Craik-born musician Tommy John Ehman has played many gigs across Western Canada and beyond since 1988, so he decided to use those experiences as the basis for a new song.
“Road Band 101” is based on Ehman’s abundant experiences of life on the road during the last three decades, including some of the most challenging and cherished parts of his career.
Those performances have given the multi-time Saskatchewan Country Music Association (SCMA) nominee — he was recently nominated as best songwriter of the year and male artist of the year but did not win — a solid perspective on the passion, commitment and drive it takes to survive, thrive and perform nightly.
During his career, Ehman has scored multiple top 100 songs, radio placements and national media features. He and his band have also shared the stage with famous Canadian country singers such as Doc Walker, Aaron Pritchett and Michelle Wright.
“It’s great,” the Craik-based native said about releasing the new song. “We’ve been putting out music for a number of years, and every time we put out a new song, it’s pretty cool … . It’s a toe-tapper, up-tempo and enjoyable.”
The song is mainly an autobiography of Ehman’s journeys, but it’s also dedicated to the bands that played the bar scene — something he regularly did — in the 1980s and ’90s. It also talks about the dreams and aspirations that many musicians had, while it gives listeners an idea of what performers faced.
Ehman —who lives on his family’s fifth-generation farm — was a young man with no responsibilities when he started performing. He travelled to Alberta with a Craik-based band regularly and performed six nights a week. While it was tough, it was also a great experience.
Chasing dreams and feeding his insatiable musical appetite, Ehman later toughed it out through eight years as a full-time touring musician in the 1990s.
This included three-and-a-half years on the road of performing four to five sets a night; this schedule nearly ended him since he was burned out, weighed less than 130 pounds, was gaunt and looked like a ghost.
“It was an amazing run, but I was way overdue for a rest,” he said.
After recovering at home, Ehman returned to the road for a five-year run with a fresh, healthier approach. He also had a better understanding that music can be a source of fuel as much as a passionate pursuit.
Those six-days-a-week performances have now turned into one or two nights a week at clubs, bars and casinos.
The music video for the song is also a tribute to those halcyon days of bar performances, as it features photographs of Ehman, his band, and other bands that performed decades ago. He thought the video was a nostalgic look at those days, including hair and clothes.
“It was a great time for music,” he added.
The titles for most musicians’ new songs usually come from a line or hook in the song, although that’s not always guaranteed, he said. With “Road Band 101,” he thought the anthem was more of a lesson about life.
“You think of taking (Chemistry) 101 … at university, so it’s an entry-level course on what it was like playing music in the bar scene back in the day. So it was really quite simple,” he added.
Writing this song was not difficult for Ehman since he has composed many songs during the last 33 years and produced six studio albums, including 2019’s Day Night. But, he noted with a chuckle that some songs are meant to be recorded while others are meant for the backburner.
Ehman is continually writing songs and has some ready for recording. He plans to release one more song either later this year or early next year.
Visit www.tommyjohnehman.net for more information.