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Get set to meet the River Town Saints this Christmas

The Ottawa-based band plays a charity show for heart research in Simcoe-Muskoka
The River Town Saints hit Mavricks on Dec. 2. (File Photo)

Just as the weather gets gloomy and dark – maybe snowier, too – and three weeks before another saint, named Nick, roars into town spreading Christmas cheer, the River Town Saints arrive from the nation’s capital, to light up Barrie… light it up, like a bonfire, you might say!

The hard-rocking country quintet headlines the Radio for Cardiology (R4C) event, being put on by radio station KICX-FM, Saturday night, Dec. 2, at Mavricks Music Hall, with Canadian up-and-comers Dani Strong and the Rob Watts Band as leadoff acts. Front man Chris Labelle tells Barrie Today what still gives him and his mates a buzz about playing country.

“I love the storytelling about country music... it's honestly the best part of it and it's so real. I love that when you play live; you don't have to lip-sync or have tracks behind you, I truly believe that the most talented musicians are in country music.”

Labelle admits to rather catholic tastes in music, as long as it was quality stuff.

“I love stuff with a great melody and great harmonies. I grew up listening to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson . (But our) favourite artist of all time would have to be Justin Timberlake; that guy is a beast in the studio and he could duplicate everything live.”

Chris, who along with Chris McComb, Jeremy Bortot, Jordan Potvin and Daniel DiGiacomo, first struck big in 2015 with A Little Bit Goes a Long Way. They have since opened for the likes of Tim Hicks, the Eli Young Band, Kip Moore, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw.

Labelle gives us the origins of a big hit like Bonfire.

“We were fortunate enough to tour with Tim Hicks early in our career. We just became good buddies and he actually wrote that song with a producer that we were working with so when he pitched us that song it was a no-brainer, the hook is so catchy. We love writing our own material but when a good song comes along like Bonfire you have to snatch it up.”

And country fans in Canada have eaten that song up; it’s climbed as high as number nine on Canadian country charts. Other hits have served notice as well, songs like Cherry Bomb and Woke Up Like This, (Cherry Bomb, by the way, took single of the year honours at 2016’s Canadian Country Music Association awards), songs likely to start chants among the Mavricks faithful. Labelle says Barrie is a spot marked avidly on the Saints’ touring calendar.

 “I love Barrie we've been out there a couple times very early in our career.  It's always awesome to come back to a city when you've had more singles on the radio, because the fans start knowing your material and sing along to every song.”

The Saints’ hearts are racing – Labelle’s in particular – due to the fact that proceeds from the Dec. 2 gig are going to fund advanced cardiac care for Simcoe-Muskoka.

“I honestly love doing charities. Those are my favourite gigs because you get to interact with people a lot more than playing a festival gig or when you're out on tour. It's more personal, you stick around and talk to people it's not like we have to be in the next city in five hours time to set up.”

The River Town Saints rock Mavricks Saturday, December 2, with Dani Strong and the Rob Watts Band. Doors open at 8 p.m., with the show getting underway at 9. Mavricks is located at 46 Dunlop Street West, and for more information, click here.