Local singer/songwriter Steve Arsenault is relishing his role as lead guitarist for country star George Canyon.
Arsenault actually landed the gig officially last summer, and it’s been a whirlwind of touring, learning and connecting with enormous audiences and quite simply having a blast.
It all started last summer when Arsenault and his family flew out to Prince Edward Island, where he’s from originally, for a vacation.
“That first night I got a call from George Canyon’s band leader asking me if I’d be interested in auditioning for George as his lead guitarist,” explains Arsenault. At first, he wasn’t sure as he was focused on building his own career. He said he’d give it some thought.
But Arsenault’s wife Selena was quick to say it was a tremendous opportunity.
Steve picked up the phone, called Canyon’s camp and said he was in.
The next day, he got a call suggesting he hit the stage with Canyon in Lloydminster when his holiday out east was finished, and they’d go from there.
When Steve arrived home, he recalls spending hours learning about 40 George Canyon numbers. He’d never even met Canyon, but once he did the nervousness was somewhat diminished. Canyon’s warm personality, plus the solid support of the rest of the band, was reassuring.
Steve joined the guys for another show in Winnipeg, and near the end of the concert Canyon turned to Steve and said ‘Arsenault, you’ve got the gig’.
That was that, and it’s been a terrific ride ever since.
“They’re all great guys,” says Steve of his new circle of bandmates. “And George is really a family-oriented kind of guy. He’s really smart in terms of business, and of course he’s great with a crowd. I watch him during his acoustic sets when it’s just him onstage, and I get why he’s where he is – he’s got that star quality.”
Steve was born and raised in South Rustico, Prince Edward Island, and headed out west about 12 years ago to work on his musical career.
He grew up listening to country music and classic rock, and by the time he was 18 he ventured into songwriting for himself. In 2001 Arsenault won ‘The Q91 Search for the Stars’ talent search where he got the chance to go to Nashville to record an original song with Canada’s own the late Gary Buck.
From there he auditioned for Nashville Star 2004, and ultimately made it to the regional finals in Austin, Texas.
Since those days, he has opened for such artists like Duane Steele, Johnny Reid, Trooper, Nazareth, Julian Austin, Billy Klippert and 54-40.
Looking forward, Steve notes that Canyon and company will be touring in support of a new CD this spring plus teaming up with megastars Toby Keith and Alan Jackson during Canadian legs of their respective tours.
Steve is thrilled with the doors that are swinging wide open for him as all of this unfolds, and he’s still working on his own music.
But for now, it’s a delight hitting stages in front of thousands of country music fans. Canyon has also been encouraging of Steve to be himself and ‘rip it up’ onstage – there’s no room for simply standing there placidly playing his guitar.
Being a part of Canyon’s band has also brought opportunities like performing at the Canadian Country Music Awards last fall. “It gets me around the right people a whole lot quicker,” he says. But ultimately, he’s focused on the rare and wonderful opportunity he’s been granted.
“Right now, I’m just happy being there playing for George.”