Like many rising stars, Kira Isabella hopes to make it big as the evolution of the genre impacts the music charts.
Not since Ontario-born Shania Twain established herself as a fixture on the Billboard US Hot Country Songs chart in the ‘90s has a Canadian country artist achieved similar success.
In fact, since Twain’s last chart topper, “Honey I’m Home” in 1998, only two Canadian acts have reached number one — “Moments,” by Emerson Drive spent one week at the top in 2007, while Terri Clark’s single “You’re Easy on the Eyes” was number one for three weeks between 1998 and 1999.
Talented Canadian country singers like Kira Isabella — who got her first taste of success as a 16 year-old with her single “Love Me Like That” — have done well north of the border, but haven’t been able fill Twain’s cowboy boots on the US charts.
“For some reason it has been a difficult crossover,” Isabella said, speaking on the phone from Toronto.
Isabella has reached as high as tenth on the Canadian country charts with her 2014 single, “Quarterback” – a song that was originally pitched to American country star, Carrie Underwood.
Photo Courtesy of Sony Music CanadaShe has also won the award for Female Artist of the Year at the 2013 Canadian Country Music Awards, and the Rising Star award the year before. But despite signing with American record label, HitShop Record, Isabella has yet to see her name on the US charts.
The same can be said for Canadian country group, Autumn Hill. The duo, consisting of Mike Robins and Calgary-born Tareya Green, have reached as high as 12th on the Canadian Country charts, with their 2012 single, “Anything At All.” But they too have yet to grace the American charts.
“People are a little bit more accepting of a local act immediately,” Robins said. “Every time you cross the border you are competing with a few different things.”
However, the band is hopeful for the future of Canadian country music, as they too hope to one day cross over to the American scene.
“Country is in a good place right now,” Green said. “It is evolving and borrowing from other genres.”
This trend is nothing new, as country artists all over North America have been ditching the banjo in favour of their Macbook by playing more pop-oriented tunes in an effort to reach a broader market.
Shania Twain, who has been dubbed “the queen of country pop”, was among the first to blur the lines between the two genres.
Her 2002 album, “Up!” was released in three different versions (country, pop and international), further muddying the distinction of what country music really is.
More recently, Taylor Swift’s long, drawn-out transition to pop was made official when she shook off the traditional country shackles with her new exclusively pop album, “1989.” Due to the album’s success, many suspect she will never ever get back together with country.
Photo courtesy of Matt BarnesDespite her noted admiration for the two artists, Isabella’s path has been exactly the opposite of Twain and Swift’s.
“I started out as a pop-country artist at 16 with ‘Love Me Like That,’” Isabella said. “But right now, country is where my heart is.”
Country music influenced Isabella growing up. Her father developed a love for country music when he was stationed in Cold Lake, Alta. with the Canadian Armed Forces. Isabella said that he “brought it back with him to Ontario,” where she was born.
“It’s always been a part of my life,” Isabella continued, “when I started writing music it just came out country.”
Ever since her childhood in Ottawa, Isabella has been focused on a career in the music industry. Beginning her professional career at age 12, she landed her first gig as a wedding-singer.
Nine years later, she plays for much bigger audiences like at her November 7 concert with Autumn Hill at Cowboys Dance Hall.
As of press time, tickets are still available at cowboysnightclub.com.
Isabella said that she has never experienced any doubts about her career choice.
“If I wasn’t a successful musician, I’d probably be an unsuccessful musician.”