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Rising star Tebey on going global with his exciting New Country sound
Hey Tebey, thanks so much for taking the time out to chat today! As well as being a Country music fan, I’m also a keen golfer, so I’m excited to ask you about your annual Tebey Golf Classic fundraiser, which raises money for mental health charities. What inspired you to start this?
I’ve been pretty open about my struggles with mental health - probably more than I should! I feel that, in whatever position of ‘celebrity’ I might have, it’s important to raise awareness for something that’s near and dear to my heart. Depression and anxiety are things that I live with every single day. This golf tournament also benefits a local shelter for people who need it, and a lot of the times it’s single mothers with children, who’ve left an abusive relationship. The money goes to a lot of different places in my home town.
Did you have any reservations about speaking up about mental wellbeing because Country has not historically been comfortable with this, despite being a genre that often revolves around heartbreak and pain?
Not really, because in Canada we have 'Bell Let’s Talk Day’, which is massive. This hashtag gets created and then for every retweet they donate a dollar, or something crazy like that. It ends up being millions of dollars that they give to bespoke mental health awareness organisations. It’s such a big deal in Canada, everyone knows about it and everyone talks about it. That was one of the reasons why I didn’t feel any reservations about being honest about my mental health struggles. This yearly event has done such a great job of normalising mental health issues, because it used to be very taboo, and in some cultures it still is. Back home, it wasn’t nearly as hard for me because we’ve been rallying around that cause for such a long time.
When you moved from Canada to Nashville at a young age, did you find there was a different culture surrounding mental health, or did you find it was still a comfortable space to open up?
My personal struggles with mental health didn’t really surface until my early twenties, so when I moved to Nashville at sixteen I wasn’t really suffering from any type of condition that I knew about. Obviously, there are huge cultural differences between Canada and the Southern US, so that adjustment was one of the hardest things. The music business is very hard on mental health, regardless of who you are and how successful you are. It’s pretty ruthless, and I think that’s why you see a lot of actors and songwriters speaking up about mental health issues - there’s something about the arts and mental health that kind of go hand in hand.
You’ve written for some very high-profile artists, such as One Direction, Cher and Flo Rida. Was it nerve-wracking making the leap from songwriter to solo artist, or did it feel like a natural transition?
I’ve always written songs in different genres of music since I started. When you’re writing Country music it’s very different to writing Pop music, so you kind of have to put on two different hats. In the beginning, I would go over to the UK or to Sweden and I’d be writing Pop songs, and every once in a while the melody that I threw out in the room was probably a little more Country than it should’ve been.
You incorporate some really refreshing pop and dance influences throughout last year’s The Good Ones EP. Have you experienced any pushback from Country traditionalists about challenging the genre’s boundaries in this way?
Yeah, absolutely - I definitely get flack every once in a while from trolls on the internet! It used to bother me, but it doesn’t bother me much anymore. People are entitled to their opinions. I’ve always just done whatever I’ve always wanted to do - I don’t like being put inside a box, and you can definitely hear that on the EP. I just want to make great music. Sometimes we have songs that have a little bit of an EDM vibe, sometimes we make more urban-leaning Country music, but I think now more than ever that’s acceptable.
A couple of years ago, you founded your own record label. What motivated you to take this step, and what do you hope to achieve with Jayward Artist Group?
It just felt like a natural progression. I’ve been in the game a long time and I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I just wanted to put some of that knowledge to use. I love developing artists. There’s nothing better than hearing an artist for the first time and getting excited, it’s like finding a diamond in the rough. We had a great launch with Matt Lang, who’s done some things in the UK, and he’s really taken off in Canada. It just felt like the right time.
You performed some great shows and songwriters rounds at C2C Festival earlier this year. Do you have plans to return to the UK soon - Covid-permitting, of course?
Breaking into the UK market in particular is one of the highest things on my list, I know there’s a market there for Country music. You’ve had success with The Shires and Ward Thomas and artists like that, but that still is a very British type of Country music, in my opinion. What I do is very, very different. When we played the Buckle and Boots Festival, which we headlined last summer, our show was just so different to everything there, because we’re bringing that Nashville style of Pop-Country to the UK.
You recently dropped your new single, ‘What Was I Drinking’ - will this be part of a larger project?
Yeah, that’s going to be the first single off a new EP!
Who are your main musical influences?
That’s a tough one! When I say I have the most eclectic taste in music, it’s true. I really do love everything, and I always have. On the Country side of things, definitely Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, and even back in the day when I was growing up it was George Strait and Garth Brooks - those are living legends! But I was also influenced by artists like Boyz II Men and Maroon 5 - I’m a huge Adam Levine fan, he’s a hell of a singer, and a great songwriter. You can stream Tebey’s latest single, ‘What Was I Drinking’ on all platforms now, and watch him live at C2C in March!
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