Singer Jaydee Bixby enjoys nothing more than sharing his tune with audiences nation-wide.
For generations, his relatives have been known as the Hillbilly Bixbys in Drumheller and Bixby grew up singing at bars and rodeos with his parent’s family band.
Following in this lineage of honest country music is the 23-year-old’s third CD Work in Progress.
The first single, On and On, is already causing a buzz and fans are excited to hear the latest from Bixby.
“It’s coming out in August, and I’ve been really looking forward to it,” he explains during a recent chat. “A lot of these songs are ones that are very near and dear to my heart.”
Local fans will be able to hear the new material Thursday evening during Westerner Days at the Molson Canadian Ranch stage.
Bixby, who lived in Red Deer during his high school years, said it’s largely audience reaction to particular songs that determines whether they make it on an album or not. How a new tune gels with the guys in the band also is an indicator of whether it’s ultimately recorded.
Also, family reaction is important.
“They’re the ones that introduced me to the country music I grew up loving and listening to, so I really trust their opinions.”
Bixby was only 17 when he participated in Canadian Idol in 2007, finishing in second place.
From there, his life was a whirlwind of high-profile shows and media attention.
“It was absolutely a great time – it happened so fast. In the blink of an eye it was over, but I met a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise and learned a bunch of stuff.”
He’s never really stopped since.
“We’ve been on the road for like six years now, and time just flies. I can’t believe I’ve been in this business that long already,” he laughs.
He opened for icons like Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney and cracked the top 10 on the Canadian Albums Chart with his debut disc Cowboys and Cadillacs in 2008.
He continued to mature as a performer and a composer, collaborating with songwriters in Nashville and releasing Easy to Love in 2010.
This was followed by extensive touring, which helped cement Bixby as one of Canada’s premiere country talents. He’s even launched his own record company as well.
But at the end of the day, it’s connecting with fans that make it complete.
“My career highlight has been going on the road,” he said. “Just a big old tour bus and my band. Whether we were playing a sold-out show in Halifax, Nova Scotia, or we were in the middle of the bald-headed Prairies in Manitoba, that was the happiest I could ever imagine myself.”
Currently based in Vernon, B.C., Bixby drew on his life experiences when penning tunes for Work in Progress, which finds him coming into his own as a songwriter.
“I feel like I’ve grown up a bit,” he explained. “I’m able to relate to more people. I’m at that point now where age doesn’t really matter. I can sit down and talk with anybody, whether they’re 90 or 42.”
Music also provides that universal appeal that makes it such a superb means of self-expression.
“It doesn’t matter — we all go through the same problems. These are all genuine experiences, whether it’s a breakup or just going out and having some fun.”
Certainly, there’s plenty of fun to be had on Work in Progress.
Drop the Tailgate is a stomping party number that highlights Bixby’s baritone and rustic yodels, while the acoustic guitar-driven Walk You Home captures the youthful excitement of new love and was inspired by the innocence of the Beatles’ hit I Wanna Hold Your Hand.
The CD even includes an old-time country duet Hate to Love You which is sure to please traditionalists.
Work in Progress was recorded in Vancouver with Bixby and longtime guitarist D Klinger co-producing alongside returning studio collaborators John Webster and Bill Buckingham.
In addition to classic country sensibilities, the musicians tapped into the spirit of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll.
“I don’t really listen to the radio unless it’s one that has the oldies – all the time. For me, the simplicity of that era was just fantastic,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything like it. It’s a story and a song, and I like that you get to hear every word I say when I sing.”
Meanwhile, he’s clearly enjoying the journey.
“I’ve gotten to do some pretty phenomenal shows,” he adds. “I’ve gotten to do the shows that I’ve always dreamed of doing. Now, it isn’t a competition and I’ve got nothing to prove – I just want to play music.”