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Interview: Tebey on playing live again and plans for new music

We spoke to the Canadian singer-songwriter ahead of his C2C debut earlier this month.

Since releasing his first single back in 2002, Tebey has been a star in the Canadian country music scene – and he’s won over plenty of fans in the States and here in the UK too.

After making his UK debut back in 2019 at Country Music Week, Tebey was due to play at C2C in 2020 before the festival was cancelled due to the pandemic. However, it was a case of second time lucky as he made it over for this year’s event, playing three sets across the weekend and delivering high-energy sets throughout.

I caught up with Tebey on his visit to the UK for the festival to talk about his return to the road, latest single ‘What Was I Drinking’ and his plans for 2022 – including new music.

Hi Tebey, good to speak to you! It’s been a while…

It has, yeah, it’s been a couple of years for sure [laughs].

I know you spoke to Pip last year but I think the last time we saw each other was back in 2020 for the C2C that 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 couple of years for everybody, obviously, but I think the light’s at the end of the tunnel. As for me, just trying to stay as busy as possible. I got to sneak in a few shows here and there, kind of based on which country I was in and all the different jurisdictions and stuff. But yeah, it’s been great. Just wrapped up the Shotgun Rider tour in Canada, the first leg of the tour anyway. So it’s been a good last couple of months.

How are you finding being back out on the road and performing?

Yeah, I know. I mean it’s great obviously. You know, performing and being an entertainer, it’s a lot like a muscle. You just gotta keep working it and stretching it and if you put it on the sidelines for an extended period of time you’re obviously gonna need a bit of a warm-up. But it was awesome just to be back out there. A couple of shows in it felt like we hadn’t been gone at all.

I think the best thing about the tour is people are just excited for music. I think you don’t realise how much you miss live music until it’s actually gone. And just to be able to be one of the first artists to bring it back up in Canada, it felt really good.

Are you finding there are any songs people are reacting to in a way that’s surprised you – particularly tracks from the new record?

Well there’s several songs that have been hits back home that the fans have never heard live – songs like ‘Happened On A Saturday Night’, ‘Shotgun Rider’, the brand new single ‘What Was I Drinking’. I’d never played those songs before live and the fans had never heard them that way either. So I figured it was a good opportunity to get out there and play these new tunes.

You’re now about to make your UK C2C debut this weekend. What can people expect from a typical Tebey live show?

Oh man, just a lot of high energy. I like to keep it upbeat for most of the show. I think the UK audience is far more attentive [laughs], far more of a sit down and listen audience. But I think that’s gonna change as more American artists come over and bring that American country music to the UK. So I think it’s gonna be great. I’m excited.

You’re one of a number of Canadian artists playing at C2C this year. Do you think there’s a resurgence going on in Canadian country music and that catching on with people elsewhere in the world?

Yeah, I’m not sure. I think Canadian country music is very, very similar to American country music, but I feel that there’s several Canadian artists – myself included, Tim Hicks, Jess Moskaluke – and then you’ve got Tenille Townes and Tenille Arts and stuff. But yeah, there’s a lot of up-and-coming artists that are making their way over from Canada. They’re just putting in the effort. Because that’s the thing. You just gotta keep coming over here, putting in the effort and showing the fans over here that you’re in it for the long haul, and I think a lot of my fellow Canadians are willing to do that.

You’ve mentioned your new single ‘What Was I Drinking’. Can you tell us more about that?

Yeah. So I got a funny story to tell about this one. It’s an interesting one. So we were down in Mexico, my producer and one of my songwriter buddies. We were down in Tulum, Mexico in the fall and we were writing songs, just trying to catch a little bit of a different vibe. And we went out – this was like the first or second night – we went out for dinner at a nice restaurant, and went to this place and had a couple of drinks after. You know, two, three drinks max, nothing crazy.

The next morning all three of us were just deathly ill. It was so, so bad [laughs]. I haven’t been that sick in a very long time. And my buddy Jimmy literally said, “dude, what were we drinking?” And that’s kind of where the title What Was I Drinking came from.

We’ve talked about your songwriting process before, but I wanted to ask if you feel that the way you approach your music has changed at all? Particularly with the impact of the pandemic but also that you’ve been in the industry for 20 years this year…

Yeah, I feel my songwriting has matured. It continues to mature. It’s one of those things where you can always get better. You know, it’s like being an athlete. I jsut always try to write the best songs that I can. I think my approach to writing has pretty much stayed the same for the most part. Just being a little more mature and a little more patient – not much but a little. So yeah, but I just love writing songs. I love writing songs for myself and other people and I’m really lucky that I’m able to do that.

Speaking of writing for other people, I spotted that you’re one of the writers on Joe Nichols’ ‘I Got Friends That Do’ – how did that come about?

Hey, we can’t forget that Blake Shelton is on that song as well. Yeah, again, just waking up one day and trying to write the best song possible. We’d had that song for… oh my goodness, probably six to eight months for sure, just kind of sitting around. And then a person I work with in Nashville thought that it would be good for Joe Nichols ’cause they were looking for something like that, and then he just happened to be friends with Blake Shelton all these years and then asked Blake to sing on it. So yeah, that’s really, really cool.

You also released ‘Song of the Summer’ with Una Healy last year. What was it like working with her, particularly remotely?

Yeah. I mean I still haven’t met Una in person. We just haven’t been together in person obviously because of this whole pandemic. But yeah, working with her remotely was absolutely fantastic. We’ve done a bunch of interviews together and stuff, so I feel like I know Una pretty well for someone that I’ve never met. But yeah, it was really cool to work with her. We just reached out to her, and we’ve got a little bit of a Canadian connection because her manager is Canadian and stuff. But yeah, it was just one of those things where we kind of just took a shot in the dark and she said yes [laughs].

Is there anything you’ve learned from the experience of making music in the environment of the last couple of years that you’re going to use in future projects? Or alternatively, anything that you’ll be glad to see the back of in that regard?

Yeah. Zoom writes! I can’t get into it. People are writing songs remotely with each other on Zoom and I can’t do it. I have to be in the room with a person that I’m working 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 stuff like that. That part of the songwriting process is really important to me and I prefer to do that face to face with people. So yeah, I’m definitely not gonna miss being asked to write songs over Zoom!

What does the next six to twelve months look like for you? Are there plans for any more new music?

Yeah, I plan to be back in the studio and finishing up this record in May, for a fall release. For whatever reason fall albums work well for me so I tend to release albums in the fall. And yeah, finishing that up. The record’ll be done by June for. We’ve got an idea about what we think the next single is gonna be. I’m actually sitting here in my hotel room, I’m gonna start working on it in a second on my computer, editing some vocals. But yeah, just trying to finish the record.

The next leg of the tour is probably gonna happen in the fall as well. Hoping to be here in the fall for Country Music Week if that comes together which it should, and then eventually a tour. Like even if I don’t do a mini UK tour in the fall then early next year, for sure.

Can you give us any hints about the new record at all? Will it be a similar sound to ‘What Was I Drinking’ or a departure?

No, I think it’s gonna be a little bit of everything. I feel like the record in general’s gonna be more country than what I’ve done in the past, just ’cause that’s where I’m at right now with my songwriting. I always just let my songwriting lead the way when I’m making new music, and this is kind of where it’s taken me – just down a little bit more of a country path. But yeah, I’m in a good place right now. I’m excited about the music. I’m excited about the album. I feel like the pandemic was obviously time off, which is great. It’s always great for creativity when you can have some time off. So yeah, I feel like I’m in a good spot and I’m excited about the record. It’s gonna be good.

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