­ally cool, and you have some­thing to of­fer’ in­stead of think­ing ‘you ob­vi­ously aren’t a se­ri­ous bas­soon­ist.’ When I started cross­ing gen­res, there were many in the or­ches­tral world who didn’t think that was right. That was an at­ti­tude I en­coun­tered among quite a few peo­ple I knew in the clas­si­cal world. Nad­ina was never one of those peo­ple. As you can tell from her ca­reer, she has done in­cred­i­bly very well mak­ing mu­sic a lit­tle left of cen­tre and a lit­tle out of the or­di­nary, and she re­ally em­braced what I was do­ing. In fact, she had me out to Toronto, flew me there, to be part of the Bas­soon Days events she was putting on at the univer­sity, and give a mas­ter class to the stu­dents. I don’t think any­body else would have done that. I am so grate­ful to her for that. I can’t tell you how ex­cited I am that I got to talk about her, I just ad­mire her so much.”

Crooked story straight, the Nice Horse mem­bers man­aged to find each other and nur­ture the seeds of their first mu­sic project all in the last three years or so.

This was not the forte of any of them, yet pro­ducer Dalziel (along with an­other pro­ducer who knows some­thing about bend­ing gen­res, a guy named Bob Rock) in­sisted that he was go­ing to buck the trend for rookie en­sem­bles like theirs. It might be sur­pris­ing to the ca­sual fan, but the first al­bums of new bands are of­ten recorded us­ing ses­sion play­ers in the stu­dio. The band learns the songs af­ter the fact so they can per­form on the road.

Dalziel and Rock knew th­ese play­ers were con­sum­mate mu­si­cians. No other play­ers could cap­ture their unique mu­si­cal per­son­al­ity. No, they were the only ones who could track the orig­i­nal record­ings.

Be­fore they had a pres­ence out­side of their base town of Cal­gary, their sub­stan­tial rep­u­ta­tions con­flu­enced in the ears of an­other Cana­dian mu­sic in­dus­try gi­ant who dealt them an­other im­por­tant card in the Nice Horse game.

“We booked our first tour open­ing for Tom Cochrane. Uh oh. Sud­denly we had to won­der, did we just make a big mis­take?” Wodelet won­dered.

Or did Tom Cochrane? But the hall-of-famer is fa­mous for strate­gi­cally se­lect­ing open­ing acts. He gave big votes of his con­fi­dence, over the years, to acts like Amanda Mar­shall, the Grapes Of Wrath, the North­ern Pikes and most re­cently Meghan Patrick who picked up the CCMA tro­phy for Fe­male Vo­cal­ist of the Year only a year af­ter she shared a cross-Canada tour with the leg­endary Red Rider.

“He took a chance on us, and we are very grate­ful to him for it. At the time, we did not have a lot of per­form­ing un­der our belt as a group. We didn’t have a lot of stuff on­line. We were so young as a band. And he let us come on the road with them, and he and his whole band and crew were so nice to us. Not only was it our first sta­dium tour, it was our first tour pe­riod. In ret­ro­spect, he was re­ally one of the big in­flu­ences in the foun­da­tion of the band be­cause he did take that first chance on us. We would prob­a­bly be in a much dif­fer­ent place right now if he hadn’t.”

The place they are in now is open­ing for an­other mega-act from the world of coun­try rock. Nice Horse opens for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band tonight at CN Cen­tre.

HAND­OUT PHOTO BY HEATHER POL­LOCK

Nice Horse, fea­tur­ing Katie Rox, Tara McLeod, Brandi Si­do­ryk and Krista Wodelet will open for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band tonight at CN Cen­tre.

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