By Jillian Groening
Although Winnipeg is praised for its vibrant arts community, moody movements that can only occur in an isolated town smothered in snow for majority of the year, sometimes you have to seek out greater audiences.
For local Americana roots-rockers The Bros. Landreth, keeping their roots planted firmly in their hometown while having the freedom and the means to tour has been pivotal to their success. Not only have the charmingly scruffy musicians broadened their artistic horizons through life on the road, but they’ve also anchored their sound and retained a solid fan base through their genuine artistry and loyalty to their prairie city.
The sons of Winnipeg songwriter and sideman Wally Landreth, Dave and Joey Landreth were raised on bar gigs and acoustic lullabies. Combining their separate experiences of playing backup in various musical projects (Doc Walker, Imaginary Cities), the brothers formed their own sort of supergroup. Teaming up with drummer Ryan Voth and keyboardist Alex Campbell, the The Bros. Landreth played one of their first shows at Manitoba Music Night (now New Music Night) at the late, great Ozzy’s, and shortly after set to work on their debut album, Let It Lie.
“The first thing we did when we decided to be a band is we went to Manitoba Music and set up a meeting with Roland [Deschambault],” David Landreth remembers. “By picking his brain, going to a ton of workshops and asking a lot of questions, we pieced it all together.”
Produced by the award-winning Murray Pulver (Crash Test Dummies, Wyrd Sisters), engineered by Don Benedictson (Ridley Bent, Oh My Darling), and released independently in September 2013, the prairie strummers had little idea of the crazy path their first record would take them on.
“It was chaos but we asked a lot of questions and we had a lot of people to lean on,” Landreth explains of the group’s early days. “And we did. It was trial by fire for sure and we were definitely lucky.”
Lucky is one way to look at it.
The Bros. Landreth spent the better part of 2014 hustling their debut album, playing the Manitoba Music showcase at Winnipeg’s raucous Big Fun Festival, acting as house band for JUNOfest, opening for The Sheepdogs in Edmonton, and performing at the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) showcase hosted by Paquin Entertainment. They started working with a key member of their team, manager Stu Anderson, of Mighty Cypress Talent. Landreth also gave back to the music community by sharing his knowledge at one of Manitoba Music’s DIY Series events.
While touring the success of their ode to boot-tapping neo-blues, the group got noticed by Tony Tarleton of Fontana North while playing a Manitoba Music-supported showcase during Canadian Music Week in Toronto. The award-winning record distribution company re-released Let It Lie within Canada and the band got to see its first-ever record reach a much broader audience then initially expected.
While the band was down in Nashville performing at the BreakOut West BBQ showcase during Americana Music Fest, their soulful tunes caught the ear of Slate Creek Records, an independent American label based out of Texas. The pink-cheeked album was again re-released but this time to an even larger audience south of the border.
“Our strategy has always been to tour,” Landreth says of the band’s levelheaded success. “We’re a road band and we connect with our fans on the stage. That’s always been where we have the best luck, just showing people what we do and focusing on the music.”
Their strategy appears to be working. After two Western Canadian Music Award nominations (Roots Duo/Group and Songwriters of the Year), a Canadian Country Music Award nod for Roots Artist of the Year, and a Canadian Folk Music Award for New/Emerging Artist of the Year, Let It Lie went on to win a JUNO Award in 2015 for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year. The band, now consisting of drummer Cody Iwasiuk, guitarist Ariel Posen, and the brothers, has been touring heavily ever since.
After playing the Manitoba Music showcase at SXSW this past year, a special collaboration was arranged between the buzzed-about band and Spotify. The partnership will see the group’s collection of contemporary covers engaging a new market and has even granted them a spot as one of the top ten viral tracks in Canada.
“I think it’s worth it to try and build an audience with these certain platforms,” Landreth says of the exclusive Spotify releases. “It’s been really successful. We’ve increased our daily streaming rate from about 500 to 5,000 so we’re really happy. And it’s been a really fun project.”
Up next, the group will take part on the Cayamo cruise alongside such high-profile acts as Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and John Hiatt. The idyllic experience will serve as an excellent motivator for gathering new songs for record number two, and will also act as a gratifying reward for recently being nominated as the International Artist of the Year at the Americana Music Awards UK.
“The whole thing is like taking a roller coaster ride,” Landreth states. “We try not to pay too much attention to these accolades. We just want to write the songs and play them as well as we can. I just want to keep playing music that we believe in and that’s honest.”