Hedley’s bassist Tommy Mac is still riding an adrenaline high in the wake of performing for 10,000 screaming, cellphone-waving fans in Toronto.
“It was incredible. We played the biggest show of our lives,” Mac told the Advocate the day after the big event at the Air Canada Centre.
The Vancouver-based pop group has appeared before larger crowds at outdoor festivals, but never as a headliner. And Mac considers the March 27 Toronto concert “amazing” because it proves Hedley can draw enough fans to fill a large arena.
“I found myself looking at all the cellphones and lights out in the audience and I almost forgot myself — I forgot I was on stage,” said the chuckling musician, who hits Red Deer’s Centrium on Sunday with the rest of Hedley.
The Central Alberta gig will be the third last show of the lengthy Canadian Wild Life tour. Hedley’s 35-date jaunt started in B.C. on Valentine’s Day, went as east as far as St. John’s, Nfld., and will finally wrap on April 10 in Victoria. But rather than slowing down for this last westward stretch, the group is “amping up” with opening acts rappers Classified and Mike Boyd, and the duo USS.
Mac comes across as keen about playing in Red Deer as someone who hasn’t been on constant tour for nearly two months. He said he’s been performing for nine years with lead singer Jacob Hoggard, guitarist David Rosin and drummer Christian Crippin and “it never gets old . . . .
“I tell everybody I’m the luckiest man in the world and if I ever complain about anything, I should get struck by lightning!”
His band has been regularly spotlighted over the last few years — what with entertaining at the last Grey Cup half-time show, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and near annual Juno Awards ceremonies.
It sometimes seems like the ubiquitous Hedley has become Canada’s house band. But Mac hesitates to put his pop group into the same iconic category as someone like Celine Dion. “She’s Canada’s songbird . . . I don’t know if I’d want to be the one saying that (about Hedley) . . . . But I would love it if other people said it!”
The 36-year-old father of a two-year-old son feels it’s an honour to take part in a national event like the Grey Cup, which is fervently watched by other Canadians and tends to brings more fans into the fold.
Lately, the band’s popularity has been exploding with the mega-hit Anything. The single from the latest Wild Life CD has become Hedley’s fastest selling to date. The dance-able tune about never letting doubters bring you down, comes with an eye-popping video, complete with content warning about nudity.
It appears to make fun of the excesses of celebrity culture — including send-ups of twerking star Miley Cyrus.
Mac admitted he has mixed feelings about the video (which has raised some general eyebrows but no comment from Cyrus herself). He feels the more risque aspects might be objectionable, but on the other hand, the footage shows another facet of the band.
In the end, it got people talking — even some music industry people in the U.S., said Mac, who isn’t sure whether Wild Life could become Hedley’s breakthrough record south of the border, where it was just released.
Many popular Canadian bands, including The Tragically Hip, have tried to make a major dent in the American market and failed.
It’s really hard to cross over, admitted Mac. “But it’s the brass ring for us, so it’s what we always try to do . . . .”
Meanwhile, Hedley is gathering fans in Australia, New Zealand, England, Belgium and Germany, where Mac was born.
The former Canadian Forces “army brat” (named Thomas MacDonald) said he’s looking forward to the next European tour, since he’s always thrilled to return to places he remembers from his youth. “It’s cool to go back and see where I lived and the schools I used to go to . . . .”
While he gravitated towards playing with metal bands when he was younger, Mac now feels his “evolution” towards pop fits better with his populist aims: “I was always more about putting people in seats and getting them to buy albums.”
Hedley came into being when a group that Mac was formerly with lost its vocalist. Someone suggested taking on Hoggard, but Mac remembers being completely dismissive of the former Canadian Idol contestant before meeting him.
“I didn’t believe in that whole factory process . . . .”
But the two hit it off soon after meeting and Hoggard’s musical talents were undeniable, said Mac. “Jake has such a raw talent. … He started to really learn how to write and arrange songs.”
He believes what makes the group so much fun to watch is that the musicians are clearly having a good time together on stage. “We all make each other crack up every day.”