After becoming a fixture on the St. John’s bar scene, Newfoundland country singer Justin Fancy is ready to hit the national stage with his debut EP Sure Beats A Good Time. As an artist who cites Merle Haggard, George Jones, Alan Jackson and Vince Gill as his primary influences, Fancy takes a classic storytelling approach to his songs, but with a modern production approach.
Fancy was originally set to record Sure Beats A Good Time at fellow Newfoundlander Clint Curtis’s studio, but due to social distancing restrictions, Fancy ended up cutting his tracks 700 km away, with Curtis later adding finishing touches on each of the EP’s seven songs—a case of adaptation and perseverance at its best.
Fancy has adopted a similar attitude to promoting Sure Beats A Good Time by scheduling a string of live-stream events, including his hometown EP release show with a full band on Oct. 17, which will be streamed via Facebook Live.
We spoke with Fancy about the highs and lows of launching his debut release at this moment in time, as well as other challenges that come with being a Newfoundland-based musician. For more information, go to justinfancymusic.ca.
What went into choosing the seven songs for Sure Beats A Good Time?
Being a relatively new country recording artist I knew if I wanted to compete with the great talent out there right now I would need to put out a collection of songs that would make an impact and get me to the next level of my career the fastest. The songs were carefully selected with particular focus on the tough country radio market and recorded by Clint Curtis, who is quickly developing a reputation for delivering world-class, Nashville-quality production values right here on The Rock. Five of the songs were written at a time when I had been feeling the most emotional I've ever felt in my life. I went through a bad breakup and the songs literally poured out of me. I know that sounds so cliché—country guy singing about having his heartbroken—but it’s something that most everyone can relate to. The songs are primarily based on a past relationship that taught me a lot of things about life.
Which songs on the record have particularly special meaning for you?
One that stands out is Lovin' Man, which is dedicated to my father for putting up with me for the last 34 years. I'll never forget the day he bought me my first guitar, the life lessons he taught me over the years, and the resilience he showed as a loving parent raising three boys. I wouldn't be the man I am today if it wasn’t for him. The song is truly a token of love and appreciation for all he has done for me. Now I need to write a song about my mom!
As an artist from Newfoundland, how challenging is it to be a part of the overall country music scene?
It certainly has its disadvantages, but technology is certainly making it a little easier. There haven’t been too many country artists to come out of Newfoundland since the genre became so mainstream, so I feel I have something big to prove. Of course, the timing couldn’t be any worse with the pandemic, but that just means I have to work harder to get my name out there. There’s a lot of thinking outside the box going on with me and the team I’ve put together to promote the album. In a way, the pandemic has forced us all to change the way we entertain our fans right now so my geographical location is less relevant for the moment. But in “normal” times it is harder to be so far away from the bigger cities where they have flourishing country music scenes and you can network more easily. But hopefully not too far in the future I can get out on the road, play some shows outside of Newfoundland, and go into radio stations across the country to meet music directors face to face.
What kinds of online events do you have coming up?
I’ve been involved with quite a few live stream events including the Blue Jay Sessions, Diamonds In The Rough, and ArtsNL. I’ve also done live and pre-taped performances for a few national and regional TV shows, and I’ll be doing more of those as I promote the release. My EP release show is on October 17 and due to Covid-19 it will be an invite-only event held at the Glendenning Golf Club in St. John’s for 75 guests, with local singer/songwriter Chris Ryan opening the show. It will also be live-streamed on my Facebook page [@justinfancymusic]. I wanted to make it as special as possible so we’ve partnered with Saltwater Noise and ArtsNL and recruited local corporate sponsorship to cover the cost of the venue, some food, and my seven-piece band. The tables at the venue will be socially distanced from each other and pre-assigned to each ticketholder.
What's your mindset looking ahead to next year and the prospect of hopefully playing live?
Basically it’s go big or go home! I’m going to do whatever it takes to make this record a success. Until I am able to tour, the focus will be on building my brand online, getting as much radio play as possible, and getting on the radar of as many country music fans across Canada as possible. I’ll be releasing several singles and videos and continuing to develop online content to share throughout the EP cycle. And since a lot of the planning for next year’s touring and festival season is starting now I know I need to focus on that as part of the big picture.