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Dear Rouge founders feeling the love

Dear Rouge, an upbeat band named after co-founder Danielle McTaggart’s hometown of Red Deer, triumphed over hundreds of other groups to win $100,000 in a Vancouver radio station talent contest.

The victory has left Danielle feeling the love on many fronts.

“It’s pretty exciting. Every time we got to another level in the contest, I was always so shocked because there were so many good bands this year,” said the 28-year-old singer.

About 400 groups entered FM102.7’s Peak Performance Project contest.

Danielle believes Dear Rouge’s Nov. 22 success affirms the pop-synth group she founded with her husband, Drew McTaggart, is on the right musical track.

The winning performance at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom was only the sixth time the duo played a live show as Dear Rouge.

Danielle is also pleased that the win signifies that she and Drew are connecting well professionally, as well as personally.

“Being in a band with your husband is like being married twice. You have to work together . . . as well as concentrating on your relationship. . . . This has been a learning experience for us, and we’re thankful and excited about the direction we’re going in now.”

The former Danielle Heykants performed in Notre Dame High School musicals and sang in a church choir at the Word of Life Centre while growing up in Red Deer.

She met Drew through a friend a decade ago, while she was still playing with the Red Deer band Gaetz Ave. (“I like to name things after Red Deer,” she admitted, with a laugh).

At the time, he was a bassist who performed in the Vancouver band McLean.

“We had a long-distance friendship for many years,” recalled Danielle, until their relationship caught fire about five years ago.

She moved to Vancouver in 2010 and the couple were married a year later.

That was when they decided to give their careers in music one more serious go — this time, as a duo.

“Drew had been making music just for fun and I was more serious, but never had any breakthroughs,” said Danielle, who had also performed with the group Elle.

Their collaboration in Dear Rouge combines Danielle’s optimistic pop sensibilities with Drew’s acoustic/folk ones to catchy effect.

The band’s layered, ephemeral sound is reminiscent of the artist Lights, crossed with Toronto indie band Metric or Montreal’s Stars.

“I’d like to be the bridge between indie pop and (radio) pop — like Katy Perry meets Metric — so we could appeal to a lot of people,” said Danielle, who’s thrilled that Dear Rouge’s music is now played on about five Vancouver-area radio stations.

She hopes the contest win will also get the group some airplay in Red Deer.

The duo plans to use their prize money to release a full-length album, “and tour like crazy so that we can become as well known in the rest of the country as we are in Vancouver right now,” said Drew, the group’s lead guitarist.

Danielle, who plays some guitar and keyboards, believes what helped set Dear Rouge apart from other bands is her and Drew’s willingness to work hard, always evolving their sound, instead of being satisfied with the status quo.

The contest required participants to complete a music boot camp and perform a concert for charity, among other things.

But the charitable aspect was already part of Dear Rouge’s mandate.

The group that released two EPs — Heads Up! Watch Out! in April and Kids Wanna Know in October — gives 10 per cent of its profits to a The Centre for Child Development in Surrey, which supports children with developmental disabilities and their families.

Danielle said the group previously recorded Noah’s Song for Noah Jacobson, a South Surrey boy with autism who lost his father in a workplace accident.

All proceeds from online sales are going to his therapy.

The song can be purchased at

Giving back is “a foundation of who we are as people,” said Drew.

With files from the Surrey North Delta Leader.



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