Everyone loves a story of overnight success. Who wouldn't be charmed by the sweet combination of an instant stroke of luck and a dream come true? The only problem is, when it comes to overnight success, there usually is no such thing.
As in the case of George Canyon.
This tall, modest 34-year-old Canadian cowboy singer recently placed second in the USA Network's Nashville Star talent search, instantly making him a household name to millions of country fans. Soon after the show, he signed a record deal with Universal South and a management deal with Garth Brooks' manager. Canyon has been thrust into the spotlight at warp speed, hitting the road with the Nashville Star Tour while squeezing in songwriting, recording sessions and interviews. Canyon loves this whirlwind. He's never experienced anything like it. But just to be clear, it really didn't happen overnight.
"I guess I officially started in the music business when I went on tour with a country rock band 14 years ago," Canyon says. "We played every little place in Canada you could imagine! Sometimes, we'd have to each pay $50 at the end of a six-night run just to meet our bills. But over time we did well and that's where I cut my teeth, which was an important part of my growth as an artist."
Canyon grew up in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, surrounded by folk, Celtic, country and rock music. "It was just kind of what we did," Canyon says. "Everyone would sit around after church or whatever you were doing and play and talk."
Even though he's been playing and singing since he was four-years-old, becoming a professional musician was never a childhood fantasy. At around 17 years of age, he started entertaining the thought of a career in music. And even then, he mostly kept the ambition to himself.
"While I was growing up," Canyon says. "My dad said over and over, 'you go to work, you find a hard job and feed your family."
Performing on stage and writing songs with the goal of touching an emotional nerve may not have fit Canyon's father's definition of a hard job, but he earned his dad's respect by sustaining himself, and his musical career, with a series of demanding day jobs. Canyon worked as a law enforcement officer, a slaughterhouse beef inspector, a shipping receiver for Kraft and the owner/operator of his own recording studio. Often, he held several of these jobs at once, while continuing to pursue his music career.
Perhaps his biggest test came when several years ago, Canyon and his wife, Jennifer, whom he met at a concert, decided that he should make a more serious push towards making music his singular job. Since they had two small children (Kale and Madison, now 5 1/2 and 4), Canyon stayed home during the day while Jennifer worked three jobs (as a veterinary assistant, horse trainer and riding instructor). Canyon played music at night.
"I got to be Mr. Mom for a little while." Canyon laughs. "Initially, I had trouble with it. I was raised that you work, take money home and feed your family. But I worked through it and came to love that time a lot. Especially now that I don't get to see them as much."
Canyon, who released two self-produced albums in Canada (two videos released made CMT Canada's Top 10), calls this period of his life the, "last kick of the can."
He heard about the first round of Nashville Star second season auditions, but didn't consider going at first. "At some point my wife said, "You really need to do this," Canyon says. "I figured I'd just go see some friends in Calgary and at least try to make the first cut."
Several months later, Canyon was standing on the stage with fellow Nashville Star finalist Brad Cotter, waiting for the judges to announce the winner on live television. Canyon whispered to Cotter, "I think you're going to win." Cotter smiled back at Canyon. "I don't think it matters now. We both won."
Indeed, nothing about Canyon's life right now is as it was before this opportunity. His independently recorded single, "Good Day To Ride" reached #12 and stayed in the Top 50 for more than 20 weeks on Canadian Country Radio. His first single from the album, "I'll Never Do Better Than You," hit radio in late August and flew up the charts to #5 at Canadian Country radio. His album, One Good Friend, followed on September 28th, debuting at the top of the Country sales charts in Canada and it continues to sell well. In September, he was named the Chevy Trucks Rising Star at The Canadian Country Music Awards, where he was also nominated for Male Artist of the Year, and he picked up two Music Industry of Nova Scotia Awards in November, for New Artist Recording of the Year and Country Recording of the Year. In February, he received his first JUNO Award nomination for Country Recording of the Year for One Good Friend.
Canyon is thrilled to be working with celebrated producers and Universal South Senior Partners, Tim DuBois and Tony Brown, who produced One Good Friend. "I've always dreamt of getting a record deal," Canyon says, "but never in my life did I think I'd get to work with Brown and DuBois. But more importantly, they just get it. I can see a long standing friendship developing here."
His second single from the album, "My Name," was released in late January 2005 and the video was instantly added to heavy rotation on CMT Canada. The song, which was written with fellow Nova Scotia native Gordie Sampson, was created to help close friends heal after a devastating miscarriage. The song is written from the point of view of the unborn child and the message of hope has touched so many people. Canyon will perform the song live on February 20th when he hosts the East Coast Music Awards in Cape Breton. The televised show of the awards will be aired nationally on CBC-TV at 8pm ET and 11pm ET, Sunday 20th February.
Canyon, who says he has learned to mostly set small goals in his life, nonetheless shyly admits to having big hopes for his new album.
"I'm determined to put music out there that people will touch people. I know that the hard part is just beginning. I'll have to work hard and sacrifice even more than I have. But with everything that's happened the last six months, I know it's for a reason."
--- from the official George Canyon website