Gord Bamford Making Festival Return At Cavendish Beach
When Gord Bamford steps on stage at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival on Friday night, there's a good chance no one will be more excited than him.
“It’s one of my favourite festivals,” the 26-time CCMA winner said Tuesday morning from his home in Alberta. "Some of my biggest fans are in the Maritimes. They’re such passionate people about their music.”
Bamford tops a line-up that includes homegrown acts Tim & the Glory Boys, Jason Benoit and Rik Reese on the first night of the festival in Prince Edward Island.
“It’s an all-Canadian music festival this year, which is kind of nice for us,” he said. “You know, to be able to headline a Friday night. We’ve had some great slots there but never the headliner, so this is a great opportunity and I’m really thankful that they thought of me for it.”
Most of all, Bamford is just happy to “get back at it after what we all went through.”
The Cavendish Beach Music Festival will be Bamford’s first festival show since COVID-19 lockdowns began in early 2020. Last month he dusted off his cowboy hat to perform a limited-capacity show at the Calgary Stampede.
“I thought no one’s going to show up to this thing because they have to stand in line for three hours and then get a rapid test and wait for half-an-hour,” he recalled. “It was kind of the opposite. I think everybody wanted to find out if they had COVID. The place was just packed, so it worked really good.
“People seem to adjust to the ways of watching music.”
Bamford said the crowd’s thirst for live music was palpable in Calgary. “Music is such a getaway for life, a healing process for a lot of people, and mentally is something that we all need,” he said. “For us on stage, it was like, ‘Wow this felt like our first show ever.’ We were so excited to be there and the fans didn’t disappoint, that’s for sure.”
Bamford will set out on the Kick COVID In The A** Tour on Oct. 1, which will hit 12 dots on the map of Alberta and raise some much-needed cash for local community organizations. He will play for audiences of just a few hundred fans each night.
“It’s not so much about how much you can put in your pocket it’s more about giving back to the communities and getting back on the road and doing what we love,” explained Bamford. “I love playing the small towns. I grew up in that atmosphere. It’s kind of my wheelhouse. I love the big festivals, too, but 200, 300, 3,000 people – it doesn’t matter to me. I just want to go play music.”
“Not at all,” he said, calling the virus “part of life” and insisting “we’ve got to get back to normal somehow.”
Bamford added: “They seem to be setting out rules, whether it’s right or wrong. Everybody has their own opinions. It is what it is. It’s up to everybody to do what they wish to do. It’s a free country out there, which I think people are having trouble with, with this whole thing, where it’s not really their choice at certain times. But it is. I mean, if you don’t want to go watch hockey games, you don’t want to do this and that, then you don’t have to.”
It’s quite simple for Bamford. “I just want to follow the rules and get back out making a living and doing what we love,” he explained, “and cancelling shows isn’t one of the options for me – unless I have to.”
Bamford, in fact, took a year off pre-pandemic to work on new music – his latest album Diamonds In A Whiskey Glass came out in June – so it’s been nearly three years since he was on the road. He said the lockdown was difficult for everyone, especially his band and crew.
“Not being able to be on the road and play music, which is 90 per cent of our livelihood, was really tough,” he admitted. Bamford said he used the time off as “a bit of a reset” and spent plenty of time with his wife Kendra and their children Nash, Paisley and Memphis.
Luckily, the Bamford family has the titular “Heaven On Dirt” he sings about on his latest single.
“We were very lucky where we live, you know, that we’re out on the lake and at the time there was not a lot of people building here,” he said. “We’re pretty isolated out here where we live and other than the kids not being able to be in their sports and go to school it was nice to be able to leave the house and have the freedom that we were lucky to enjoy.”
This year, Bamford marked the 20th anniversary of his debut studio album, God’s Green Earth.
“It kind of tells you how fast time flies,” he said. “It doesn’t feel close to that.” And, he added, it certainly does not feel like time to slow down. At 45, he feels like he’s just hitting his stride.
“I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been – I’ve used the COVID time for that. I feel really young and youthful,” said Bamford. “Definitely, coming out of this pandemic, our mission is to, over the next three to five years, play as many shows as we can and play for as many fans as we can get to.”
It is, after all, the music business and Bamford knows that “sitting at home on a Friday, Saturday and having all your gear sit in the shop a hundred-and-some days a year doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
He explained: “I’ve kind of got the mentality – although my agents don’t love it – I don’t feel like you can saturate a market. You can play these small towns and those smalltown people will come to the city three months later. I’ve proven it and I’m proving it again right now.
“For me, it’s just about building a fanbase and selling tickets, it’s not about how many people are there or whether you play this town six months later or six months earlier. There are so many country fans all over Canada. I’m just out to play as many shows as I can. Sitting at home doesn’t make a lot of sense when people want to hear you play music.”
Reaching people via social media is something Bamford didn’t have to think about 20 years ago. Today, his accounts are managed by bass player Lisa Dodd but, he said, “I look at it every day.”
Bamford sees it as “a massive marketing tool” and “a positive overall” but believes “you’ve got to use it properly. It gets misused a lot.” (Fake Gord Bamford accounts prompted a recent tweet reminding his fans that “Gord’s social media accounts are listed on his website & all verified with the blue checkmarks.”)
In a career with lots of accomplishments, perhaps none is more impressive than the Gord Bamford Foundation, a not-for-profit that has raised roughly $4.7 million for a long list of children-focused charities and programs across Canada.
Bamford encourages eligible organizations to apply for grants via the foundation website. “We have a great board and we try to help out as many communities and youth that we can all over Canada,” he said.
“It’s been fantastic. It’s been probably the most rewarding part of my career.”
Gord Bamford performs Aug. 27 at PEI’s Cavendish Beach Music Festival, presented by Bell (parent company of this website).
Listen to music from Gord Bamford