Sporting a new name and gearing up to release a new disc titled Along for the Ride, Stettler-based Renegade Station plays Leah’s Bar & Grill June 8th.
Originally known as Domino, the band came together almost accidentally as husband and wife duo of singer/bassist Luanne and guitarist Russell Carl began attending and performing at a town variety show in Stettler.
There they met guitarist/vocalist Kent Nixon and drummer Scott McKnight and decided to create a band to play dances and parties – becoming the ‘go to’ act on the circuit.
“We started out as a back-up band – there was a local country music jamboree that they had in Stettler,” explained Nixon during a recent chat. “We also sang in it, and we were part of the core group of musicians that would get together once a year and put on a show.
“We all played with each other really well, and it kind of seemed like a shame not to do (more) with it. So we started taking gigs and bookings, and the rest is history – away we went!
“We’ve been playing in one form or another for over 15 years now,” he added. “Part of the reason that it has lasted so long and worked out really well is because we were doing ‘harmony music’ – stuff like the Eagles, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – and our harmonies came really naturally together,” he said. “I’m also in a band with my three best friends.”
Their moniker of Renegade Station – chosen nearly a year ago – is also symbolic of the group’s approach to music.
“We had a really successful career as Domino, but at the same time we kind of outgrew that. When we came up with Renegade Station, it was just more of who we were,” he explained. “It fits best.”
As pointed out on their web site, the ‘Station’ part of their name is a nod to the vintage working steam train that is a tourist attraction in Stettler and which is a throwback to the region’s pioneering past.
“Therefore, a name that is reverent towards tradition but which also alludes to a desire to go one’s own way is ideal for the band approaches their craft.”
For the recording of Along for the Ride, they worked with veteran Johnny Gasparic (Gord Bamford, George Canyon, Snoop Dogg) at Dave Temple’s MCC Recording Studio in Calgary. The title track was penned by singer Aaron Goodvin, who is set to hit the stage at this year’s Westerner Days in Red Deer.
“We’re not traditional country, but we aren’t exactly new county either. We are kind of that ‘neo-traditional’. There’s a little bit of pop and blues influences in there, too, but primarily it’s country rock and classic rock,” he said.
“The songs also have to fit – songs that have a focus on strong storylines and that also feature those big harmony moments,” he said. “You can have a really good storytelling song, and it’s uplifting, but when you pop in that four-part harmony, it kind of makes you catch your breath sometimes,” he added.
“We get that from the bands that we listen to, like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac to even the current stuff like Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum. Those guys have it figured out.”
Along for the Ride marked the second time of working with Gasparic.
“Johnny has incredible ears and a really good vision. He understands music, and he also understands musicians very well because he is one himself.”
The lead-off single, Who’s Gonna Love Me Tonight, fits into the more adventurous approach that is Renegade Station’s hallmark. And proving there is true versatility in Renegade Station, the song Rodeo Road is written by Joni Delaurier and pays tribute to the western rodeo lifestyle. “We’ve been playing that one for years,” said Nixon. “Being a kid from Stettler and growing up within the rodeo community, it really hits home for me.”
As to selecting what would make the final cut for the new project, it proved quite a seamless process, he noted.
“We get along so well. It’s funny, because when we are writing stuff, you know how the person is going to sing it,” he added of how the tunes ultimately take shape amongst the foursome. “It just works. None of us are trained musicians, but we’ve been doing it for years. Myself – I’ve been at it for 37 years I think!”
In recent years, the band has won back to back Association of Country Music in Alberta Awards as Group of the Year (2015 and 2016) as well as the ACMA Fan’s Choice of the Year in 2015.