Lacombe’s Gord Bamford has joined the tide of Canadian musicians who have moved south to the U.S.
He now lives in Tennessee, but fans can rest assured it’s his work rather than Alberta’s sketchy climate that made him migrate across the border last year with his wife and three children.
The practical reason is “I’ve always done about 85 per cent of my writing in Nashville,” said Bamford, who makes his home in Spring Hill, about a 30-minute drive south of the country music mecca.
Sony Music is also trying to get Bamford’s songs played by American radio stations and he believes this is a much easier pitch if he’s living in the States. “It’s tough for Canadians down here … It’s a bit of a grind, but I don’t want to say I’d never given it a try.”
Bamford said he already misses Lacombe and never plans to stay away from his Canadian fans for too long, but “this is where the market is,” and attaining some U.S. success “would be a bonus.”
With 18 Top-10 tunes in Canada, including the No. 1 hit When Your Lips are So Close, Bamford has already won just about every Canadian country music award going. He’s a 22-time Canadian Country Music Award winner, including three-time Male Artist of the Year.
Last month he also won the American Country Music Association’s International Award (also called the Jeff Walker Global Country Artist Award) for the second time. It’s for outstanding achievements by a country music artist signed outside of the United States, and has never been presented twice before to another performer.
Bamford found out about this win when a country music superstar tweeted her congratulations. “I had just landed in Nashville and Reba McEntire had it on Twitter. It was pretty neat!” he said.
The prestigious award comes at the right time. Bamford is gearing up for the release of his seventh studio album, Tin Roof, on April 8 — the same day he performs for Central Alberta fans at Red Deer’s Centrium, along with U.S. country singer Joe Nichols.
Not only is the 15-track album “good value” for fans, said Bamford, “it’s the best 15 songs I’ve put on a record, yet.”
He co-wrote a dozen of the new tunes and collaborated with songwriter/producer Phil O’Donnell, who has worked with Blake Shelton, Tyler Farr and George Strait.
The first two singles, Don’t Let Her Be Gone and Heard You in a Song, are slower ballads. The third upcoming single, Breakfast Beer is an up-tempo ode to vacation time — and judging by fan reaction, Bamford predicted it could become the biggest song of his career to date. It’s already at No. 9 on iTunes charts and hasn’t even made it to radio yet.
“I’m hoping it’s going to become the summer anthem in Canada. That old-school country stuff always does well for us,” said Bamford.
The 39-year-old can’t wait for fans to hear Tin Roof, which also contains the song Apples, about his 11-year-old son.
The tune was inspired by the adage ‘apples don’t fall far from the tree,’ since Bamford’s boy reminds him of himself at the same age. “He’s into hockey and baseball and fishing and hunting — pretty much all the things I was into …”
Bamford’s younger daughters are more influenced by his performing side. Bamford said his eldest daughter, Paisley, successfully auditioned for a talent show recently — although she was singing Rachel Platten’s pop anthem, The Fight Song and not a country song. “I was more nervous about whether she made it than she was,” he recalled.
Although Bamford’s wife and kids are enjoying life in Tennessee, the family is already planning to be back in Central Alberta this summer at a place on Sylvan Lake. After getting in some relaxation, Bamford will be touring the country of his birth, Australia, where his father still lives, in late August.
“It’s a long way to go, but I’m excited about it. I have dual citizenship and it’s a natural fit for my music,” said the singer, who notes Australia’s country music audience is the third largest in the world after the U.S. and Canada.
But first thing’s first, Bamford really looks forward to next week’s concert in Central Alberta with Nichols. “I haven’t played in Red Deer a long time … that’s why I wanted to have the record release party in Red Deer.”
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show are $45-$65 from Ticketmaster.