Discussing the best Canadian songs for Canada 150 promos and it really struck me how lucky I’ve been to be involved with the Canadian music industry in some form or other since 2003. Everything from slingin’ CDs to managing in-store appearances and taking fans backstage to meet their favourite artists, to today with my work representing radio stations all across the country.

I look back at my first time meeting a professional musician; when I happened to meet Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar as he walked down the streets of Kamloops the day of his show, and I was blown away (mostly because he is one VERY tall gentleman, but also because hey, he’s a rock star!). Today, I’ve met more artists than I can count, and it’s still an honour, every single time. These people put in the time, blood sweat and hustle to chase their dreams and make it happen. How can you not be excited by that?

I think of the people I’ve been able to work with and the friends I’ve been able to make along the way. When I first got promoted to Creative Director for a music store, moved to Calgary and on one of my first days on the job got taken into the boardroom of Universal Music. Across the table from me were the Senior Director (Terry) and the Director of Marketing, Tim. Immediately, Terry smiled at me and said “Oh, you’re Jason! I like your work!” Not joking in the slightest, I looked behind me to see if there was another Jason in the room because how could these two industry titans know who I was or my work?

I’m grateful for the people I met working together in our stores, for the office staff, the media partners – it’s all been incredible. Going for lunch with some of the top radio personalities in the country and having them appreciate my work, and invite me on their shows (note to self: next time, don’t be an idiot – GO). I’m grateful for the super grumpy and strict president of the record store that took a chance and hired me – and taught me probably more than I’ll ever truly realize. He spent a lot of time after hours to teach me, about the industry, about life, about being a professional. He demanded a lot, gave a lot, and I owe him a lot. Thanks, Mike.

I’m grateful for all the advance copies of albums, for the concerts and the stories you get to hear and experience by being in the industry. I’m grateful for the Junos, The CCMAs, the conferences and liquid lunches (that are apparently mandatory, but no one is complaining).

Mostly though, I’m still grateful and honoured that I am able to work with, and contribute my own creativity to this industry. I’ve created 6’ tall posters for some of the biggest bands in the world. Newspaper ads, radio commercials – my words! On the radio! As a kid growing up I would turn on the shortwave radio that my grandpa had given me, tune into a random radio station from somewhere in the world (One night I got a station from Germany and thought it was the greatest thing ever), and fall asleep. Ever since then I’ve been in love with the idea of radio. I’ve been tasked with creating and managing hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising budgets; with organizing security for international superstars (who decided they didn’t want or need security and did everything their own way anyway), and with tracking down a CD for someone that needed the perfect gift for a loved one.

I get paid to be creative. I get paid to work with an industry that still astounds me to this day – and from all of this, I’ve been able to start my own company and continue working with not only the music industry, but sports teams, coffee shops, manufacturers, food stores and farmers markets….

The Canadian music industry has given me a lot, and for that, I say thank you.

A few of my favs, in no particular order:
Sarah Slean – Sweet Ones
I fell head over heels for this song the second I heard it. It’s fun, it’s wistful, it always takes my mind on the sweetest daydream. Sarah’s been my unofficial Musical Muse ever since.

Moist – Silver
A friend had met David Usher about a year before their album broke, and he gave her an advance copy of Silver on cassette. It was incredible to hear them suddenly blowing up across Canadian radio. I met David several years ago and he was gracious enough to take a few minutes out of his sound check to come chat and say hello.

Matthew Good – Us Remains Impossible
Yeah, I’ve heard the stories about Matt. Don’t care. He’s an incredible artist, and amazing musician. Was finally able to meet him at the Junos last year and he was incredibly nice. This song is beautiful.

Leonard Cohen – Everybody Knows
What could I add that’s not been said about the legendary Leonard Cohen? A master. I first got introduced to this track on the movie Pump Up The Volume (again adding to my infatuation with radio)

Hawksley Workman – We Will Still Need A Song
Damn this album. Seriously. I probably put a few thousand kilometres on the Talon by putting this CD in and getting lost in daydreams. It also inspired a few nights out with “poetic” tributes to whiskey.

Blue Rodeo – Lost together
Good lord, this song is perfection.

The Tragically Hip – Courage
I wish I could say I was a Hip fan from the start. I wasn’t. All my friends were, and they had Road Apples and Day For Night and Trouble at the Henhouse and while I dug the music, I didn’t really get into it. That changed on my 19th birthday, when my gentlemen friends took me to a strip club (because we were all classy AF), and a nice young lady performed a dance in a tub of jello (the stuff you can’t make up), to the song Courage. I honestly remember, sitting in the crowd and thinking “I get it now. I love this song!”
I bought at least 3 Hip albums the next day.

54-40 – Crossing A Canyon
My first “real” concert was 54-40 with Hootie and the Blowfish. I met Darius Rucker in 2007 and he still remembers that show and the blizzard roaring outside. This track is pure summertime to me.

Thornley – Make Believe
I frickin’ love Ian Thornley’s voice. You might know him better from Big Wreck. One of my first shows when I moved to Calgary was seeing Thornley in a seedy dive bar, and it was like that old Maxell ad where the guy is getting blown away by his speaker – I could literally feel my clothes being pushed back from the insane wall of sound this band was putting out. There’s a lot of songs from either Big Wreck or Thornley I could have chosen, but this track is a wonderful summertime cruiser.

Barenaked Ladies – Old Apartment
Oh, the memories. And who can’t relate to a track like this?

Big Sugar – All Hell For A Basement
An absolute banger. And that tall drink of water can wail on the guitar like no one else. (What’s “All hell for a basement” mean? Look it up!)

Bif Naked – Daddy’s Getting Married
A beautiful tune from one of the sweetest ladies in Canada.

Spirit of the West – Home For A Rest
It’s impossible not to sing along and dance to this. A classic.

Great Big Sea – Mari-Mac
Too many songs to choose from, but this is one of their most fun to try and sing along with. If you ever get the chance to see GBS in concert, go. Your hands will be sore from clapping.

The Motorleague – All The Words
This band’s label sent me one of their singles right before they came through my town on tour. Took a chance to check them out and got blown away. Fantastic rock n roll.

Theory of a Deadman – Say Goodbye
A fantastic breakup tune! Oh my.
A great band, fantastic guys. Wish them all the success in the world.

Nickelback – Figured You Out
I still don’t understand the hate, and I don’t care. They continue to sell albums by the truckload and good for them. Every time I’ve hung out with the band they’ve been incredibly cool to me, and I’ve never met a person that knows them with anything bad to say. Sometimes, you just need a good banger to turn up loud and drive fast to.

Odds – Wendy Under the Stars
Oh frick. I’ve sang this song a grillion times. Love.

Furnaceface – Government Cheque
It’s just fun.

There’s so many more that I could add, but I just got an email from folks in the industry – and they need more work from me, which makes me as happy as it did when I started. What’s some of your favourite Canadian tunes? Let me know in the comments below.

– JT
June 30, 2017