Since releasing his debut single in 2002, Tebey has been a star of the Canadian country music scene – and he’s won a huge following in the US and here in the UK as well.
After making his UK debut in 2019 at Country Music Week, Tebey was due to perform at C2C in 2020 before the festival was canceled due to the pandemic. However, it was a lucky case for the second time as he qualified for this year’s event, playing three sets over the weekend and delivering high energy sets throughout.
I caught up with Tebey when he visited the UK for the festival to talk about his return to the road, his latest single ‘What Was I Drinking’ and his plans for 2022 including new music.
Hi Tebey, nice to talk to you! It’s been a long time…
It’s been, yeah, it’s been a few years for sure [laughs].
I know you spoke to Pip last year but I think the last time we saw each other was in 2020 for C2C which never happened…
Yeah, I remember, we were in Greenwich.
So what have you been up to since the last time EF spoke to you?
Oh man, I feel like it’s been – well, I know it’s been a crazy two years for everyone, obviously, but I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel. As for me, I just try to stay as busy as possible. I was able to sneak into a few shows here and there, depending on what country I was in and all the different jurisdictions and such. But yeah, it was great. I just finished the Shotgun Rider tour in Canada, the first leg of the tour anyway. So it’s been a good last few months.
How do you find your feedback on the road and your performance?
Yeah, I know. I mean it’s obviously awesome. You know, playing and being an artist is a bit like a muscle. You just have to keep working it and stretching it and if you’re setting it aside for an extended period of time you’ll obviously need a bit of a warm up. But it was great just to be back there. A few gigs felt like we hadn’t left at all.
I think the best thing about the tour is that people just get excited about the music. I think you don’t realize how much you miss live music until it’s actually gone. And just being able to be one of the first artists to bring it back to Canada was really good.
Do you find that there is Are there any songs that people react to in a way that surprised you – especially the tracks from the new album?
Well, there are several songs that have been hits at home that fans have never heard live – songs like “Happened On A Saturday Night”, “Shotgun Rider”, the brand new single “What Was I Drinking”. I had never played those songs live before and the fans had never heard them that way either. So I thought it was a good opportunity to come out and play these new songs.
You’re now set to make your UK C2C debut this weekend. What can people expect from a typical Tebey show?
Oh man, just a lot of high energy. I like to keep the beat for most of the show. I think UK audiences are much more attentive [laughs], much more than an audience sitting and listening. But I think that’s going to change as more and more American artists come to bring that American country music to the UK. So I think it’s going to be great. I’m excited.
You are one of many Canadian artists performing at C2C this year. Do you think there’s a resurgence in Canadian country music and it’s spreading around the world?
Yeah, I’m not sure. I think Canadian country music is very, very similar to American country music, but I feel like there are several Canadian artists – including myself, Tim Hicks, Jess Moskaluke – and then you have Tenille Townes and Tenille Arts and all that. But yes, there are many promising artists coming from Canada. They just make the effort. Because that’s the thing. You just have to keep coming here, putting in the effort and showing the fans here that you’re here for the long haul, and I think a lot of my fellow Canadians are ready to do that.
You mentioned your new single “What Was I Drinking”. Can you tell us more about this?
Yeah. So I have a funny story to tell about this one. It’s interesting. So we were in Mexico, my producer and one of my songwriter friends. We were in Tulum, Mexico in the fall and we were writing songs, just trying to capture a little different vibe. And we went out – it was like the first or second night – we went out to dinner at a nice restaurant, and we went to that place and had a few drinks afterwards. You know, two, three drinks max, nothing crazy.
The next morning, all three of us were mortally ill. It was so, so bad [laughs]. I haven’t been this sick for a very long time. And my buddy Jimmy literally said, “man, what were we drinking?” And that’s kind of where the title What Was I Drinking comes from.
We’ve already talked about your songwriting process, but I wanted to ask you if you think the way you approach your music has changed at all? Especially with the impact of the pandemic but also that you’ve been in the industry for 20 years this year…
Yes, I feel that my writing has matured. He continues to mature. It’s one of those things where you can always improve. You know, it’s like being an athlete. I always try to write the best songs I can. I think my approach to writing has stayed pretty much the same for the most part. Just be a little more mature and a little more patient – not a lot but a little. So yes, but I love writing songs. I love writing songs for myself and for others and I’m really lucky to be able to do that.
Speaking of writing for other people, I noticed you were one of the writers of Joe Nichols’ “I Got Friends That Do” – how did that go?
Hey, we can’t forget that Blake Shelton is on this song too. Yeah, again, just waking up one day and trying to write the best song you can. We had this song for… oh my God, probably six to eight months for sure, just kinda sat down. And then someone I work with in Nashville thought it would be good for Joe Nichols because they were looking for something like that, and then it turns out he’s been friends with Blake Shelton all these years and then has asked Blake to sing on it. So yeah, it’s really, really cool.
You also released “Song of the Summer” with Una Healy last year. What was it like working with her, especially remotely?
Yeah. I mean, I still haven’t met Una in person. We just haven’t been together in person because of this whole pandemic. But yeah, working with her remotely was absolutely fantastic. We did a bunch of interviews together and stuff, so I feel like I know Una pretty well for someone I’ve never met. But yeah, it was really cool working with her. We just contacted her, and we have a bit of a Canadian connection because her manager is Canadian and everything. But yeah, it was just one of those things where we just took a picture in the dark and she said yes [laughs].
Is there anything you’ve learned from the experience of making music in the environment over the past two years that you’re going to use in future projects? Or else, everything you’ll be happy to see the back of in this regard?
Yeah. Zoom written! I can’t get into it. People are writing songs remotely with each other on Zoom and I can’t do that. I have to be in the room with someone I work with, just to vibe with them and go to lunch and laugh about something, just to spend the first 30 minutes of the session talking about world events and things like that. This part of the writing process is really important to me and I prefer to do it face to face with people. So yes, I will definitely be invited to write songs on Zoom!
What does the next six to twelve months look like for you? Are there any plans for other new music?
Yeah, I plan to be back in the studio and finish this record in May, for a fall release. For some reason, fall albums work well for me, so I tend to release albums in the fall. And yes, finish that. Registration will be done by June for. We have an idea of what we think the next single will be. I’m actually sitting here in my hotel room, going to start working on it in a second on my computer, editing some vocals. But yeah, I’m just trying to finish the record.
The next leg of the tour will likely take place in the fall as well. Hoping to be here in the fall for Country Music Week if it goes as it should, then possibly a tour. Like even if I don’t do a UK mini tour in the fall and then early next year, that’s for sure.
Can you give us any hints about the new record? Will it sound similar to ‘What Was I Drinking’ or a departure?
No, I think it’s going to be a bit of everything. I feel like the album in general will be more country than what I’ve done in the past, just because that’s where I’m at right now with my songwriting. I always let my songwriting lead the way when I’m making new music, and that’s kind of where it got me – just a little further down the country path. But yes, I am in a good place right now. I am excited by music. I’m excited about the album. I feel like the pandemic was obviously a holiday, which is great. It’s always good for creativity when you can have free time. So yeah, I feel like I’m in a good place and I’m excited about the record. It’s going to be good.