by Stephen Dafoe
The Canadian Country Music Association announced the nominees for the 2017 CCMA Awards earlier this summer and among the nominees are Morinville residents, Travis Switzer and Chad Melchert.
Switzer, a freelance bass player, is up for Bass Player of the Year. Melchert, who is both the drummer for Gord Bamford and a session drummer, is up for Drummer of the Year.
This year, Switzer is up against Chris Byrne, Lisa Dodd, Justin Kudding, and James Murdoch for the honour. Melchert is nominated with Jimmy Boudreau, Ben Bradley, Jayson Brinkworth, and Rich DaSilva. Gord Bamford, the singer Melchart drums with, is also up for Apple Music Fans’ Choice Award, Male Artist of the Year, and Phil O’Donnell is nominated for Bamford’s album Tin Roof, which Melchert played on.
Bass player Travis Switzer has received the Best Bass Player nod three times before (2013, 2014 and 2016.) He has been nominated for the honour nine times, including this year.
“It’s lovely. It’s nice. You work hard all year; I’ll be honest,” Switzer said of his feelings on being nominated again and the efforts he and fellow musicians put into their craft. “It’s good to be recognized for that hard work. It’s an award that is voted on, and you are nominated by your peers in your industry. It’s a privilege to be recognized.”
Over the past year, Switzer has worked with several bands, mostly country artists, including Jason Blaine, Deric Ruttan, Dallas Smith, and a new act from Vancouver – JoJo Mason. This past weekend, Switzer played bass with Emerson Drive.
Switzer has also put a lot of time recording tracks in his home studio in Morinville over the past year.
“A lot of sessions get done remotely these days,” Switzer explained. “As the industry changes, budgets for recording, especially demo sessions, are changing. It’s a lot more cost effective to just send parts out. The technology has allowed us to be able to do it. The days of needing $400,000 worth of gear – for the most part – are kind of coming to an end. In my home studio, I can get quality out of my bass tracks that would be fine for any album.”
For Switzer, the love of the bass came early in life.
“I’m a weirdo in that I didn’t start on the guitar, didn’t start on the piano, didn’t start as a singer. I’ve been a bass player since the beginning,” Switzer said, noting his father is a musician. “Growing up we had a family band. I think I was barely seven and he bought me a half-sized bass and amp from Sears and said, ‘You are the new bass player in the band.’
“I’m a bass player. It’s what I’ve done since I was six or seven. I was pretty good at it as a kid.”
Today, Switzer says he enjoys standing in the shadows and being under the band lifting everything up. The awards, while a byproduct of hard work, do not define what he does on a regular basis.
“I make coffee, sit in my studio and record tracks, and try to become a great musician for no other reason than the music deserves it,” he said. “Those guys that spent the hours and the money making these songs – they deserve some hard work in the final end.”
While it is uncertain if he will walk away with another Best Bass Player award when the CCMA Awards take place in Saskatoon Sept. 10, he said he would be happy to hear any of the nominees’ names called.
“Any one of those players is more than deserving of winning the award, and frankly, I’d be happy to see any of them win it,” he said. “We have a camaraderie. I respect all those guys and would love to see any of them win it. They would make the Canadian Country Music industry proud with how they play and perform. Each one of them has an incredible work ethic.”
Gord Bamford drummer and session musician Chad Melchert has won Best Drummer at the CCMAs four times in the past. In fact, a win this year will put him out of the running for future awards but right into the CCMA Hall of Fame. He has been nominated for the Best Drummer honour eight times.
Melchert said he is honoured to be nominated again. “I guess it makes you feel like you are relevant in the business, and that your peers think that of you,” he said. “To me, I’m surprised every time I win. I never expect to win. It’s a little bit of surprise and appreciation that they picked me. Every time I’m shocked. I don’t expect to win. I don’t think it’s wise to feel that way.”
In addition to playing and travelling with Gord Bamford over the past year, Melchert has spent lots of time in the studio – something he says he loves.
“If I had my choice, I’d be in the studio all the time. That’s absolutely where I love to be the most,” he said. “I’m lucky enough to be the house drummer at a few studios in Calgary – MCC Recording Studio and in Saskatoon with Bart McKay [Productions]. I’m lucky. I kind of get the call for all the stuff that they do, and that fills up a good portion of my schedule. Luckily enough, both of those guys have lots of stuff on the radio. It keeps me relevant, on the radio and in people’s minds when they want to hire a drummer.”
Melchert recalls playing dances in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan many years ago. What resonated most with him was people’s reaction to the music. It is the ability to bring joy and happiness through music that has kept him drumming over the years.
“What resonates with me is your ability to affect other people. When you are playing, I always love the dance floor. No matter how bad a day they were having, when music was going, and you could affect them and bring happiness, that is what drew me to it.
“When you are young, you dream of playing an instrument – and drums was it for me – but when you notice that real effect you can have on people, that’s what hooked me.”
Like Switzer, Melchert thinks all of his fellow nominees are deserving of the win this year.
“They’ve done really well. Everyone’s had a busy year. In any competition like this, I’m just happy that everyone is working in an industry where I know how hard it can be to make a living,” he said. “To see these guys all flourishing and making a living and having fun and seeing the world is great.”
The CCMA Awards take place Sept. 10, 2017.