Bryce Pallister
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Bryce Pallister


Band Country Bluegrass


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"From farm team to big league- Bryce Pallister hopes to be Manitoba's next country star. But what will it take to make the grade?"

Rumours of Bryce Pallister's success have, at this point, been greatly exaggerated.
"Some of the people I hang out with once in a while, they've only heard what's going on with me through the grapevine," the singer says, sinking into a couch in a dimly lit Academy Road recording studio. "Apparently, according to these people, I'm huge. I have to put them back in their place and say, 'No, I'm still just Bryce -- not really that big of a deal yet.'"


Tomorrow, Pallister is releasing his debut CD, RDY 2GO (a twist on licence-plate jargon), but he's doing it at the 225-seat Park Theatre, not the MTS Centre. Sure, he's sung Waylon Jennings' songs with George Canyon and gigged at Dauphin's enormous Country Music Fest. But today, he's "just Bryce," a strapping six-foot-three kid from Portage la Prairie who grew up singing George Strait in his parents' living room.

But come back to him this time next year. Behind Pallister's shy grin, there's a 20-year-old with a huge voice and a keen awareness of his own image -- and its potential.

"For this album, the goal is just to get out there, get exposed to Canada, build up that fan base," he says. "I want to make sure, as far as my image goes, that people can see that I really do have country cred. Nowadays, there's a lot of artists that don't."

For Pallister, it's not an act. When asked about his hobbies, he blinks. "Other than singing and farming? Um..."

His beat-up cowboy boots are stained with the mud of the Portage canola fields where he spends most of the year. He put music on hold in 2006 to complete an agricultural diploma program at the University of Manitoba. His songs are "built on daydreams I've had working the farm."

Now, Pallister and manager Jack Shapira are betting that these figments can find a wider audience. Pallister's been polishing his performance chops recently, with showcases at Canadian Country Music Week. He shot a video with local producers Absurd Machine Studios that's been making the rounds of Toronto boardrooms. RDY 2GO is, well, ready to go. But what will it take to get Pallister's voice onto a million iPods?

"We need radio across Canada to embrace him. We need support on our first single. We need CMT (Country Music Television) to give him an opportunity to be interviewed," says Mike Denny, who runs Toronto-based record label MDM Recordings. He bought into Pallister's career through the advocacy of Johnny Marlow, a Winnipeg sales rep for Denny's former employer, distribution label Fusion 3.

Denny's not one to stake his reputation on a pipe dream. An industry vet with 25 years of major- and minor-label experience, Denny watched the rise of Shania Twain from inside Universal and, later, helped break British Columbia country star Aaron Pritchett.

After Fusion 3 closed its Toronto office in June, Denny set up MDM, a multi-service shop that is "sort of a record label." Bryce's debut album is also MDM's first release.

"There are no guarantees," Denny says, enunciating every syllable. "But based on the early buzz that I'm getting, we have a good chance. It won't happen overnight. It won't happen two weeks from the release date. But it all adds up for a pretty good shot for this kid to break."

So how did a farm boy from Portage find himself poised to make a real run at national country music success?

Like most things in the music industry, it started with a connection. Pallister started singing when his voice changed, and took classical vocal lessons through adolescence. But it wasn't until early 2006, when a mutual friend recommended him to record producer Shapira, that things began to move.

In the industry, Shapira is known as a "good guy" with an ear for talent. He recently produced and managed rockers The Nods, whose sophomore album cracked the coveted U.S. college-radio rankings. And Shapira liked what he heard in the 18-year-old singer from Portage.

"He had this really interesting voice for country," Shapira says. "It's this deep, bellowous voice."

But there was another, more practical quality that stood out.

"I could see that he's hard-working. It has to go hand in hand. There has to be a realistic streak in you, as far as wanting to be big."

Before Shapira, the only songwriting the singer had done was "taking old songs and changing the words to make fun of my teachers."

Within months of meeting the producer, Pallister was songwriting with Phil Deschambault, who recently signed to EMI Publishing.

"The idea of it was to do a couple demos. All of a sudden, the guys had 14 songs," Shapira recalls. "We had enough to do an album. And they were great songs."

There's a theme in this: Pallister has a knack for attracting good people. RDY 2G0 features musical contributions from a veritable who's who of Winnipeg music, including Doc Walker guitarist Murray Pulver and Weakerthan Stephen Carroll. On the industry side, Denny's involvement reeled in renowned publicist and industry guru Anya Wilson, who represented David Bowie in the '60s and Bryan Adams and Kenny Rogers since. She's in charge of getting Bryce's singles on the airwaves.

But the right people, the right songs, and the right image still offer no certainties. Big ambitions crash and burn every day. Hurtin' Albertan Corb Lund wrote about the busted-up dreams of a prairie boy once: "The short native grasses don't care that the ashes/of your dreams match their dry shade of brown." He meant it as an ode to the plains. And for Pallister, who wouldn't mind eking out a career like Lund's some day, the comfort of the fields can cushion any blow.

"I don't get too caught up in the hype, so I think I'll be able to survive," he says. "I enjoy where I'm at; I'm comfortable with who I am. If it doesn't pan out, everything will be fine in Bryce world."

Bryce Pallister releases RDY 2G0 on Friday at the Park Theatre. Heather Longstaffe opens the show. Doors at 7:30 p.m., tickets $15 at the venue. For more info, check out
- Winnipeg Free Press


Ready to Go (Radio/ Itunes)

Music Videos:
Ready to Go (CMT/ Youtube)

RDY 2GO (Conveyor/Universal)



It’s somewhat difficult to reconcile the soft voice of 21-year-old Bryce Pallister coming down the phone line from his family farm in Portage la Prairie with the commanding, rich vocals emanating from the tracks of his debut recording, “RDY 2GO”, released in March, 2009.

Though classical vocal training has definitely helped Bryce with phrasing and breathing, that singing voice is a natural gift. The oldest of 4 siblings, however, Bryce is the only one (so far) to have followed the musical path, beginning with the occasional role as singer in a high school-spawned band and moving on to the festival and fair circuit. Now, with 8 years performing under this farm boy’s belt, he’s getting ready for the bright lights and the big cities.

At 6’4” and bearing some noticeable physical likeness to Billy Ray Cyrus and Keith Urban, Bryce Pallister is poised to attack his musical career head-on. His supporting team includes business manager Mike Denney, a 25-year veteran of the music industry with both major and minor labels who recently opened his own MDM label/one-stop-music-biz-shop on which Bryce’s debut is the first release. “RDY 2GO”’s title track is the first single, launched in January and is being promoted by Canadian music powerhouse Anya Wilson, who represented David Bowie in the ‘60’s as well as Bryan Adams and fellow “country”-man Kenny Rogers. The accompanying video was picked up for regular rotation on CMT. Stalwart Manitoba-bred booking agency Paquin Entertainment is in charge of touring, including Bryce’s June, 2009 opening gig with one of his personal favourites, Ricky Skaggs.

Bryce’s band members were pulled together through the recording of the album, the achievement of which he says “gave me a lot of satisfaction”. The musicians who would become bandmates include Roland Deschambault, Brian James, Jeremy Rusu and Jay Tooke, with guest appearances by Doc Walker’s Murray Pulver, The Weakerthan’s Steve Carroll and Clint Dutlame. “RDY 2GO” was produced by 20-year studio veteran and 2008 WCMA producer of the year nominee Jack Shapira.

How is the young singer coping with the demands such a music industry marketing machine can impose? “There can be a lot of pressure to ‘pop it up’”, Bryce says of his passion for pure country. “I lean to the true forms of rural music, like blues, folk, blue grass and southern rock. I think people are hungry for a difference.”

The eleven original tunes on “RDY 2GO” were written to nourish those lovers of pure country. Bryce connected with recent EMI Publishing-signed songwriter Phil Deschambault to create the 11 songs, of which 8 were begun by Bryce himself (he uses both guitar and piano when he’s composing). The influences of Bryce’s favourites Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, the Allman Brothers and k.d. lang no doubt inspired the song-writing process. “It was great working with somebody (Phil) who’s been writing his whole life. He really took me back to the basics of song structure”, says Bryce.

“RDY 2GO” boasts a solid collection of rollicking country tunes that Bryce calls “”new traditional”, starting with the title track that laments a couple’s divergent states of mind and its follow-up, “One Day” about an unattainable woman that Bryce says “may or may not be” written from experience. From love won, lost and yearned for to travellin’ and gamblin’ the traditional country music themes are re-invented through contemporary narratives. The third single, “City to City” is a powerfully melodic song that builds to its chorus with the resonant refrain “it’s not what you don’t know, it’s what you don’t know you don’t know…”

On that note, Bryce admits “If you’d asked me 5 years ago what I’d be doing now, I’d have had no clue. Now, what I really want is the notoriety and respect amongst people who love pure country music. My goal for the album is to build connections with each individual audience member and learn what they like of the songs. I’m gonna do it one person at a time and every new fan I can get, I’ll be grateful.” As any farmer knows, you reap what you sow and the most important ingredients for success are time and patience. Bryce Pallister has both in spades and he is, indeed, Ready to Go!

For more information, contact Mike Denny, MDM Management 416-816-4242

For Media
Anya Wilson – Anya Wilson Promotion and Publicity 416-977-7704