The Washboard Union
The Washboard Union

Five Questions With… The Washboard Union

While all eyes will be on Shania Twain’s halftime performance at this year’s Grey Cup on Sunday, the Canadian Football League must also be given credit for programming a solid line-up of other name draws in music leading up to the big game in Ottawa.

Among them, fast-rising country outfit The Washboard Union, whose “Shot Of Glory” is certified gold, complementing their recent haul of seven BC Country Music Association awards, a Western Canadian Music award {Country Artist of the Year) and a Canadian Country Music award in the Roots Artist of the Year category.

It’s all a result of the Vancouver-based group’s tenacious work ethic that's been evident ever since the release of their EP In My Bones, released in 2015 through Slaight Music/Warner Music Canada.

The roots ensemble's combination of traditional bluegrass instrumentation and harmonies with modern pop smarts has helped to find them a niche in the highly competitive country scene—but it's been their energized live shows that have sealed the deal for much of their growing fan base.

Principal members' Aaron Grain, Chris Duncombe, and David Roberts first joined forces when they found themselves renting the same 1920s Tudor-style mansion in Vancouver. Impromptu jam sessions planted the seeds of their eventual songwriting union, first heard on a 2012 self-titled, independently released debut album produced by 'GGGarth' Richardson, with assistance from mentor Bob Ezrin.

In 2015, The Washboard Union headed to Nashville to record In My Bones with producer Trey Bruce (Faith Hill, Randy Travis, Diamond Rio) at the fabled RCA Studios and, since its release, they’ve shared stages with Keith Urban, Reba McEntire, The Band Perry, and Big N Rich.

Grain, Duncombe and Roberts took time ahead of their Grey Cup show to reflect on all this activity and what lies ahead. Their immediate plans are shows in Kingston, Kitchener and Sherbrooke, Quebec, with more touring in western Canada scheduled for early in the new year. Go to for more info.


You’re still getting a lot of mileage out of the In My Bones EP. Are their plans for new music in the next while?

Aaron Grain: You’re right, we were lucky to have four back-to-back singles off In My Bones. Our latest single, “Shine,” is actually the first single from a new album that will be coming out in early 2018.  We have the second single from that new album coming very soon, and obviously we are excited about our fans getting to hear the new record.

You guys are obviously three distinctive personalities. What makes the creative chemistry work?

David Roberts: The simple answer is we’re best friends, and it’s not lost on us how fortunate we are to be able to do this together. We depend on each other, we inspire each other, we laugh with each other, we laugh at each other, and really, you just can’t hide from that kind of honesty. Plus, Chris and Aaron are [step]-brothers so when push comes to shove I get to settle all the arguments. It’s the perfect relationship.

What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?

Chris Duncombe: I have so many, but one would be singing Marty Robbins’“Big Iron” at the top of my lungs with my dad in our 12-ft fishing boat on Pennask Lake. The other is meeting Aaron Grain at age 13 and immediately sharing music together on the stereo in his mom’s van.

What's your best touring story?

Aaron Grain: Shortly after meeting the man who became our manager, Ron Sakamoto, he decided before signing us to have us audition in front of a big crowd and got us an opening slot for the Zac Brown Band at Blue Bomber Stadium in Winnipeg. We were told we couldn’t have a sound check unless we arrived at 7:30 a.m. on the day of the show. We were so nervous that I think we even got there a half-hour earlier. That night we performed to 28,000 people, making it about 27,900 more than our biggest gig to that point. Zac and the band were so gracious to us that day and the crowd even more so. We got an encore and ended up getting signed by Ron and the family after the show.

What song by another artist do you wish you had written?

David Roberts: One song we all love is “Fly Over States,” written by Neil Thrasher and Matthew Dulaney, and recorded by Jason Aldean. It’s a bit of a Washboard Union ritual that we sing “Fly Over States” in our van whenever we’re getting close to a town we’re playing.

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