Flat picker extraordinaire and Labadie native Jason Hicks returns with his band of award-winning bluegrass virtuosos, The Blue Canyon Boys, for three shows in the area Aug. 17-21.
The Blue Canyon Boys were the christening act for the newly opened Labadie Station venue last August. They return this year with a new member on banjo, and are just weeks away from releasing a new album.
This weekend’s show promises to be a great one, with many new songs and enhanced harmonies.
Currents Online Arts & Entertainment Editor Ethan Busse talked with Jason Hicks of the Blue Canyon Boys about the upcoming bluegrass show at Labadie Station.
Ethan: Last year’s show at Labadie Station had a big turnout.
Jason: We had a great turnout last year. There were 300, maybe even 400 people there, a really big turnout. We played two really long sets and had a really great time seeing friends, family and meeting new people who came out to support the music. I know that was the first concert that Labadie Station put on. We came along at the right time, right place and we were lucky to be the first concert. We had a blast, it was a very fun weekend.
Ethan: I heard that you guys will be playing the Sheldon Concert Hall while you are in town.
Jason: Yes, playing at the Sheldon Tuesday, Aug. 21st. We are excited to be there. The Sheldon is a world renowned concert hall. They have a “Notes From Home” concert series that they do during the summer, and being how I’m from the Labadie area, they considered me home, and put us in the concert series.
Ethan: That’s a pretty big deal!
Jason: Yeah, I’ve been there for shows, and I helped work a few shows while I was attending Webster University, but I had not had the opportunity to play on the stage, so we’re excited about that!
Ethan: What’s new and exciting since the last time you were in town?
Jason: Last time we were there we had just gotten done playing the big Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo, and were still spinning from that. Over the winter actually we added a new banjo player. He’s a good friend of ours and a great player.
So he came on in December, and we are almost finished up recording our latest CD, “The Next Go Round” that we hope to have out in a month or so. With Chris Elliot on banjo now, he also sings, and that’s allowed us to open up and do vocal harmonies and quartet harmonies which we have always wanted to do. It’s been a blast having him in the band.
Ethan: Where have you guys been touring this year?
Jason: We’ve been playing out here in the West, and it’s funny, seems it’s mostly been Colorado shows this year. It seems every other year it’s anywhere but Colorado, then the next year it’s all Colorado again, but it’s been fun, been fun. We are excited to be coming back to Missouri.
We will be going to Nashville in September for IBMA, the International Bluegrass Music Association, doing some showcase stuff. We were selected to the Western Arts Alliance this year. Artists submit to be judged through videos, and CDs, etc. Out of hundreds of submissions, anywhere from musical theater, puppet shows, choirs and all kinds of performing arts, they selected us to be one of the showcases! So we are super excited, and honored to be part of that.
Ethan: Can you shed any light on the state of Missouri declaring April 1st the national day of “Jasons?” I noticed your PR release mentioned it.
Jason: (Laughs) I can’t vouch for the authenticity of that, it could be something that someone just made up, but I did see that and thought it was quite funny. I wouldn’t put it past them! But you know one thing that we like to do . . . is that we have a lot of fun on and off the stage. If we aren’t playing music, it seems like we are laughing and coming up with jokes and picking on each other, and being general smart alecks and stuff like that, and it’s just a lot of fun playing with this group of guys. That’s what it’s about though, we get along great, have a great musical chemistry, and I couldn’t ask for anything more really. It’s just a blast.
Ethan: That musical comaradery goes a long way doesn’t it?
Jason: It really does, farther than the music can sometimes. It can keep you together, but what it can really do is help spur creativity. That’s something we really do, we’re always kind of pushing each other. When somebody will bring a song to the band and we listen to it, we don’t always automatically say yes or no. But we listen to it Like here’s a song, maybe it’s a cover or an original, and what can we do to this song to make it our own, and to give it our sound. I think that’s a really important aspect of a band that helps develop your own sound.
Ethan: Will the show Saturday be a lot of the material from the new album?
Jason: Yes, we will be playing a bunch of the stuff from that album. We will be doing some various other new songs. We added Chris the banjo player, when he came to the band, you make this decision as a band, do you teach this guy all the old songs we know, or do you make more of a statement.
The band’s changed a little bit, so the sound should change a little bit. So, do you just throw him in there and he gets compared to the last guy, or do you make your sound inclusive so he’s a part of it. We’ve tried to really do that. There are some old songs that we won’t play because of that, but we are excited to play the new stuff.
Ethan: I’m excited to hear the expanded harmonies that Chris will bring to the band.
Jason: Yeah, exactly, Chris has been in a band called “The Spring Creek” for the last 10 years, and he brings new influences and new insights. Things that we wouldn’t automatically think of trying, so we always give every idea a chance, and sometimes it might work, and it might not. It’s really been a blast having him.
Ethan: Where can people find your music?
Jason: We are on iTunes currently and the new album will be available on there once it’s ready, and will also be on our website, bluecanyonboys.com. We are also on Facebook, we have a Blue Canyon Boys fan page facebook.com/BlueCanyonBoys. As soon as we have the new album in hand we will be releasing it to the usual PR, sending it to radio, etc., but that means it will be available online and for sale at all of our concerts.
Ethan: Anything you’d like to say to the fans out here before the show?
Jason: We’re looking forward to come back out and play to our fans in the St. Louis area and the show in Labadie on Saturday is going to be a great time, and tell all your friends and neighbors that we’re in town and if they like bluegrass to come on out, and if they don’t like bluegrass, tell ’em we’re not a bluegrass band and come on out anyway.
Jason and the Blue Canyon Boys will play three shows during their visit to Missouri. The first show will be performed at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood on Friday, Aug. 17, at 9 p.m. Their next performance will be at Labadie Station Saturday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m. They will take the Sheldon Concert Hall stage the following Tuesday, Aug. 21, at 7:30 p.m. in St. Louis.