Morinville independent artist Darcy Hjelsvold, a founding member of Ain’t No Rodeo, released his first CD – Blue Collar Dream – last week. Knew You When, the first single off the CD, was released to Canadian country radio stations Mar. 24 and has been getting considerable interest. Below: CD cover for Blue Collar Dream – Submitted photos
by Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – There is a spring in Darcy Hjelsvold’s step as he walks in for his interview. Fresh from work and decked out in coveralls, the 35-year-old mechanic is the picture of a blue collar worker, an ap- propriate look for a man whose first CD is titled Blue Collar Dream. The co-founder and front man for the local band Ain’t No Rodeo launched the CD to country radio stations across the county Mar. 24 and has already gotten some airplay with the EP’s first single, Knew You When.
“The CD was a shot in the dark,” the singer said, adding it grew out of his performing in the finals of CMT’s Karaoke Star in 2008, something he did at the request of his wife. “That kind of lit the spark and that’s when we started the band again. That’s actually what got me playing again and being on stage with the same guys I played with in high school.”
Hjelsvold worked with award-winning Saskatchewan music pro- ducer Bart McKay on the CD. That project began with Hjelsvold sending McKay some of his originals, one of which was rewritten with the late Larry Wayne Clark, an award-winning Canadian song writer. “I worked with him on that via Skype which was a big learn- ing curve because I’m a mechanic,” Hjelsvold said with a chuckle, adding while he was working with Clark, McKay found a couple of other songs that ended up on the CD, one from a Nashville publish- ing house, the other a song by a young Alberta songwriter.
The latter song, He’s Gone, instantly resonated with Hjelsvold and his wife Crystal. “As soon as I heard it I said ‘We have to do this,’” the singer said, adding it reminded him of his three children.
Hjelsvold cut his CD on his own dime, independent of a label. While the cost has been heavy, he is hoping the reward will be worth it. “It was a lot of money and of course we’re not labeled up or anything,” he said. “If you want to do it, you work some extra overtime.”
The recordings happened over the past couple of years in Sas- katoon, were mastered in Nashville, and have been performed live by Ain’t No Rodeo in shows over the past six months. Though the recordings were done with session players, it just didn’t seem the same as the guys Hjelsvold has worked alongside for so many years. He wants to stick with the guys that brought him to the dance, and stay with his Norwegian surname, despite advice to change it to something more commercial. “That doesn’t seem like something I’d do,” the family man said, adding he told those working with him on the project that he had no intentions of giving up his boat or fifth wheel to make his blue collar dream come true. For Hjelsvold, if it happens, it happens. “This is an addition to; it’s not a sacrifice. I’ve worked hard for all the stuff we’ve got and our life. This isn’t going to change me at all. If it doesn’t work, it was a great time trying it, and we’ll carry on as we are.”
It is that working man ethic that Hjelsvold is most proud of in his journey, a sense of being rooted in and dedicated to family, community and friends that manifested itself in the CDs title and imagery – the singer on a stool guitar in hand, an old truck in need of repair sitting behind him in the background. “It is exactly what it is – a blue collar dream,” he said. “That’s exactly what it is – a shot in the dark.”
But that shot in the dark is hitting its target, even in the first week of the CDs official marketing release. Released on Mar. 24, Hjelsvold got word three days later just before his first coffee break that the first single was getting picked up for airplay in Saskatchewan and Ontario. “I was really shocked, amazed and happy – relieved a little,” he recalled. “We put a lot of money, time and effort into this, my wife especially. She handles a lot of the emails and I work 10- hour days. She’s put a lot of energy and fo- cus on the line to make it happen.” Coming from a community like Morinville, that has proved a challenge for the couple in dealing with the broader side of the entertainment business. “Some of the people, they’re really not small town people,” Hjelsvold said. “They’re not nice people.”
For now Hjelsvold is looking forward to playing the new songs along with the five- and-a-half hours of music Ain’t No Rodeo has in their repertoire of covers and origi- nals. The band, who got back together in 2008 after Hjelsvold’s Karaoke Star win, is made up of high school friends Matt Budd on lead guitar, bassist Mike Hittinger, and drummer Mitch Crush.
Hjelsvold’s CD is available from iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby or CD Universe. The band will be doing some touring this summer.