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Among the many career moves Brayden King was considering this year was contacting the promoters behind Country Thunder about a possible performance.
The three-day festival at Fort Calgary, which will feature headliners such as Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Jon Pardi, is certainly one of the higher-profile gigs for up-and-coming country artists. The Country 105 side stage has become a reliable spot for country fans to discover newish talent.
Much to King’s delight, it seems he was already on their radar.
“It was a goal of mine to get on that stage and I hadn’t even gotten my agent to reach out to anybody and I just got an email (that said) ‘Hey Brayden, you were on a list of artists we thought great for Country Thunder; if you’re interested we’d love to have you,’ ” says King, who will be playing the Country 105 stage at Country Thunder on Saturday, Aug. 19. “I was like ‘Oh, great, that was easy!’ It came about through that. I could be wrong, but I feel like that offer stemmed from the frequency and excitement of our live shows because we have been touring constantly and bringing people out and selling tickets.”
While he currently lives in Lethbridge, the Weyburn, Sask., native plans to move to Calgary with his girlfriend by the end of the year. King and his band headlined Ranchmans Calgary on the final Saturday of Stampede and he reckons they have played up to 15 shows in the city in the past two years. In 2022, he released the indie EP, Live From the Road, which featured live-off-the-floor acoustic performances of both originals and cover tunes such as Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall and Colter Wall’s The Devil Wears A Suit and Tie.
He was also one of 160 performers, out of 120,000 hopefuls, who landed in the top 55 of American Idol and performed in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. He was cut before he got any airtime, but the experience also seems to have given his profile a significant boost as word spread.
Finally, he has released full-band recordings of two original singles and a third is on the way. His second single, Livin’ The Dream, has begun receiving radio airplay. Not bad for a 22-year-old, but King admits he is still in the process of finding his sound. For now, he plans to stick to releasing singles rather than aim for another EP or full-length.
“I’m not planning on anything too big at the moment because I’m still discovering my sound when it comes to recording with full production,” he says. “I’m testing a bunch of different things sonically and seeing how people respond to the different sounds. I don’t really like pigeonholing myself into one specific style because I’m inspired by a lot of older country, some modern country and a lot of rock ‘n’ roll as well.”
There is some evidence that King would not fit too comfortably into the mainstream country mould. The title of Livin’ the Dream suggests it’s a feel-good anthem about following your aspirations, but a glance at the lyrics suggests the sentiment is more associated with hangover-fuelled sarcasm after a disastrous night.
“I like doing what I do and I never sit down and be like ‘this is a song I’m going to write for radio,’” he says. “I like writing songs just to write songs with whatever inspires me.”
Brayden King plays the Country 105 stage at Country Thunder at Fort Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 5 p.m.