For musicians, inking a deal with a major record label is a telltale sign they’ve secured a bright future in a career they love.
Southern Albertan band Prairie Dogz recently had this experience when they signed a five-year deal with Emanant Music, to be distributed through Sony’s label The Orchard.
“We heard about Emanant through a company were working with called Murph Publishing out of Nashville,” says lead and rhythm guitar player Keith Hambrook.
“We were talking one day to the fellow who runs that company named Ray Hamilton, he was telling us about this label Emanant because he was shopping our music to them. He said they might be looking for new artists because they were going to start a new blues/rock label.”
The band, based out of Southern Alberta in the Okotoks and Black Diamond area, thought signing a deal with Emanant would be their chance to write and record the music they enjoy writing and performing.
They were the fifth group to sign on to Emanant’s new Blues and Rock label.
“Our own music that we write is rock and blues influenced because of the music that we grew up listening to,” says Hamrook.
“It was like a load of pressure was lifted off our shoulders as writers because now there was a blank canvas in front of us and we could actually write Prairie Dogz music.”
The band’s first single released with Emanant is “40 Dollars”. Its distribution began on Jan. 25 and is now available on over 660 distribution outlets worldwide.
Lead vocalist Dwight Kohen says it’s a blues/rock song with country influence.
“That is good for us because it gets our music out worldwide with good penetration into the global community,” says Hambrook.
“We hope people like our music so we can go play for them in their hometowns,” he adds.
The group includes Hambrook, along with Kohen, lead and rhythm guitar player Terry Studd, base guitarist Dave Fast, and drummer Martin Wright.
“We’re a complete unit with those guys,” says Hambrook, talking about Wright and Fast who were later additions to the band.
“Before this deal we were pretty lucky coming out of COVID being able to book as many shows as we wanted. We hope this (record deal) will help us to grow the area we play, expanding out of Southern Alberta, to Western Canada this year, and then maybe on to the United States.”
The group had an interesting start, with Studd being a member of a cover band that was looking for a new guitar player. Hambrook ended up auditioning for the position and was selected. Not long after, Hambrook says the band decided to change its singer, leading Kohen to addition and getting the part with the band. The three played in the cover band for three years until they decided to branch out into their own band.
“We saw an opportunity to write and record our own music,” says Hambrook. “We talked a lot about it and had a lot of ideas for new music, when we started to write the music we wrote was really country oriented. We started sharing that music around that we recorded and got a distribution deal with a small label out of Florida. That was really exciting for all of us as that was the first record deal any of us had ever had.”
The group says their first record label signing taught them a lot about the business and what they
wanted out of their music careers.
“The first song that we ever wrote when we got signed on was called ‘I Don’t Remember What I did Last Night’, and that song went around the world,” says Kohen.
“We had an international distribution for that song, and it still gets played in countries around the world.”
The men agree that although their first record deal was not a long term commitment, it taught them a lot about what not to do. They’re thankful for the deal because it provided them with a lot of motivation.
The band has been working hard on a large batch of music, which has not yet been sent to the label, but Hambrook says should expect more of a blues feel to the songs.
When asked about how they manage to keep their voices fresh after long days of performance, Kohen says the solution is quite simple.
“We normally do a four-hour show that includes three hours of singing, and we can do two nights in a row,” says Kohen.
“Tea and honey work really well. You can use some ginger in there as well. Tea and honey coats the throat so you’re not raspy and your voice keeps cleaner.”
Guitarist Terry Studd says their most unique gig experience was one that will stay a highlight in many of their eyes for years to come.
“We did a show out on a ski hill one day and there was a bit of a blizzard happening when we were playing,” Studd says.
“A lot of our equipment was covered in snow.”
Hambrook added on that playing outside to crowds is a great experience and that got them through the rather cold experience.
“You can’t even tell you’re holding your pick anymore,” he says of the cool experience.
“We have a keyboard and there was a little snow drift across the keys. We were still really happy to get that booking.”
Kohen is excited about the future for the group now in light of their new record deal. The group has a near sold out summer, and is expected to play at many corporate events and gigs throughout western Canada.
“I think our next step in gigging is probably more festivals, bigger crowds and to get our name out more,” says Kohen.
“Potentially we can headline or open up for someone who is bigger than us.”
Hambrook says it is a great time to come see one of their shows because they’ve started to really nail down the niche of their music and performance.
“We’ve learned a ton over the last few years and our live performance has really improved,” says Hambrook.
“Through sheer repetition, together we’ve played over a hundred shows together, so we just chisel away at it. We’re focusing on using the right equipment, having everything set up right and really polishing our sound.”
The band currently has two songs available for purchase on distribution labels.
If you would like to follow the band or would like more information about them, please visit their website at www.theprairiedogz.com.
By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Feb 10, 2023
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