Just prior to his appearances at C2C 2022, Canadian artist TEBEY took some time out with Cait Watters to talk about playing the festival, the importance of live music, and his new release plans…
This year, Tebey finally got to make his Country to Country debut, gracing numerous stages over the course of the weekend long extravaganza at London’s O2 arena. The festival was a long time coming for the Canadian who, back in 2020, was in the country ready to play before things shut down.
Fresh off the first leg of his Shotgun Rider tour, he took some time to talk with me about the importance of touring, collabs and more!
Country to Country is finally here! You were here, actually in the country, a couple of years ago just as it got canceled. That must’ve been weird.
So weird, so strange…this is my first time playing C2C. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been a couple of times so I feel like I’ve already played it! It’s going to be great.
You’ve got a bunch of shows at C2C lined up as well as a headline show afterwards. Are you getting any downtime here? Or is it just work, work, work?
I just spent the last few days walking around. I’m out here in Chelsea, South Kensington, so I’m just walking around, trying to take in the city. I really do love it so I’m trying to become an honorary Londoner for the week or so that I’m here, taking in the sights. Tomorrow we got rehearsals and then hit the ground running on Friday afternoon.
You’re becoming a regular over here, which is something that UK fans really appreciate. There’s always an appetite for live music. I’m asking the obvious question here but is that important to you? To keep coming over, to keep grinding over here as such?
Oh, absolutely. I’m in it for the long haul, I’ve said it from day one. You have to keep coming back. Being able to reach the fans in the UK, the country fans, is a little more difficult just because you guys don’t have a ton of country radio like we do in America or Canada. So I think it’s just watching the crowds grow every time. You come over the first time and it’s a hundred people; the next time, it’s three hundred, you know? Hopefully, I mean that’s the name of the game. I’m looking forward to hopefully doing a tour. I want to get out there and do a headline tour, something like Tenille (Townes) is doing. She just announced a run of shows in the fall.
You’re Canadian. Personally, I see a similarity between Canadian and UK audiences. They’re very dedicated. Would you say that’s true?
Yeah! I think country music fans are in general. But the UK fans for sure are more sit down and listen, very attentive. I think that’s because of the type of country music they’ve been exposed to, for the most part, which is the storyteller/singer-songwriter type of country artist. Even The Shires kinda fall into that, and Tenille Townes and Tenille Arts, people like that. But, I mean, my show is completely different. It’s high energy. It’s like take Thomas Rhett and Kane Brown and put them together and that’s me.
Let’s go back to March 2020 when things shut down. As an artist, what was that like? Was it difficult to stay motivated when there was so much uncertainty about what the future held? Or was it a creative time for you? To have some time to sit down and create…
Well, obviously, it was a lot of time off which I’m usually not good with. I usually try to stay as busy as possible. But, again, it was a crazy situation because it was so much bigger than music. I just tried to keep that in perspective. As far as creativity, I mean I feel like I took almost a year off. I feel like a lot of people did. There were definitely no shows, and no in person songwriting sessions which was probably the hardest for me because I love being in the same room as my co-writers. I’m not really good at this whole Zoom songwriting thing that had taken off in the pandemic.
During all of that, you released an album [The Good Ones]. You said yourself that it’s important to keep touring, to keep getting yourself out there yet, now, you couldn’t, at least not in the conventional way. What was that like for you, someone who clearly views touring as an integral part of what you do?
It was strange but, at the same time, we were still able to do a lot of press. It was more TV shows and things like that that we were able to do virtually so it was a little bit different, probably a little bit cheaper actually *laughs*. Other than that, the hardest thing was not being able to play the songs for the fans. But, on the upside, a lot of the songs were able to become hits over the year, year and a half of no shows. So, instead of playing them new songs, I’m playing them songs that are hit songs.
You’ve just come off the first leg of your tour in Canada, so that must’ve been great to finally get that album out there in front of that live audience.
It was great! We were up against it from the very beginning, just trying to put this tour together because of the never-ending and always changing Covid protocols in different provinces. It was tough but once we got out, people were so happy that we were there and that we made the effort. The crowds were great! We were able to hit western Canada and we are heading on the second leg, that we are hoping to do in the fall, to the Eastern part of Canada.
There’s a duet on the album with fellow Canadian, Marie Mai, who isn’t a country singer – and I think, because she’s not, that’s why it works so well. Was that intentional on your part? To go outside the genre and outwith the typical Nashville bubble?
Absolutely, one hundred percent. I wanted to work with someone who isn’t a country artist. I didn’t want to reuse someone that had done a lot of duets recently so I wanted to find someone outside of the genre. My producer is originally from Quebec, Montreal, and she’s from there as well. We called her up, sent her the song and the rest is history.
A few months after the release of The Good Ones, you put out another collab, a new version of ‘Song of the Summer’, featuring Una Healy. Did you always feel that song needed another voice on it?
The song was actually not a duet at all. It’s kinda funny how these things just happen. I just literally had an idea one day, like ‘man, what if this was a duet?’ Then just started thinking about people, again trying to go outside of the genre for the most part. The only connection we had to Una was her management because her manager, Adam, is from Canada. So we kinda just cold called him, sent him the song and gave him the spiel and, next thing you know, we’re singing on this song together.
And you’d never met her before then, right? And obviously because of Covid, you couldn’t meet her?
Yeah, no. She seems very lovely! I’ve never had the opportunity to meet her face-to-face, no.
You’ve just dropped your new track, ‘What Was I Drinking’. You’re not a newcomer anymore but do you still feel nervous about releasing new music? Especially, again, when you haven’t necessarily had the usual sort of chances to test out new material.
I don’t release anything unless I’m pretty confident that it’s a hit. I usually feel pretty good about what I’m getting ready to release. Not really nervous about the music being out there; just happy that it’s out because there’s a lot of time spent behind the scenes, before people actually get to hear the music. But, yeah, I don’t really get nervous. It’s going to do what it’s going to do. It is what it is, right? People are gonna love it, like it or not at all.
It’s a brand new track, not featuring on The Good Ones. Safe to say that this is a taste of new material on the way?
For sure, for sure. I think ‘What Was I Drinking’ is more country than I’ve ever done before. But the actual album is going to be a little bit of everything, kinda like my previous albums have been. I just try to write great songs and I let my songwriting lead me down a specific path when I write. Wherever my songwriting takes me is where I end up. From what I’ve seen so far, a lot of it is going to be a little more country than what people are used to but I think that’s fun!
When can we expect to hear that?
In the fall! I’ll be finishing it up in, I think, May/June and we’ll have it out in the fall!