“It’s not money. It’s relationships,” said harmonica player, Mike Stevens, upon receiving the 2016 Slaight Music Humanitarian Award.
It would be hard to be a country music fan living in London, and yes I said LONDON! Not The Other London. Not London, Ontario, Canada. Just LONDON. Anyway, it would have been pretty much impossible to be a country fan living in this particular London, or even a rock fan who listens to FM96, and not know that the Canadian Country Music Awards were in town last weekend. From every stage all over London – and there were many over the course of the four days – country singers were putting London on the world map by shouting, “How you doin’ London?”
Well London was doin’ mighty fine. And sure. Money is always a factor when big shows come to town. Canada is a capitalistic country after all. But do you not find it is the building of relationships that truly seals deals? Giant corporations can go ahead and fret over their margins, their bottom lines all they want, but if they don’t stay true to what got them there – their roots (like country music y’all) – they’ll eventually find themselves staffed by automatons who couldn’t give a crap about their products and services.
And the products and services themselves? As long as they’re of good quality and delivered in a timely fashion (sound like a mission statement?) they take a back seat to who made them, who delivered them. People. Looking each other in the eye. Connecting. Working toward a common goal. Any exceptional salesperson you run into will never admit to trying to sell anything. They’ll tell you this: “I build relationships.”
And the message behind country music? Relationships. With pick-up trucks. Hot men. Oh, okay. Or chicks. Beer, beer, beer.
For Mike Stevens, who sucks and blows – on the harmonica of course – it was relationships forged while visiting isolated communities in Northern Ontario and Labrador that inspired him to create the charity ArtsCan Circle. Their website www.artscancircle.ca says, “ArtsCan Circle sends teams of artists to remote Indigenous communities to conduct interactive music and arts workshops with Indigenous youth.” In the CCMA souvenir program Stevens is quoted as saying, “Music is medicine. Breathe in the world. Breathe out music.” Ah. What a wonderful image, huh? The music I personally breathe out must be confined to the confines of my shower. But exposure to all forms of the arts – an opportunity to play, to be creative, to witness creativity – is so very healing.
There was a healing moment at the CCMA awards show when Dean Brody sat on stage with his guitar, an hour-glass sifting sand beside him, to sing about how our relationships are affected by time:
The trouble is
You think you have time
You think tomorrow’s always coming down the line
And then one day
You wake up and you find
The trouble is you thought you had time
It’s an individual, personal message, therefore universal. We’ve all done this. Thought we had more time for people. Time runs out. As I absorbed Brody’s message, rocking sideways to the rhythm, I looked up and had to light the flashlight on my phone to join with the thousands of others waving, back and forth.
Brett Kissel, crowned king of country, fan favourite at the CCMAs, gets the relationship game like no other. I could go on and on with Kissel stories – the time he learned the French version of the Canadian anthem on YouTube to sing it at Budweiser Gardens for a Memorial Cup game, the time he replaced his white tube socks with his mom’s navy knee-hi’s to sing an anthem out west, the time he made my sister and I a rye and ginger at his Meet-and-Greet before performing in the Bud tent. The song he sang at the CCMAs, written in response to his mom’s cancer, had us all in tears.
Honey I didn’t fall in love with your hair
Up or down girl I really don’t care
The heart that’s inside you that’s why I stopped and stared
I swear I didn’t fall in love with your hair
Who doesn’t know someone who hasn’t struggled with the loss of hair due to cancer and cancer treatments? Me? I picture my beautiful strong blonde mother-in-law weakened by hair loss.
“The heart that’s inside you.” Money can’t touch that. Relationships can and do every day.
Website picture is of B and I forging relationships at the CCMAs with David Roberts, Aaron Grain and Chris Duncombe of The Washboard Union, recipients of the 2016 Roots and Rising Star awards.