If you’re a crowd-craving country music fan who loves big arena concerts, you may have to wait for another year before things really open up.
But if you enjoy the more intimate outdoor theatre show, where artistic expression trumps selling beer, the Arden Theatre’s Sept. 16 Plaza Series is the place to be.
Country singer-songwriters Garrett Gregory and Karac Hendriks are set to come together to showcase their different yet complementary styles. Although they met four years ago and have since performed and written together, the two recording artists have yet to define the direction of their musical association.
“This is a good opportunity for people to see us perform in a setting that demonstrates where we are from artistically, and to express ourselves in a more diverse style. Garrett comes from the rock world and has a wide palette of music. I come from a more traditional blue-grass folk background,” said Hendriks, who returns to St. Albert after performing in the city’s 2012 Special Olympics.
Having shared similar rural experiences growing up, Gregory and Hendriks are country boys through and through. Raised in Hannah, Gregory, who still lives in his hometown, followed in his older brother’s footsteps and formed his first garage rock band in Grade 9.
“Of course, we played Nickelback songs. Our first show was at the legion. In a way I was groomed into it between the ages of eight and 12. I competed in choirs. I sang solos in school. At first I didn’t want to be a singer. Once I saw a live music concert, my interest was piqued. I found out later I could sing. I ended up loving it,” said Gregory, whose self-titled debut album was released in the spring.
Hendriks, on the other hand, grew up in Dewberry, a hamlet 66 kilometres northwest of Lloydminster. Born into a musical family, he was playing mandolin by age six and a guitar by age eight. As soon as he could hold his notes, the young musician joined his aunt and uncle’s band, The Grant West Band.
“I sang lead and harmony. I cut my teeth playing with them. I caught the last gasp of classic country music,” said Henriks who now resides in Sherwood Park. His last four singles have hit the Top 100, something that continues to fuel his passion for music.
Soaking up influences throughout the country scene, both musicians have performed in bands and as solo artists with fan accolades following them on social media.
During the one-hour Thursday concert, the duo will sing a combination of covers as well as original material.
Gregory described their powerful vocal cocktail as a special mix.
“[Hendriks's] vocals and backup vocals blend really well with my lead vocals. It’s crazy how the voices click, and his guitar skills are so impressive. Everything clicks. The chemistry is there.”
In turn, Hendriks speaks of Gregory with equal admiration.
“His range is high baritone or basic tenor. But when he has to stretch, he can go into the stratosphere. And he’ll put his own spin on melodies.”
St. Albert’s own country princess, Hailey Benedict, is the opening guest for the 7 p.m. concert. Although barely 19, she has been dazzling the Canadian music industry for more than a decade.
She just released a new single, Wanted You To, on Canadian Country Music and it reached No. 12 on the Country iTunes Chart. Her previous singles include Strike 4, Hindsight 2020, Next Time Around, and Rise to Your Fall.
Benedict has just been chosen as a Top 12 finalist for Project WILD, a development program for rising stars. Not only does the project educate, promote, develop, and launch careers of emerging country and roots artists, it also gives the winner $100,000. There is a second prize of $75,000 and a third prize of $50,000. Each artist also receives a $5,000 grant.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for country artists. It’s the last year they’re doing it, so I’m excited to be part of it,” said Benedict.
As guest opener, she will fill her 30-minute slot with new tunes and classic favourites. Guitarist Josh Ruzycki provides backup support.
Tickets are $15 for a single ticket or $120 for a premium table of six. Visit www.eventbrite.ca.
The Arden Theatre requests patrons follow COVID-19 protocols set out by Alberta Health Services.