Alberta-based singer-songwriter Gord Bamford has clearly ascended to the top ranks of Canadian country artists. His fourth album, Day Job, is still generating radio hits, and he took home more hardware from the recent CCMA Awards than any other artist, with his haul including Album of the Year and Male Artist of the Year wins. Bamford isn’t taking this hard-won success for granted, noting that “being able to make a living, especially with a family of three, in today’s business is tough. This is not an overnight success. Anytime you have to work at something, you appreciate it more.”
In fact, Bamford still toiled nine to five as recently as three years ago, an experience reflected in the title track of Day Job. “My worst day job was working in a hog barn, cleaning it out and shipping the pigs to market,” he says. “The best one was driving a concrete truck. I always joked that I’d go back to it if I had to.”
Time alone in that cab helped spawn song ideas, some surfacing on Bamford’s debut album, God’s Green Earth. Its title song was co-written by ace Nashville songwriter/producer Byron Hill (George Strait, Alabama) and Gil Grand, and a subsequent meeting with Hill proved a crucial career turning point. “I sent my record to Byron, and later came upon his website. He had a blurb talking about a Canadian kid he was quite impressed by. I was blown away by that. I’d just got married, and my wife and I moved to Nashville for two months. I met Byron and that’s how the relationship started,” says Bamford.
The pair now co-produce and co-write the bulk of the material on Bamford’s albums. “I tell people I’ve been able to apprentice under one of the best songwriters in the world. Byron Hill has been something of a mentor of mine for 10 years now,” says Bamford. “I see songwriting as a trade, like being a carpenter or a welder, one where you apprentice. Now I can definitely call myself a legitimate songwriter in the country market and I really enjoy it. I’m getting a lot more calls to write with other artists.”
Stylistically, the virile-voiced Bamford comes down on the traditional side of the country fence, citing Merle Haggard and George Strait as key influences. “I don’t think there’s a much more country sound on Canadian radio than mine right now. Some of the favourite songs I’ve cut are maybe a little too country for country radio.”
He estimates he’ll play 100 dates in Canada this year, many in small communities off the beaten touring track. Such a booking policy has helped cement Bamford’s populist reputation. “I think a key to my success is that I grew up in a small town and I still live there. I feed on making sure we hit marketplaces people wouldn’t ordinarily see an act come through. That has really paid off for me. It gives everybody a chance to see what kind of guy I am.”
. Gord Bamford was born in Australia, moving to Lacombe, Alta., with his mother at age five. Lacombe recently erected “Home of Gord Bamford” signs.
. In 2009, Bamford’s hit single “Stayed ‘Til Two” received a SOCAN Award. It was one of the three most-played songs on Canadian country radio in 2008.
. His annual charity golf tournament has raised over $200,000 in two years to support central Alberta charities.