Showcasing his knack for creating all kinds of compelling stories and characters in his music, country singer Ridley Bent is hitting the road in support of his latest disc Wild Card – an ambitious follow-up to 2010’s Rabbit on My Wheel.
He plays The Hideout on March 1.
During a recent chat, Bent describes Wild Card as similar to Rabbit on My Wheel, with most of the same creative team that backed that CD.
An official CD release party runs in Vancouver mid-March. in the meantime, Bent, who now calls Winnipeg home, is hitting the road introducing the new tunes to audiences around the country.
“It has that country/rock feel to it, but it jumps around a lot within the country genre,” he explains. “There’s western swing-style tunes, some rockabilly. For this tour, I’ll be mostly traveling with my guitar player, so it’s a very good way to see me and ‘get’ the songs. We’ve been doing that quite a bit. There are a few band shows on the tour, but this way you’ve got me, my stories and Chris Dunn who is one of the best guitar players in Canada I would say.”
Produced by the John MacArthur Ellis, the new CD is also supported by an all-star band of country music’s finest as well. And on Wild Card, the 2009 CCMA nominee and seven-time BCCMA winner’s storytelling and songwriting chops are sharper than ever.
Channeling the high-energy performance ethic of artists like Dwight Yoakum and Little Feat, Bent and his band tear a deep strip off the joint with tracks like Brooklyn Texas. Of course these are love stories told the way only Bent can; tracks that run the gamut from hard and bitter to hardly better, including a down-tempo take on the classic Tom Petty song You Got Lucky.
While much of Bent’s new material is drawn from real life experiences, Wild Card has its share of shady characters, jackknifing tractor-trailers and whiskey-fuelled bar fights.
And for those who identify with Bent’s less reasonable characters – the ones who tend to prefer to stir things up with a pistol in one hand and a bottle in the other – there’s The Blood Trilogy. A companion EP recorded during the same sessions and co-written with Dunn, the recording is a three-song picture of violence and vengeance informed by Bent’s fascination with the bleak worlds of writers like John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy.
For Bent, the love for music didn’t surface particularly early on. He was born in Halifax, then the family spent four years on a military base in Germany before relocating to Cold Lake. He then moved to Whistler, B.C. before settling in Winnipeg back in 2008.
“I have the pleasure of being the son of the world’s greatest country music lover – my dad,” he says with a chuckle. “I know that because he had a T-shirt that said that, a mug in the kitchen that said that. He was the world’s greatest country music lover, and he could play the guitar and he could sing. And he was the life of the party.”
Bent recalls trying out the guitar a few times before it really clicked. His move to Vancouver coincided with a growing knack for songwriting. He started showing up at open mic events, then attended the B.C. Festival of the Arts in 2002 where he really got noticed.
After landing a few contacts, his first record, Blam, was released in 2005. It was extremely unique, featuring country, and hip hop sensibilities.
A fascinating concept, but the tunes didn’t easily find a home on radio.
His next project, 2007’s Buckles & Boots, was much more in the country vein. And it fit with Bent’s talents perfectly.
He doesn’t get too keyed up about making everything just perfect as the recording process takes shape, opting for the more earthy, gritty ‘live-off-the-floor’ approach. That has always been the case, clear through to Wild Card.
“We’ll do one song, probably play it about eight times, and then by the last four you are getting some really good takes. Then Johnny takes the best of the last four.”
Meanwhile, Bent has garnered quite the collection of awards over the years He swept the 2009 B.C. Country Music Association Awards winning seven awards.
Bent picked up Entertainer of the Year, Fans’ Choice Award, Gaylord Wood Traditional Country Award, Male Vocalist of the Year, Roots/Canadiana Award, Single of the Year and Socan Songwriter of the Year.
“I love country music because it’s storytelling music. I know I started off wanting to be a rapper, but I feel there are similarities between country and rap if you are just talking about lyrics,” he explains. “You’re telling stories – in both of those genres.”