A pair of Foothills area musicians is stampeding back to work after a long layoff due to the pandemic.
Country singer George Canyon, will take the Nashville North stage at the Calgary Stampede on July 8, while Michela Sheedy will perform at the same venue July 12.
“It’s been a tough year-and-a-half for our industry,” said Canyon, who lives in Foothills County, south of Okotoks, “We (he and his band) are just excited to play for people – I have played a few times for cars which is something I thought I would never say in my life.
“After 30 years in the business, none of us saw this at all. It definitely taught me that I take music for granted, that I will always be able to play. Then all of that went away quickly.”
Canyon’s last live shows were drive-in performances, including in October when he took the stage at the Sunset Drive-In in High River for a High River and District Health Care Foundation fundraiser.
Sheedy is also glad to be back working.
“I’m really excited. It’s going to be amazing to see artists and friends again that live across the country,” said Sheedy. “Just being able to celebrate together in a safe way is going to be really incredible.
“With the show coming back to the Stampede, it’s about giving all that I have to a crowd of people that have been cooped up for way too long, to play all the songs that people have been dying to dance to, and that I’ve been dying to play as well.”
Canyon said the Stampede and the festivities around it, are important to musicians.
“It (the Stampede) is a catalyst to a degree,” he said. “What it is doing is allowing other promoters and smaller venues to say, ‘Hey, we can do this now.’
“The scary part for all of us is in the music industry is: ‘What happens next?’
“To have music stop like that... we are all very nervous it will stop again, once it gets started."
He said he’s fortunate in that he is established.
He feels for the up-and-coming musicians.
“We have lost artists, they don’t think they will come back because of COVID,” Canyon said. “I quit music three times, thanks to the Good Lord for having the grace and the patience to pull me back in, because this is what I was meant to do.
“Now more than ever our industry has to come together, they are the future.
“We need to be supporting all artists, no matter what the genre… Our Canadians should be put first and that should start with our young artists so they have a chance to have a career and build our industry.”
Sheedy, a Holy Trinity Academy grad, has been working on her music during the forced COVID break.
“It’s been both interesting and challenging at the same time,” she said. “I’ve been able to write with people I wouldn’t have been able to have written with before and made a bunch of new friends in Toronto and Montreal over Zoom.
"There’s been a lot of change that’s happened in the last 14 months; it’s been difficult, but I think it was necessary for all of us to take a pause and kind of relax a little bit.”
Some of that pause allowed Sheedy to focus on personal development, and earn her bachelor’s degree in communications and public relations at Mount Royal University.
“With all this time off from shows, I was able to finish my degree, been able to move, and do all these exciting renovations to my house,” she said.
“These are things that I wouldn't have been able to do if my schedule was as busy as it was prior to the pandemic.”
As the announcement of eased restrictions came in only mid-May, the idea of Stampede going ahead didn’t become a reality for performers like Sheedy until only weeks before.
“Typically, there’s months and months and months of advance notice when it comes to shows like this, but we only really had a couple weeks,” she said. “It’s the fault of nobody, it’s just the nature of things these days.
“It’s equal parts exciting and stressful to get the band back together and put on a really big show like the Stampede.
“I know that safety is obviously number one at with the Stampede this year, so it’s going to be interesting to see how we will be able to interact with everyone. But I have full trust that they are making the right decisions.
“The Stampede will make sure it’s going to be fun, but safe, sane, and sanitized for everybody who takes part.”
Sheedy, who has sung O Canada at Calgary Flames games, will perform the national anthem for the Calgary Stampede Rodeo on July 12 and from July 15-18.
Despite everything, getting back on stage in front of a live audience will certainly be an exciting moment for the musician.
“There might be tears, I might do a little dance,” Sheedy said. “It’s just going to be a very overwhelming experience.”
Canyon has been working on a potential children’s television show for CBC.
Details about the Nashville North lineup can be viewed at calgarystampede.com