Students at Eastview Middle School and Ecole Mountview Elementary in Red Deer are in for a treat this coming Friday, as Canadian country music artist Ryan Laird brings his BiggerThanThat! tour to the City.
The campaign, which has seen Laird visit more than 300 schools across Canada over the past four years, brings a message of bullying prevention and youth empowerment to kids of all ages through a combination of music and the sharing of real life experiences.
“I was inspired to start it because I was bullied in school when I was in middle school. Pretty much the bullying started because I had a dream in my life of getting to be a Canadian country artist someday and I performed in my school and got picked on and made fun as a result of doing that,” said Laird, who has been nominated for two CCMA awards.
After moving to Nashville in his early 20s to pursue his dream of being an artist, Laird was eventually able to land a record deal and has since had the opportunity to write songs with the likes of Dierks Bentley, George Canyon and Jason McCoy and tour with Canyon, Alan Jackson, Terri Clark and Emerson Drive.
“I got the opportunity to pursue my goal and my dream of being an artist despite the bullying that had happened in school so I just decided a few years ago after my country music career had taken off a bit that I really wanted to start a tour where I could use my voice as a platform,” he said.
“Music’s a powerful medium. Why not try to use it in a way that could help out other people? Especially some of the youth.”
During his hour-long shows, Laird performs songs like his 2011 hit I’m Your Man as well as other original material which has a powerful anti-bullying message like Hey Ashley, I’m in the Band and the campaign’s theme song Bigger Than That which Laird co-wrote.
“It’s a country music concert with an underlying message in it,” he said.
Between songs, Laird talks about his own life story and some of the strategies he used to overcome his struggles with bullying.
He also opens up the mic to students and community members who wish to come up onstage and share their own stories.
“We’re going to do a social media section as well where I’m going to talk to them about how social media has really become a big part of our culture nowadays and how bullying and things like that can occur on social media, too.”
Laird said part of what makes his show so unique is the fact that as an artist he can be a positive role model in the lives of students.
“Especially someone that’s an artist that can keep it fun and interactive. Our whole show is about having fun and putting smiles on people’s faces. I get them to do a lot of clapping along to the songs and I do a song where we all make a band together, which is a lot of fun.
“I just mix and match the message with a lot of neat interactive activities and I think doing it that way nobody gets bored and it keeps everybody’s interests high throughout the show.”
For more information on the BiggerThanThat program you can check out the campaign’s web site at www.biggerthanthat.org.