Jingle bell folk

Musician Kevin Roy on the ups and downs of the road and the biz

Anthony Kost

There are many wonderful Winnipeg Christmas traditions, ranging from decorating the tree to accidentally sliding your car into on-coming traffic. What’s seeming to become a new local holiday tradition is A Country Christmas, returning to the St. James Tap and Table for the second year in a row.

Described as a “revolving door show,” A Country Christmas features various artists planning a set of contemporary and traditional Christmas tunes. New acts will hit the stage every few songs. No originals will be included. Local folk artist Kevin Roy performed in last year’s show, presenting a John Prine cover and a version of “Frosty the Snowman.”

“It’ll be neat to see each artists take on the songs,” Roy says.

A former school teacher, Roy has been playing music for over 10 years, but only embarked on the full-time life of a musician a year-and-a-half ago. While in the throes of a “quarter-life crisis”, he decided to “give it a try before it was too late” and took an extended leave of absence from teaching.

His debut 2013 EP, Taller than the Trees, was produced and engineered by Lloyd Peterson (The Weakerthans), backed by a five-piece acoustic ensemble, which includes former Wailin’ Jennys fiddler Jeremy Penner.

Roy has just returned home from three months on the road, clocking over 20,000 kilometers, playing 40 shows in four different provinces. The tour was even titled, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, named for the methods of transportation he took across Canada.

Roy can also be seen performing at Happy Mike’s Coffeehouse (195 Collegiate St.) on Dec. 6. Despite the joys of touring, Roy admits the business side of music can be all-encompassing.

“On the pie chart of what I do, the biggest piece is sitting at my computer,” Roy says. “The smallest is actually getting up and performing but that’s the piece you’re working to maximize. It’s not much of a rock star lifestyle.”

He describes his sound as a style of folk music, drawing upon a history of storytelling. Roy acknowledges artists such as the aforementioned Prine, Gram Parsons, and Townes Van Zandt as formative to this style. His main musical influence as a youth was his parents’ record collection, notably Neil Young. However, Roy’s biggest influence is the road itself.

“You’re all around in different cities and meeting different people,” Roy says. “I love hearing where people come from. Everyone’s kind of got a story to tell.”

The evening includes performances from local indie folk and country artists Micah Erenberg, Richard Inman, Ben Hadaller, Matthew Sabourin and Kayla Luky, who hails from Grandview, Manitoba. The show will be a reunion of sorts, as Roy is a former member of Luky’s band and got his first taste of the road, touring with them two years ago. 

Roy insists A Country Christmas is a great way to kick off the season.

“Everyone gets in the spirit,” Roy says. “They dress up in their tacky Christmas sweaters, dip into the rum and eggnog and start singing the songs.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 14 of The Uniter (December 3, 2014)

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