Well before he won the 2016 Saskatchewan Country Music Association Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year award and Male Vocalist of the Year award, Alex Runions was widely considered as an artist to keep an eye on in Canada’s country music scene.
Born and raised in Saskatchewan. Which fellow Canadian up-and-coming country artists are you currently listening to?
The list goes on and on, I could be here for days!
Working from home during the quarantine. Have you completed your home renovations?
Thanks for asking! We are about 60% done the renovations that we would like to do. We opened up the house quite a bit, laid new flooring. That was phase one. The next plan is to open up the kitchen and move the laundry (exciting stuff, I know). We’ve got a long way to go, but it was good to get a start on everything. There’s no turning back now.
Beach day at Chief Whitecap Park. What other summer activities have you been able to do?
We went camping in Jasper, Alberta for a little getaway. The Athabasca River was right behind our tent and was some of the most peaceful sleeps as a result. It was great to hear the river at night, and a great trip overall! My dad just had his 65th (surprise) birthday party and we are also working on a rental property I have in Regina.
Loved your pet posts with Franklin, Oliver, and Kinsey. What pet-friendly areas are near your home?
There are many off-leash dog parks in Saskatoon, which makes it nice for the dogs to smell different smells and get out and run for a bit. Some of them are right off the river, so the dogs can get their feet wet and maybe have a little drink on the hot days. We also have a place we take the dogs if were away on tour. It’s called Lucky Doggy Pet Resort. We know the dogs love it there and the staff love the dogs, so we’re okay with taking them there. It’s also very nice to see the dog’s report cards of how they did while we were gone. The dogs seem to be on their BEST behaviour when they’re there, from the sounds of things!
“Just Watch Me”. The co-write with J.J. Voss and Dean Kush honored those who have fought a cancer battle and those who supported them through it. Have you written any songs about the front line challenges of the pandemic?
Honestly, I have not. I have been writing a little bit through the pandemic, but have not touched directly on that theme in the songwriting process as of yet. I feel like Luke Combs is taking the lead on that, but as artists, I hope that the connection we make with people during the pandemic helps them, regardless of whether the songs are directly about our current situation.
Saskatchewan Country Music Association (SCMA) 2020 nominations for Male Vocalist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year (“Heartland”). What is the backstory to “Heartland”?
“Heartland” is a special song for me. I wrote this with Chris Burke-Gaffney who I worked closely with for a few years. He was acting as a mentor to me while I also had a management deal through Nashville. I brought this melody idea to Chris and we worked at it until we came up with the idea of “Heartland”. The line “look into my heartland” is meant to create an image of showing the person who you are based on where you came from.
I’ve always been proud of being from small town Kipling, Saskatchewan and it shaped who I am. I had this idea for the video, which unfortunately never came to be, due to time constraints. The idea was to go back home to film it and use my Aunty Kathy and Uncle Al’s farm as well since I grew up spending so much time out there, some of my best memories are from spending time with my cousin, Tyler and hearing Aunty Kathy’s radio in the background. The video would feature the farm, the town, my family. I still might do it because I feel it is important and I would regret never doing it.
These guys are heavy-hitting writers, there is no question about that. I was pitched this song through my manager, Leslie Mitchell, about 4 years ago and I was instantly drawn to it and Leslie thought it was the strongest song as well. John and I have been friends for a few years and I am grateful to him that he thought I could do this song justice. I originally was going to record it about 4 years ago, but one of the publishing companies did not sign off on me recording it. I moved on and once I decided to record another single, I checked back with them on this song, and everyone gave me the go-ahead. That was an exciting day!
You said, “I feel an excitement for this song because the female in the story is in the power position, which sets it apart from most male country songs. She’s holding the cards and making the rules and she’s ultimately guiding where the passion of the relationship will take them.” What other country songs take a similar female lead?
That’s a good question.
That being said — a big part of why I chose this song is that I feel like most radio singles from male artists fall into a pattern of male-dominated situations and storytelling. This song had a unique feel to me because it went in the opposite direction with the female in control. It drew me in immediately, because of that difference.
Recording with SCMA Record Producer of the Year Bart McKay in his Recording Studio of the Year to create a sleek and modern production. How did he bring your vision of the song to life in the studio?
Bart knows the right players for the right song. He booked some of the best for this session, the band has been playing together for a number of years and I know the guys, so it makes the experience an even better one to be able to catch up with guys like Ben Bradley (Drums), Matty McKay (Guitar) & Justin Kudding (Bass) all of who play with Brett Kissel on a regular basis. As Bart puts together a song, he has this unique ability to see the vision of the song right off the bat, it’s impressive to see him work and he has an ear for tone and pitch like no other. He has no problem telling someone to retry something to get the best performance from someone. He came up with some vocal melodies that we tried and he pushed me to perfect during our recording time in the studio. I am always grateful to work with Bart McKay.
After more than 10 years of live performances, can you describe your most memorable show to date and why it stands out for you?
We have had some cool opening shows, New Year’s Eve at the Casino Regina for Gord Bamford, Kick-Off Party for Big Valley Jamboree with Neal McCoy and performing all over Canada during the Grey Cup festivities.
The one that always sticks out to me is playing right after Dallas Smith at the Craven Country Jamboree (now Country Thunder SK). There was about 10,000 people there — maybe more — and I had released my first single “Little Bit of Sunshine” to get some real airplay. People were excited to see the band and we were excited to be there, so the energy was like no other show I’ve done before. Once you’ve experienced this feeling, it’s something you want to experience again and again.
A very close second would be the CCMA Songwriters’ Series in London, ON 2016. I couldn’t believe it when I was asked to perform — it is something that I had been striving to achieve for years and to be recognized as a songwriter by the national community was and is something I will cherish always.
What can fans expect with more singles coming out this year?
I have a few songs ready to go or that are in the works right now. There’s a beachy-type song that I am really digging, one that I wrote a few years ago about two people falling in love to a country song (was considered by Rascal Flatts & Dustin Lynch) and then a couple of other songs that I’ve been working on with some fellow songwriters. It’s hard to say which one it’ll be but when it is chosen, that’ll be the right one. Stay tuned!