BCB Live

The Blue Canyon Boys will perform a concert this Saturday, Sept. 14, at 7:30 p.m. on the grounds of Labadie Station, 128 Front St., in downtown Labadie, across from The Hawthorne Inn restaurant. An opening act will go on stage at 7 p.m. Blue Canyon Boys band leader Jason Hicks is a Labadie native, who helps draw crowds of 400-plus bluegrass fans to the intimate outdoor venue. Hicks, son of Debbie Wagonseller and the late David Hicks, has been based in Colorado for many years. The Blue Canyon Boys have been performing together since 2005. Hicks spoke to The Missourian last week about the upcoming show and the band’s newest album. Following is full transcript of that conversation.

- Missourian

So you guys finally dropped that new album that had been long anticipated?

- Hicks

Well it’s it’s funny because it’s not officially released but it’s one of those things where the manufacturer I think that’s what we had. Because you record it and you get it all done and said You send up the place that actually makes the C.D. and they do all this stuff and then they just they drop it you know on to other other things as well. And so they weren’t really supposed to. To do that I suppose. But they did anyway. Well we haven’t officially released it. We have it. We have it for sale. We have it with us and we’re kind of debating on whether we play the whole release release game and do the radio thing all that kind of stuff. it’s kind of a game, there’s a protocol on a way to do it. You want to get on certain kinds of bluegrass and folk charts and so.. We have just been holding on to it through the summer and we’re selling it at our shows but not like getting done I could much PR on it or anything like that. But yeah it’s it’s recorded and done and we’re super excited to have it. It’s a fun album we love it.

- Missourian

Right on. I’ve given it a listen on Spotify and it sounds great. I love the mix of what’s on there and you guys sound in good form.

- Hicks

Yeah. It was really fun to record. I think all four of us really enjoyed the recording process and it was a fun process and we definitely had a great time with it.

- Missourian

Well, good!

- Hicks

It’s funny because as we were starting out we had a different banjo player and then you know after setting up our first recording sessions to start recording it... We got the message from our our previous banjo player that he was going to be moving, and not only was he going to be moving soon, he was going to be moving out of the country soon.So on that kind of account had we had a little sidetrack there, and so we had to find the new banjo player and figure out what to do about the whole recording process. We kind of got it started then we put it on hold on hold for a while we found the new banjo player and and did a bunch of practicing learning songs and then jumped back into it.

- Missourian

Oh wow. How hard was it to find a new banjo player.

- Hicks

Thats a good question... We’ve always been fortunate that whenever we’ve needed a new banjo player there just happened to be one who had either just moved here or who had just left a different band. So, like I said we’ve always needed a banjo player at a time when when there is a good banjo player who is all of a sudden available. We’ve really kind of lucked out and we were we’re sort of a unique band in what we need out of a banjo player, we need sombody whos diverse and and well versed as well as technically proficient because we play some pretty fast stuff. You know we’ve tried out a few different ones over the years and some were incredible banjo players but this guy wasn’t like the right fit sort of thing. So yeah. So it can be really tricky and I say we’ve been really lucky every time.

- Missourian

So this time did you have somebody who knew you guys or knew of you guys and was familiar with you and also was looking for work? You didn’t have to steal somebody from somewhere else did you?

- Hicks

No, haha. No, no, thievery happened. Our banjo player is Chris Rozelle and he had just moved to Denver from Chapel Hill North Carolina. Had only been out here for a few months and I when we find out that Zach was going to be moving I put a couple of feelers out there seeing who was available. I was chatting with my friend Casey Groves and she was like You know there’s this guy, Kris, he just he just moved here and he’s not in the band and I think I think he’d be really good fit. You should give him a call. I called him and he didn’t sound very enthusiastic, I was like well, he doesn’t seem into it, so I kind of let it slide and talked to some other banjo players, then we tried some guys out and when I talked to Casey a month or two later She’s like what about Chris? and I said well I called him and he didn’t seem like that interested in it... Shes like, no! you need to call him back again and just set it up and practice with him and see how it goes and I was like OK. And so I did. And boom he ended up joining the Blue Canyon boys! So she gave me that extra little push. Banjo players are a unique breed and they’re not easy to read and you know there’s certain instruments that a certain mindset that has to be in place to be able to be to play them and be proficient at it. It’s just like the accordion is kind of like that and banjos like that and a few of them that are just like that there’s stereotypes about about these types of players and stereotypes are there because of what they have historically done as a group. Which is just funny, you know. You know, I’m not a big fan of banjo player an accordion player jokes, but you know some of those are there for a reason.

- Missourian

Yeah if the instrument fits.... haha

- Hicks

But yeah, I don’t like going off on banjo players. It’s too easy of a target and it’s a little bit too cliche so.. it’s great to work with a great banjo player, his style reminds me, for bluegrass fans, his style kind of reminds me of like the early 80s Bela Fleck types stuff. like a really creative bluegrass kind of flavor. You know I like his lead the way he comes up with this really creative lead, you know just so slightly off of the traditional straight hard driving Earl Scruggs style. Really really great really great player. He was a drummer first, He came to the banjo by way of being and being a drummer I guess back in middle school and high school. He pick up the banjo and took off with it and he’s just a really, really great player.

- Missourian

Very cool. I was going to ask you what thought his influence or his style was, with banjo it seems like either you’re old school or you’re of the new school. To me it sounds like there’s been more of the guys that have been showing up with what sounds like their style is formed off of Bela Fleck’s style.

- Hicks

Yeah, some of his favorite banjo players are actually newer guys that I’m not as familiar with. I’m more well versed in the traditional and the early bluegrass years, you know, the forefathers of bluegrass and a lot his favorite banjo players are guys who have not been on the scene all that long but who are just really tremendous and creative players. They’ve all been influenced by the whole spectrum of banjo players to the years from Earl Scruggs and Don Reno all the way up through J.D. Crowe and then you get into Alan Mundy and there’s just so many great banjo players, so, so many.

- Missourian

I’ve been kind of stuck on Crowe lately.

- Hicks

Yeah Crowe, he’s kind of you know... he’s kind of maybe... there’s a few seminal players and he solidified himself early on as being being one of the influencers. He just retired a couple of years ago. He’s getting up there in age and I think he just got tired of carrying that heavy banjo up onto a stage.

- Missourian

Yeah I know that he’s definitely gotten pretty old.

- Hicks

Yeah I think yeah he’s kind of retired from performing and you know I feel like same with Sunny Osborne, he retired from performing banjo. You know five six years ago maybe even longer now. And yeah, banjo, it’s an instrument that is physically taxing as well. You know it’s because you’re using all most all of your fingers, and then the banjo itself is quite, quite a heavy instrument.

- Missourian

Yeah, banjos are quite stout.

- Hicks

And some are more than others, but I mean it’s a lot of metal hunched over your shoulder and it’s not uncommon for some banjo players that just have major shoulder problems just the way you hold it, so... And some guys develop pretty odd posture patterns as they develop thier style of playing too.

- Missourian

Yeah, and the wrist angle on your picking hand can be really obscure too. So I’m sure that can become a problem too.

- Hicks

Yeah, and depending on how much you’ve got set in your ways by the time you get proficient enough as a player and are performing, and then its too late to try to fix it right. You don’t have to hold your wrist at that angle right, but it’s what falls naturally for a lot of players and then boom there’s your thing.

-Missourian

Exactly. So with the new album, what are you most excited about having this new album out besides that it’s finally done?

- Hicks

Well we’re excited to have it finally done, and we’re excited to get it out to people. We’ll be doing the P.R. thing here shortly, we’ll be sending it out to all the DJ’s shortly and we’re excited to get some feedback and see what people think. There’s some songs on there that I think are just really beautiful songs, and I’m really proud of our performances and our arrangements of them and I’m just excited to get out there.

- Hicks

You know there’s a couple of songs that I wrote a couple of years ago that we recorded ... as a song writer sometimes you write a song and you’re really into it because it’s the song you just wrote, But then after you let it sit for a while, and you start playing it more you realize this actually is a good song... I’m not just thinking that, and we have a song on there that when we whenever we play it it gets.. it tends to get a lot of like positive feedback and like wow! I remember we were playing a festival this summer and Joan Wernick, Pete Wernick’s wife, Pete’s the banjo player for Hot Rize, and Pete’s seminal in the bluegrass world for his knowledge in his teaching and for people that he knows and interviews and all that kind of stuff, so we play the song and Joan, not usually one to hold words back, and the song ended and she yells out “Wow, that was beautiful!” from off stage. laughs, shes very vocal like that and we’ve had really positive feedback on some of our songs and I’m just excited to start getting it out there and leading out of that, You know IBMA, International Bluegrass Music Association, and they’re Rahleigh based and they do a big a big conference every year at the end of September and this year we are an official showcase band. So we’ll be going out for a RaLeigh and doing their official showcases and doing the whole business conference thing. So its really big bringing the album out there and talking it up and getting it into the bluegrass DJ’s hands and working on you know getting into some different festivals we maybe not have played before and be some extra travelling and that’ll be a fun thing. it’s been going on for like 30 years or something like that and they have a big business conference and you know pretty much all the bluegrass bands all the big name bands are either there or represented in it and they have a big awards ceremony at the end of the week and then the awards ceremony is on Thursday and then Friday and Saturday have this big street fair street concert and will be performing at that as well. We’ll be hanging out with friends, meeting new friends and doing our official showcases and basically trying to sell our band to people.

- Missourian

All right very cool. That’ll be a lot of fun.

- Hicks

Yes, Very cool. We’re very excited by that.

- Missourian

Have you guys been touring a lot this year?

- Hicks

Well we’ve been pretty busy. We haven’t done a ton of traveling but the traveling we’ve got to do thus far has been been really fun. I was mentioning that our previous banjo player moved out of country and he moved to Costa Rica. about a year ago he sent a message saying Hey there’s this festival going on down here and would you guys be interested. We said Yes, So the blue canyon boys are officially the first ever bluegrass band to perform in Costa Rica.

- Missourian

Wow!

- Hicks

We played a country music fest and it was just so much fun. This was their first annual North American Country Music Festival. We went there and played and and then all of us took advantage of the opportunity of being down there and spent you know about a week or so down there just traveling around the country and it was just great super fun. And hopefully we get to go back.

- Missourian

I’m sure it’s beautiful down there.

- Hicks

It’s gorgeous, the festival was two blocks from the ocean. we’d play then we’d get to walk back and we could just hop over to the beach and then walk along the beach back to our rooms for the night. You really can’t beat those accommodations. We’ll take any and all of those that come our way.

- Missourian

For sure you don’t want to deny that.

- Hicks

No not at all.

-Missourian

So when you guys come back to Labadie, what do you think for the show are you going to cover the whole new album and then throw some of your other stuff in there? Whats the set list looking like?

- Hicks

You know we’ll play a good portion of the song on the album. There’s a bunch of songs we haven’t performed in labadie before so we’ll be doing a bunch of those. Well actually it’s funny how bands and albums work and so on almost all of our albums are always like one or two songs that that really got performed or maybe never got performed. Our last album that we did there’s a song on here that I wrote which is a really cool groove oriented song called “Old George’s Repent” and we have never performed that, or I think we’ve performed it once, we’ve always kind of said we’re going to learn that, and we just never did. And so we finally relearned it so we’re going to do that off one of our old albums. We get requests for it once in a while, mainly by people who know that we’ve never played it and that we haven’t officially relearned it. So they they kind of heckle us from the crowd, Hey play that song! I know my stepdad will sit there in the front and say “well what about this song!?” We’ll be ready for him this time. Then we’ll do a few as you would you expect, and a bunch stuff off the new album and songs we haven’t played before and we’ll do a couple songs that we kind of tend to only do in Labadie and there’s a song that I wrote that was influenced the Labadie market. So we get requests to do that every year. You know in the market there was the wall of fame with pictures on the it once you turn 50 or 60 years old they put a portrait of you up on the wall and this guy this little wall of fame for 50 olds and older and I was thinking about that wall one day I was driving to my son’s birthday party and that wall popped in my head and then all of sudden this whole song jumped in there and so I’m driving down the highway writing down the lyrics to the song and trying to watch the road and my pen at the same time and haven’t recorded that song anywhere. We did make a little YouTube video of it but we will do that song and it’s kind of like little hometown song People request that one annually. And we’ll see we’ll see, we tend to always find some new songs to learn the day have to play for Labadie.

-Missourian

Any new BCB Merchandise for fans?

- Hicks

Last year we made up a special one time only Blue Canyon Boys shirt for the Labadie Station show and they were a hit and we made like 75 of them last year as I thought we made too many we’re never going to sell these things. Well, we sold out and people were mad that they didn’t get one. Basically they sold out so fast, so I made another one time only shirt for the show this year. It’s really cool, I’ll be picking that up this week. And we made a few extra so... But people still have to get there early and go up and grab their shirt. There’s no guarantees of how long they’ll be available.

- Missourian

All right. How many of them did you make this time.

- Hicks

Well I have one hundred and twenty of them. I’m still nervous about that number, like is that too many? Am I going to be bringing 75 of these shirts home? It’s a cool shirt and I’m excited to bring it out there and I hope people like it. I bet I’ll probably see a whole bunch of shirts from last year that people people bought being worn there this year which is which is always neat to someone wearing one out in public, and at our shows especially. But just in general when you see somebody out around wearing a blue Canyon boy’s shirt or spot the stickers in the back of somebody's car window.

- Missourian

I was going to bring up the stickers. I see more and more of them around town as the years have gone by. I see them more frequently on a truck or car in front of me.

- Hicks

Once in a while somone will take a picture of one and send it to me from a random vehicle somewhere wherever they are and. So we’re super excited to be coming back, this is our ninth annual show at Labadie station. We have Julian Davis who is going to open the show. I have not officially met him but he’s really young, 20 or 21 somewhere in there, and he’s supposedly just really this monster guitar player. You know he’s about to hit the scene in a big way here here pretty soon. He’ll be doing I believe a solo set before us or maybe a duet, looking forward to hearing him.

- Missourian

That should be really good.

- Hicks

I’m looking forward to he being here. He comes with rave reviews from from people that are in the known, straight up rave reviews.

It’s going to be another fun show. Hopefully the weather is nice and beautiful for hanging out in Labadie and we can all share some moments and play some great music and have people dancing... it’s it’s pretty much our favorite show of the year. It’s kind of our homecoming show. I mean I obviously have a lot of family that comes in that I’ve been watching over the past couple of years and grow from the first few years it was just family, everybody I knew or had a connection to or I knew somebody who they knew but its turned into this sort of thing where I’ve been watching it grow to where I see the audience I’m like I don’t know who will I see anymore. Its turned into an event that’s not just based around you know my own PR from my mom or Robert or Butch and the other people that help put it on. That’s the kind of growth that I like seeing. I like seeing new faces at the shows and obviously I still want to see all the old faces too.

- Missourian

The annual show is kind of an organic thing that’s grown because the word’s gotten out over the years.

- Hicks

Yeah and it’s funny, I know that the Labadie station puts on about six or eight shows a year. They get some really fun bands and they get some good traveling bands from out East as well and now they got the permanent stage there now. I was talking to Butch and they trenched full power to the stage so now we don’t have to worry about dragging cables and people tripping over them.

- Missourian

Good deal.

- Hicks

Yeah. It’s super good. Super excited.

- Missourian

They do a good job down there. I like what they’ve done.

- Hicks

I would second that they’ve done a really good job. You know Butch is a huge supporter of the arts and music and I think he’s really enjoyed being a part of this and taking on the bookings and basically kind of running all the Labadie Station concert series.

- Missourian

Yeah. And it takes somebody passionate about it to do it.

- Hicks

You know it does. it is not a job for just anybody. You know it takes organizational skills and getting stuff done and and having the personality that you need when you call somebody and tell them this is budget. I trust what he’s doing. Not all things are run like that. You know we travel and play all sorts of different things and sometimes you go to a festival or a gig and it’s like Oh my God this is run so well so smooth like every little detail has been thought of. And then sometimes you go to one you’re like, hey is there any water around? There’s the things that have kind of slipped through the cracks... thinking of the details comes with experience. There are those exceptions, where you’re like, Really? You didn’t even think about checking this date making sure that the county fair wasn’t right around the block the same day, because that’s well established and it has rides for kids. We’ve shown up for gigs where those mistakes have been made, and then it’s a pretty sparse crowd. Sometimes you’re playing to seven or 12 or 15 people. But we’ll still put on the same same show and we try to make it fun. You know we don’t we wanna be one os those bands. They came to have a good time. Why should they get shafted just because there’s not a lot of people out there. They deserved a be entertained.

- Missourian

Right. And it goes a long way for that organic growth for the next time you come through again, because those people will never forget how you gave them that personal show and they’ll be talking about it for years.

- Hicks

That’s totally true. I mean we’ve done it before and then in the next week we get an e-mail from somebody who was there saying ‘hey, we just want to let you know that we really appreciate you guys putting on a good show for us even though the situation and circumstances weren’t ideal and thank you.” You know, not that we would think otherwise, but that’s a good reminder this is why we do it. Because we’re doing it for people who were there for it and just because somebody else made a mistake or just the way the cards fell it didn’t work out that well, you know just that’s not their their fault.

-Missourian

What time and date is the show this year?

- Hicks

Seven o’clock Saturday the 14th. It’s actually my wedding anniverary, but I got permission before hand.. The Opening act goes on at 7:00, then we’ll go on about 7:30 and we’ll be there playing all night long. We’ll play two full long sets and we’ll have the new the new CD there and the new shirts be there. Actually some old shirts too.

-Missourian

We’re excited to see you guys here again, anything else you’d like to throw in before we see you Saturday?

-Hicks

Here’s a tidbit of Blue Canyon Boys trivia,.. Sasquatch is the new shirt design, You might think Sasquatch seems a bit random, but on every album that we’ve recorded there is a picture of Sasquatch somewhere on the album. It might be on the cover or the back or in the booklet somewhere, but he makes an appearance on every album that we’ve done. And so that’s a little tidbit of information that people don’t really know yet. The new shirt design this year is pretty funny, like I said, it has Sasquatch on it and he’s wearing a red Chuck Taylor Converse shoe.. Just like our bass player. I was designing it and Drew was like, what about putting a red Converse shoe on him? I said hey, that’s a good idea. I think his wife or his daughter suggested that.. But yeah, Sasquatch does not represent our bass player by any means, but you know. On some of our albums he’s a bit more obvious where you can see him, some it’s difficult to see him. on the new album. He’s on there twice. I put him on there twice. That’s our Sasquatch connection. On our first album we were a trio and our bass player was a graphic graphic artist and he’s really into Sasquatch and stuff like that and he designed the album art and he put Bigfoot on there so somewhere in the album and when we noticed it, we’re like cool! Bigfoot has been on every album since then. Chris our original bass player did our graphic design for years even after leaving the band and so he would just keep putting it on there. And then one album we said you hadn’t put Bigfoot on there, He’s like Oh yeah! Just making sure you guys wanted him on there! All of our albums he’s somewhere in there and he’s finally made it onto a shirt.

-Missourian

That's awesome, we’re excited to see you guys, along with Sasquatch.

-Hicks

We’re just really looking forward to being in Labadie and putting on a good show! See you there!