The Rockin’ River Music Fest taking place in Mission Raceway Park this weekend is jammed full of star-studded country music talent, from Lonestar and Travis Tritt to Sawyer Brown and Julian Austin.
But for some performers, the festival represents a large break in the highly competitive country music world, where making it to the “big tent” can be a huge challenge.
One such person is Mission’s own Merv Tremblay, who actually quit country music for four years because the ride was so rough.
“Hanging around with other musicians is wonderful, but unfortunately, it’s a small sandbox,” he said.
Originally from Calgary, Tremblay moved to Mission 16 years ago and has since written over 300 songs. And as odd as it might seem to some, he says this is the place to be for country music.
“Anybody who’s ever made it in country music for some reason comes out of B.C.”
Although B.C. is more known for blues, jazz and rock, Tremblay said the Lower Mainland has the recording studios a musician needs to get their sound out there. He has just recorded and released a new single, She’s So Sweet, which he will premiere at the festival.
Tremblay plays a regular gig with father and son combo Marcel and Paul LaRochelle, and Sam Sauerteis on bass, every Sunday from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Mission’s Captain’s Cabin, which he calls a “country jam.”
It’s a far cry from three years ago when the then-retired musician sank into a depression so severe he didn’t want to get out of bed. But he said within three months of playing country music again his depression disappeared.
“I realized right then and there that music is so much a part of me that, even if I have to play for nothing, I have to play.”
Although country music might conjure up images of a performer drawling a honky tonk tune whilst strumming a six-string, Tremblay says he takes country music and gives it a rock n’ roll edge.
Country fans can look forward to seeing “The Merv” and other local Missionites, such as Kenny Hess and Brent Lee, this Friday and Saturday at Mission Raceway Park.
Doors open at 2 p.m. on both days with the beer garden stage to warm up the crowd.
Bring your own lawn chairs and blankets or reserve a seat for $109 for rows four to 20, or $119 for the front three rows.
Single day tickets are available for $59, or you can see both days for $89. Children under 12 are free with an adult. Tickets are available at www.rockinriver.com or any Lower Mainland Lordco outlet.