Edmonton artist's rise in country music 'sort of happened by accident'

The finalists for the 2018 Edmonton Music Prize have been announced. Finalist Dan Davidson discusses his breakthrough year.​

Dan Davidson is one of three finalists up for the 2017 Edmonton Music Prize

Dan Davidson had a breakthrough year in the Canadian country scene. He's one of the finalists for the 2017 Edmonton Music Prize. (Dan Davidson/Supplied)

The finalists for the 2017 Edmonton Music Prize have been announced. CBC's Radio Active is talking to each of the three finalists to discuss their breakthrough year.​

Dan Davidson says his emerging country career "sort of happened by accident."

The former guitarist and vocalist in local rock band Tupelo Honey has been pursuing a career in country music for only a couple of years.

Davidson said after Tupelo Honey went on hiatus, he started writing solo material — and country music was the result. "It sort of came out this way," Davidson told CBC's Radio Active Friday.

He soon found out he had the best-selling indie country record in Canada. "It was just the weirdest thing that I could have never anticipated," he said.

The accomplishment has earned him a finalist spot for this year's Edmonton Music Prize.

"It was a really nice surprise," Davidson said. "You don't really want to think of music like football, like something you have to win, but it's sure nice when it comes up.

"It's good for the old ever-expanding ego."

Different music videos

When the Edmontonian's indie single Barn Burner started to gain traction, he wanted to make a music video to help promote it.

Davidson said he looked at the country music video landscape and saw all the same things. "There are way too many dirt-road, river-bank, wheat-field, Daisy Duke country videos out there," he said.

Davidson tried something different: He dressed up in traditional cowboy attire and walked around the busy streets of Tokyo, Japan.

It was certainly different for those in Tokyo. Many of the locals are seen taking photos and waving at the Canadian cowboy in the video.

Davidson's eccentric ideas — he's also created a video featuring a giant moose costume and a Star Trek parody — are all decisions he's been able to make because he's an independent artist, he said.

"That's another cool thing about where I'm at. Being an independent artist, I don't have anybody I really have to listen to," Davidson said. "Even if I have a terrible idea, I can still pull the trigger on it if I really want to."

The videos may have helped, but it's his songs that have got him to where he is today — including a 35-city national tour.

Brett Kissel's opener

That tour is with fellow Albertan country music star Brett Kissel. Davidson is opening for him.

He said Kissel reached out to him after his successful year.

"He doesn't really need me to sell tickets for him on the opening side," he said. "It makes me feel like he thinks that I can help make the show even just that 10 per cent stronger."

The tour is the largest Davidson has ever been on, including in his days with Tupelo Honey. But those touring years with his rock band did prepare him for going on tour as an indie artist.

Touring with Kissel meant Davidson had to get touring staff and funding for publicity. Stretching an indie budget to accommodate that is tough, but Davidson had experience.

There are way too many dirt-road, river-bank, wheat-field, Daisy Duke country videos out there.- Dan Davidson

But that's where the Edmonton Music Prize would come in. The winner takes home $10,000, which could go a long way in helping Davidson continue to rise in the Canadian country music landscape.

Either way, Davidson is just rolling with it. "I'm not really trying to chase something right now. I'm just sort of closing my eyes and starting to swing and doing what I think sounds fun and country," he said.

"It could have gone worse, I'll tell you that much. I've been pretty lucky."

With files from Emily Rendell-Watson