Categorized | News

Boots and the Hoots right at home in historic Fort Macleod

boots and the hoots

Boots and the Hoots perform at the Empress Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 15 as part of the Center Stage Series lineup. Photo by B. Heck.

Boots Graham and his band are a good fit for Fort Macleod.
Boots and the Hoots play music that harkens back to an earlier day, just like the Empress Theatre and Main Street stand as monuments to time.
“We have been lucky enough to spend a fair bit of time playing in southern Alberta and I think we all have a soft spot for it,” said Graham, whose given name is Mark. “Fort Macleod is one of those towns that as you drive through it almost seems to be frozen in time. The old brick buildings, the neon and painted signs, it wouldn’t seem out of place to see a horse drawn wagon pulling up main street. That’s my kind of town.”
Boots and the Hoots are the second show in the 2016-’17 Center Stage Series at the Empress Theatre. The show gets under way at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15.
Graham, banjo player Tyler Allen and bassist Sean Vandenbrink have an affinity for historic theatres and are anxious to play the Empress, having performed last summer in Fort Macleod during South Country Fair.
“The theatre setting really opens up our set list as we are able to play our more laid-back and down tempo songs that I generally avoid in the honky tonk bars we frequent,” Graham said. “We will be mixing in songs from both of our albums as well as a few from our next one and of course we have to play those country standards of the golden era that we all love.”
Fiddler Megan Brown of Lethbridge will join Boots and the Hoots for the show at the Empress.
“We have been lucky enough to have Megan join us on a handful of gigs this summer and it’s always a pleasure to hear what she adds to our songs,” Graham said.
The band is based at Red Deer and all three members were raised in central Alberta.
Graham at one time had his heart set on becoming a Catholic priest but later found music to be his true calling so he made the natural choice for a young man with rural roots.
He became a punk rocker.
“Growing up in rural Alberta and being surrounded by the ho-hum country music of the late 1980s and ’90s, I felt obligated to rebel and those punk rockers thumbing their noses to convention spoke to me,” Graham said with a laugh. “As I got older I found the music I was listening to was getting older and older ’til I was listening to Jimmie Rodgers sides from the ’20s and the country of the 40s. Those songs spoke to me, they were honest and simple and that was a lot of the appeal of punk rock for me.”
Turns out, you can take the boy out of punk rock, but you can’t completely take punk rock out of the boy.
“My entire approach to music comes from the punk rock DIY (do it yourself) ethos,” Graham explained. “I have never worried about critics, radio or record labels. My top priority is to make good music and bring it to the people. We design our own merchandise, book our own tours and try and help other bands in our scene get ahead independently.”
Graham switched to country and was the opening act for Allen and Vandenbrink’s bluegrass band Waskasoo for a couple of tours. The musicians hit it off, Allen and Vandenbrink invited Graham to join them on stage, and the trio hasn’t looked back.
Boots and the Hoots have two albums to their credit, starting with Pinecone Cowboy and following last year with Too Hot to Hoot.
“It’s just been a whirlwind of shows and tours that are finally winding down,” Graham said. “We have the new record all written and will be going back into the studio again early 2017.”
The Empress audience will be treated to songs from both albums, as well as some of the new pieces the band has ready for the next album.
Graham’s songwriting is influenced by legends such as Hank Williams and Roger Miller, with their ability to sprinkle humour inside sad songs, and also enjoys the work of Canadian songwriters such as Stompin’ Tom Connors, Tim Hus and Corb Lund, whose work is often like historical accounts of Canada.
“I have an unusual approach to lyrics I am sure,” Graham said. “Sometimes I will just recite lines to Tyler until he laughs. If it’s good enough to make him laugh I’ll keep it. Other times I will write four or five songs just sitting on the farm by myself. I have no set approach to writing and most times the lyrics will live in my head for weeks before I write them do.”
Mixed in with the songs will be some explanation about the lyrics, jokes and easy banter as Graham tries to coax a laugh out of the audience in the grand ol’ country tradition of Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl.
“We go way out of our way to have as much fun as we can on stage and I think it’s easy for our audience to join in and have some fun themselves,” Graham said. “I believe in the show aspect of show business so we always do our best to look sharp and keep the audience entertained.”
“Our show is meant for the everybody, young and old. We want to introduce real country music to a generation that maybe only hears it in Grandpa’s pickup and honour the traditions that Grandpa’s favourite singers created.”

Comments are closed.