CALGARY –Glovertown native Brad Saunders has been making a name for himself in the Alberta music industry.
He was recently awarded the top honour at Project WILD in Calgary, earning himself $100,953 to help further his music career.
According to its website, Project WILD is part of a seven-year, $4.9-million program designed to kick-start the international music careers of three emerging Alberta artists annually.
The project is administered by Alberta Music (Alberta Music Industry Association) and funded by WILD 953 - Calgary's New Country, through CRTC approved Canadian Content Development Funding.
The 34-year-old was one of 12 picked from hundreds of applications to enter the program, which focused on an artist development boot camp, showcase series, and completing a series of career-enhancing challenges.
While Saunders moved west before he was a teenager, he grew up in a musical family, and it was his early upbringing in Newfoundland that established his drive to go after his passion.
“At the age of eight I had my own capelin hanging business in my backyard… and I bought my first bike from that at $250,” he said. “I felt really determined from that point on, I could do whatever I wanted if I worked hard.”
It would be a little later in life before he would pick up a guitar, but when he did Saunders was hooked.
And putting his hard-work instilled values to use, he started chasing his dream of becoming a country music star.
“My heart was always in country music. I’ve listened to a lot of different genres, but nothing really moved me like country music,” he said.
Even his writing process can be traced back to his Newfoundland roots.
“The last time I was back in Newfoundland to visit, I went up to my childhood home, and I had not been home in about 20 years,” he said. “I was blown away by how much bigger everything looked when we were kids, the hill behind our house was like a mountain to us as kids.”
He took that experience to Nashville, and got to work with Phil O’Donnell – who has songwriting credits tied to songs by George Strait, Blake Shelton, Rodney Atkins, Darius Rucker and many more – to write the song in eight hours.
“It’s very rewarding to take my songwriting and put it into my day-to-day life,” he said.
Entering Project Wild
Having been a musician in Alberta for some time, Saunders had a single in radio rotation – including in Newfoundland – and has played shows and festivals across the country.
He entered Project Wild last year, placing in the Top 12, but never made the Top 3 prize cut.
“I basically went back to the drawing board, learned a lot about myself as an artist, and was determined to go back to try and come out on top,” he said.
He’s now looking at the win and the prize as an opportunity to further his music career with a six-song album.
“I feel absolutely incredible (about winning), but it doesn’t stop here,” he said. “The new year comes, I’m back at it, and as a token of my appreciation to Alberta Music and Wild 953 my goal is to go out and make use of this money the best I can, to let them know they made the right choice by taking a chance on me.”
He’s also hoping a trip back “home,” can be lined up for a Newfoundland show.
“I know it seems like I only spent a short period of time there, but when you’re from Newfoundland it’s such a pride thing,” he said. “And I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that I get an opportunity to come back.”