There’s a story about a country musician who’s approached by a bar owner who tells him that he’d love to have the fellow’s band perform at his bar. He goes on to say that he can’t pay the band, but assures him that it would be great exposure for them.
The musician responds by telling the fellow that he’s having some friends over on the weekend. He invites the bar owner to bring over beers and wings.
“I can’t pay you, but it would be great exposure for your bar,” he explained.
It’s an old story but in many ways, it still encapsulates the lack of respect that country music has seen from some quarters over the years.
Ryan Evans, frontman for Tumblin’ Dice, knows all about that but, truthfully, he just doesn’t care.
“We’ve been together for 11 years and we’re having a lot of fun and making some really great music,” said Evans. “We travel around a lot and do rodeos and festivals and all kinds of shows. A lot of times we may go to a town where they don’t have any live music and they bring us in to get the party going.”
Tumblin’ Dice is made up of Evans on guitar and vocals, Jamie Troy on drums, Tommy Morris on lead guitar and Leigh Grisewood on bass and background vocals.
Locally, the band is known as the house band for the Sunfest Country Music Festival and has performed there for consistently large and enthusiastic fans.
“The truth is that we all played in rock bands before we turned to country and when we play country, it’s like night and day,” Evans said.
“Country fans are there to have a good time. They dance and sing and it’s just a lot more fun to play.”
Tumblin’ Dice plays a lot of cover music, generally from the 1990s on to current hits but they’ve also written and performed some original songs. For his part, Evans has recorded a few singles but admits that he most enjoys playing with the band.
“We’ve actually been talking about our future, and, after COVID, things have really turned around for us. We’re playing larger shows and are seeing a growing fan base,” he said.
“That platform opens up the doors for us to release some of our own stuff. It’s very exciting.”
That shift may well be timely as there has been a sea change of sorts away from the stereotypical songs about guitars, pickup trucks and unfaithful women.
During COVID, country was one of the most played categories on Spotify and a whole new generation of artists are getting their music out there. And where recent history has seen rock festivals like Surrey’s FVDED cancelled, Vancouver Island’s Sunfest has been booming.
According to Mike Hann, Sunfest spokesperson, the days of Canadian country artists needing to piggyback on the tours of American artists are over.
In part, it’s because country stars today are drawing on the influences of other music genres.
“There are country songs now that have hip-hop elements, rap, beat and more. Bluegrass is changing as well. We are going to consider all that as we move into the future,” Evans said.
He noted that audiences for country have changed as well, going from strictly college kids to a much more diverse fan base. That broader audience has told Evans that country music has enduring popularity and staying power.
“The next step is for us to play some festivals in Oregon and Washington,” Evans said. “Vancouver Island is our home but getting down to play big state fairs and other concerts is the next logical move.”
The band performs regularly at the Duke Saloon and notice of upcoming concerts can be found at www.facebook.com/TheTumblinDice.