Music Interview: Unreliable honky tonks

By Kristin McVeigh

Your worst day ever would go something like this: getting dumped by the love of your life. Take the dog for a walk to ease the pain. Somehow, he slips away and gets run over by a truck. Jump on a horse, you know, just to get away from it all. But the horse breaks his leg by tripping on a gopher hole, so you need to shoot him with your trusty rifle. Well, darn good thing you have Jesus and your cowboy boots.

Oh, country music–the pain and agony of it all. Or so goes the stereotype and much of the mainstream country music. The alt-country band, Old Reliable, disagrees with what people assume is the true meaning of country music. “I want [people] to realize that country music is changing, that it’s not just what you see on CMT. It’s so much more than that,” says frontman Schuyler Jansen.

Old Reliable formed about 10 years ago in a place called Edmonton. Their sound may be characterized as alt-country, but Jansen sees their music becoming more rockier than country. Their most recent and fourth album, has strong Calgary ties, recorded here by Sundae Sound. The planned CD release will be a dance party complete with barbecue, reasonably priced drinks and other acts such as The Swiftys and The D. Rangers.

Old Reliable having perfected their sound for the aforementioned 10 years and Shuyler himself has written songs since 13, the band’s ready to release their new album.

“That first year I wrote hundreds of songs, you know, but they’re all crap,” he recalls of the songbooks he’s kept all these years. [But] lyrics are really important to me and Mark, and we keep getting better at it.”

No dead dogs in these lyrics, as Jansen strives for honesty in his attempt to dispel the cowboy myth. “A lot of people just think it’s supposed to be sentimental and ballady and cowboys hats and stuff, but it’s really just about living free, and trying to live an honest life. At the same time there’s a real positive and hopeful resolution to all of that it’s not always a bleak ending,” he says of the darkness, yet again proving there’s more to country than people think.

“The cool thing about roots music in general or folk is you can add any element to it. Metal influence or reggae. There’s lots of elements you can put into a country song,” Jansen explains. “Like the Sadies are really quite psychedelic and surfie, so between us and all the other great bands in the states and Canada that are doing their own interpretation on it, its just creating a new era.”

The constantly changing sound of country and Old Reliable shouldn’t be underestimated. The addition of a new drummer to the band, Mike Silverman, adds yet another element to their ever-changing sound. “That’s the ultimate goal, we just really like records and putting them out and moving forward musically.”

So stop crying about your dog, he’s dead. Old Reliable says it’s so.

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