P.E.I. musician 'blown away' at chance to showcase at Canadian Country Music Awards
'What have I got to lose?'
Cory Gallant has already sung onstage at The Grand Ole Opry — now, the 39-year-old paramedic from Woodstock, P.E.I., is hoping to win a contest that will take him and his new solo album of original tunes to the Canadian Country Music Awards, or CCMA.
Gallant is one of nine finalists from across Canada vying for votes to win the Canadian Country Music Association's Spotlight Performance contest — a chance to perform for industry professionals like booking agents and festival co-ordinators at Canadian Country Music Week, part of the CCMA being held Sept. 9 in Hamilton, Ont.
"We know what happened with Hockeyville — P.E.I.-ers can vote," Gallant said.
Gallant recently became a member of Music P.E.I., and learned about the contest through one of its member emails.
"What have I got to lose? I might as well give it a shot," Gallant said. He sent in some song demos and pretty much forgot about the contest until Music P.E.I. director Rob Oakie phoned him a couple of weeks ago to tell him he'd been chosen to represent P.E.I.
"I was blown away, I was pretty excited," said the father of three. "It was pretty cool, the opportunity to enter this and possibly get onto that bigger stage with your own material is pretty exciting."
But his musical past is a long and storied one.
He picked up a guitar as a young teen and taught himself to play. After graduating from high school, he visited Nashville with his father, recording at a studio and playing a few gigs. On a trip to the Grand Ole Opry, he met the bandleader who invited him on stage to play a few songs with the band before the television cameras rolled.
"It was pretty cool for a 19-year-old from Canada to be able to do that," he recalls. He sang two songs by George Jones, one of his favourites.
He eventually settled in southwestern Ontario, where he fronted a bar band called the Bareback Riders for seven years, touring the area and winning a national Battle of the Bands in 2007, playing alongside Johnny Reid, Emerson Drive and Doc Walker — fulfilling another dream.
At the same time Gallant also travelled the world as a tribute act to Tim McGraw.
'Everything happens for a reason'
He and his wife moved back to P.E.I. a decade ago, when Gallant decided it was time to "get a real job." He went back to school and became a paramedic, and has been working for Island EMS ever since.
Music went on the back burner — but not for long. He met up with some old friends and formed a band called Old Doctor Young — they're in demand and play regular gigs on P.E.I.
He also took an interest in songwriting, and is new recording 10 original tunes with Danny Drouin at Up West Studios in Alberton, P.E.I.
"Part of me wishes I would have done it years ago, but everything happens for a reason," Gallant said.
Canadians can vote for their favourite musicians on the CCMA website here. Voting is open until next Friday, June 22. People can only vote once during the voting period per IP address.
Gallant is using Facebook and Twitter to get the word out and hundreds of friends have already shared his posts, including one of his old band mates from the Bareback Riders.
"Whoever wins this, they're going to take them under their wing and they're going to help them get seen, which is the whole point of this," Gallant said. "It's a huge opportunity."
Even if he doesn't win, the contest is giving him great exposure, Gallant said.