Sing while you seed: A planting playlist for music-loving farmers
Musician Drew Gregory learned to sing while planting on his family farm
Thanks to being bored stiff during planting season, Drew Gregory learned to sing.
That's because Gregory grew up helping with the spring plant on a 3,000-acre farm near Standard, Alta., where he helped his dad plant canola, peas, wheat and barley in the days before farmers had smartphones and high-tech tractors that did just about everything.
"That's kind of where I learned to sing. The first tractor I was doing this, and had just an AM radio, and that was just before cellphones were coming in," Gregory said in a Thursday interview with the Calgary Eyeopener.
Now, phones can do more than NASA computers used to be able to do. Technology has gotten so sophisticated that Gregory has time to kill as his tractor moves up and down the fields of the family farm, dispensing seeds.
After all, with the GPS-directed, auto-steered tractor topping out at 4.1 m.p.h. (6.6 km/h), there is little for a tractor driver to do except turn at the end of each row, then wait a few minutes — about the length of a good heartbreaking ballad — before they have to do it all over again.
That led Gregory, who grew up and became a country musician — he performed at last year's Country Thunder Festival in Calgary — to create a planting playlist.
(It's called Plant 18, and it's available on Spotify.)
Fewer farming songs
Oddly enough, country music seems to be less and less about country living. It almost feels as if there are hardly any songs left that are about farming. So Gregory set out to compile a few, which include some new, some old school and even some of his tunes.
"We've got some old Hank [Williams] Jr. there," he said, "and some new stuff. Some Brothers Osborne, and those guys Billy Carrington and Luke Bryan. He still throws the odd country song out there about farming."
There's every line dancer's favourite anthem, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Fishin' in the the Dark, Blake Shelton's Kiss My Country Ass, and the late, great John Denver classic, Thank God I'm a Country Boy.
"I threw a few of my own songs (Better in a Bar, and Know Good) in there as well," Gregory added, "just to kind of get those out into the world as well."
Not only does he have a veritable country thunder playing in his cabin to pass the time while he plants canola seeds, but Gregory brings his instrument along.
"I actually have a little guitar sitting out in the tractor, too, so if we get some real, real long strips — some fields are put together where we were driving for a whole mile — and [that] gets you some time to pull the guitar up and sing a song or two."
Once planting season is done, it's out of the tractor and into the honky-tonk.
"Definitely in Alberta, the summer is the time to be playing as much as you can, especially around Stampede time," Gregory said.
"It's good to know how to play a country song during those 10 days," he added. (He plays the King Eddy on July 9).
His first summer gig, at the end of May, is at a festival in St. Albert called The Rainmaker Music Festival, "which is a pretty perfect for us [farmers]. So that's going to be a fun one."
With files from The Calgary Eyeopener.