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Barney Bentall on Music, Mental Health, and CKUA


At CKUA we know well the clear connection between music and mental health. Our listeners tell us almost daily what a difference music makes in their lives. We on team CKUA know it ourselves. It helps us all get through hard times.  When we heard that there was a Cariboo Express show coming up raising funds for our friends at CASA Mental Health, we jumped in to help spread the word.

Cariboo Express is a high-energy, musical variety show with a 12-piece western band, led by JUNO-award-winning Canadian legend Barney Bentall. The special part (beyond the unimpeachable calibre of the entertainment,) is that a portion of each show’s proceeds goes to a charity organization where they’re performing. In nearly 20 years, they’ve raised multiple millions to help people. We got in touch with Mr. Bentall himself to find out more about this philanthropic – and incredibly fun – musical showcase.

Barney, excitement is growing for this year’s Cariboo Express tour. We at CKUA are proud to be supporting your stop in Sherwood Park on October 28, in support of CASA Mental Health. Let’s go back to the start. Why did you create the Cariboo Express, and what’s it all about?

It started with the music and the crew that was there from the beginning. My son Dustin, Ridley Bent, Matt Masters, and Wendy Bird are still with us, among others. We thought there might be a way to parlay that incredibly fun musical hang into a vehicle for some charities. It’s been challenging at times, but we are very proud of the fact that with the help and partnership of some hardworking causes, we’ve been able to raise over five million dollars over the run of this carnival.

The concerts sound like a lot of fun. Tell us more: who is involved and what can audience members expect?

It’s hard to explain. There might be old-time country next to rock ‘n’ roll next to step dancing. It’s a killer variety show but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to adequately explain it. You just have to come and see it! I put my salesman hat on there, for a minute. I couldn’t have done it without my co-host Matt Masters.

We know supporting mental health resources is a big part of the Cariboo Express. It’s important to us here at CKUA too. What can you say about the power of music to uplift souls and keep people going when times are tough?

I think addressing mental health issues, social issues and inequalities are where we put our focus. Environmental and climate issues are huge, at present, but we feel that the Express can best help in the other realm. Sometimes, when things are really tough, all one might have at hand, to get you through, is a song.

Would you share a bit about how music helps keep you feeling healthy and good?

We are all aware that we are in turbulent times. Music can be a unifying and healing force and I am grateful that I spend a good portion of each day in that world. The Beach Boys said it long ago: “good vibrations.” Music is like a walk in nature. I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse after being outside or strumming a guitar.

You’ve been a friend of CKUA’s for a long time. What do you see as the importance of CKUA’s work in spreading positivity through music?

Well, it’s a big question, but I think so much of what we are fed each day is motivated by profit and steered by mega corporations. To have something out there, like CKUA, that is of the people and puts its heart and core values at the centre, that’s gonna be a positive force. Plus, you hear music that you would otherwise never hear.

Thanks, Barney!

Learn more about the work CASA does and purchase tickets to the Cariboo Express show benefiting this important organization on October 28. Get info at 

Find out if the Cariboo Express is coming to your community!