We reach Jake Vaadeland in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. It’s his first day off in a while; he and his band are off to Indian Head next. It’s all part of a wide-ranging tour through Alberta and Saskatchewan. Jake Vaadeland and The Sturgeon River Boys are playing 21 dates in total, throughout January and into February. In Alberta, they’ll start in Lloydminster on January 18, and finish the tour in Barrhead on February 2.
“I’m originally from Big River,” says Vaadeland, “and Cut Knife is home these days, when I’m not on the road.”
In case this story starts to sound like a Western Canadian version of “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Vaadeland spends some time telling us how he came to be a working musician.
“I grew up in a Scandinavian settlement close to Big River,” he says. “It’s a bunch of farmers who settled there. My parents were very musical. The whole community is. There’s a church that we used to go to. Instead of a piano or organ, we played fiddles and guitars and banjos in church.”
He says that bluegrass was all around him while he was growing up, but he didn’t touch the instruments for quite a while. “I could always sing, but when I got to be a teenager, I didn’t want to sing any more. After a while, I decided in high school that if I picked up the banjo, maybe the kids wouldn’t hate me so much.” He chuckles, then says, “It just made them hate me more.”
Now Vaadeland plays guitar, using a pick style that he says you don’t see much any more. “It allows me to play differently, in the Chet Atkins or ‘Mother’ Maybelle Carter style. And I sing lead.”
Vaadeland is understandably proud of the work he’s done to get to this point. He’s a self-taught, multi-instrumentalist, and some have doubted him along the way. In Grade Ten, he says, “I made it clear I was going to do the minimum to finish high school. I left school in grade 10 and finished school online. I graduated, but that also allowed me to be on the road.”
He enjoys playing small towns and small theatres. “You get lots of people who come out to see us,” he says. “In the small towns, in cold weather, people like to come check out our shows. To my surprise, people know my music, and some of the shows have sold out. We love the venues, too, including schools and theatres. They suit our style. Some of the halls and the schools we play have a vintage charm.”
Jake Vaadeland and The Sturgeon River Boys are probably playing a show near you soon. Find the full list of dates and venues at jakevaadeland.com