A country music artist with Fort St. John roots is making inroads in Alberta’s music scene, placing second in a competition put on by a Calgary radio station and the province’s music industry association.
Kyle McKearney, who is now based in Airdrie, was recently presented with a $75,000 cheque from Alberta Music in a contest known as Project Wild.
“It’s an incubator program where 12 artists get selected from everyone who applies from around the province,” explains the 37-year-old raised in the Grandhaven neighbourhood of town. “(They) then go through a series of challenges where they have to do a bunch of work to accomplish goals and meet criteria that is on brand.”
McKearney clarifies that ‘on brand’ is the singer’s identity, something that shows who they are as an artist, and gives them a foundation for the contest’s challenges.
For McKearney, though, it wasn’t always country, who categorizes his current sound as Americana roots, comparing it to artists like Steve Earle and Chris Stapleton.
In 2002, after graduating high school, the young 17-year-old moved to Nashville, but it was his move to Vancouver a year later that would set up a future path with the rock band Hard Honey, and the self-titled song Hard Honey that brought him notoriety.
Project Wild, first established in 2016, but cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, had a series of challenges, outlines McKearney, including a charity challenge where the contestant had to partner with a non-profit group and a find a way to raise funds.
“There was also a merchandise challenge and a collaboration project where we had to work with someone outside of the project to do a song or video, or some form of art, and an introduction video outlining who we were."
The NPSS grad, in essence, putting together a business proposal as if he were making a presentation to investors, and with a first-place prize of $100,953 that’s exactly what it was.
Competitors, he says, were also required to turn in a 50 to 100-page report detailing how they carried out their challenges before completing the final task – a live showcase performance on stage, which accounted for 40% of their grade.
With the competition now over, and his proposal accepted by the judges, McKearney says the next step will be to put his plan into motion.
“Making a new record, marketing it, promoting it, doing some videos, re-vamping the website,” just some of the things on his list. “The money goes pretty fast,” he admits.
His first priority: to get words and music put together for a new album, a project still in the early stages.
Besides writing, McKearney is hoping, with the easing of Covid restrictions, to get in some shows this summer.
One confirmed date is here in the Peace, the Halfway River Rodeo in August.