Sean Chin (SC): First off, I just wanted to say congrats Kit, on putting together this inaugural CMT Country Music Festival.
Kit Andrew (KA): Yeah, thank you, we’ve been working on this for almost two years now. I’ve been working on putting this together. So, it was the idea behind the CMT Music Festival that had us found 13Thriteen Entertainment and 13Thriteen Entertainment has now gone on to do other things besas well, and we built our entire company around this concept and we’re super excited about getting to do some work in the country music genre.
SC: Oh wow, so I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that this event, two years ago, that the planning for it actually led to the creation of your company, that’s a really cool thing.
KA: It did, yeah. I was in the software business, and two years ago I sold my company and found myself unhappily unemployed, and I’ve always been around entertainment, around the bar and nightclub business, and actually my software company was an inventory control and consulting firm for the nightclub sector. We had offices on three continents. So, I’ve always been around the entertainment industry and always loved it. My favorite part of that has always been developing events, I love hosting events for people. So the opportunity to host a large-scale event like this, and a group of large-scale events going into the future, for me was very, very exciting.
SC: It is a very ambitious event, and congrats again for that.
KA: Thank you.
SC: The location for this event is Burl’s Creek Park in Oro, Ontario. What about this area inspired you to make that the setting for your festival?
KA: Well, it was actually the park that inspired the idea around the company and hosting these events. A friend of mine, or an acquaintance of mine who had been a client in my past life actually hosted a large-scale event there with Toby Keith, and I was really excited about the concept of what he was doing, and I ended up actually going up to the park and researching it, and researching other event facilities in the country, and realizing that I’d really stumbled upon a gem of a property, this is arguably, obviously, but in my research opinion, it’s the best outdoor live music event site in Ontario and probably in the country, for a lot of different reasons. First of all, the family that’s been developing it there, were actually involved in the development of Molson Park, so they had a lot of experience under their belt when they started. And they’ve spent the last 27 years purpose-building this incredible event site and infrastructure to host large-scale events of all different kinds. So when I found it, I just realized it was a real jewel. It really was the thing that sparked the idea. Of course, you’re probably familiar with Bonnaroo Folks– being within driving distance of two million people, and I realized of course that this fabulous park is within driving distance of the fifth-largest city in North America, just a huge population, five, six million people. So we developed the idea from there about building a festival series and then partnered with Corus Entertainment, and the hope for the future is that we’ll develop a lot of different events at this site, under all kinds of different genres, country, rock, alternative, et cetera.
SC: For sure. I always heard about this park, and they have some events there, but I’ve never seen it used to this full capacity before, so I’m really happy to see this. So what I personally feel makes this event really special is that it’s a camping festival. Is that correct?
KA: Yes, absolutely, it is a camping festival, and the nice about it is, the size of the event facility allows us the opportunity to market to a bunch of different demographics, one of them of course being family. One of the things for this event that we’re really focused on is that we have something for the whole family here. We’re going to have a multitude of vendors, so we’ll have shopping areas for Mom, we’re looking at a big-rig show and shine, and all kinds of exciting things for Dad to do, obviously an amazing entertainment line-up that appeals to both an older demographic as well as a younger demographic, with the likes of Sara Evans, and we’ll have a kid’s area that’s sponsored by Best Buy, the Best Buy Kids’s Zone. So, all kinds of activities. I find that as a parent of three, with different ages, and sons and daughters, I always find that whenever we go off to an event as a family, somebody in the family’s always sort of sacrificing their desires for the other people in the family. If it’s a kid’s event, Mom and Dad kind of get dragged along, and obviously if it it’s an adult event, the opposite happens. But the idea here has been to develop an event where the whole family can come out and have a great time. Now at the same time, we’re developing a campus area as well, so we can appeal to college and university crowd, and they can camp in an area with all of their friends without disturbing the family campgrounds, et cetera. So it’s a very exciting proposition.
SC: So it’s really great that CMT Canada really wants to enhance the exposure of country music in Canada, promoting new artists as well as hosting international artists. In your personal opinion, what are your feelings on the country music scene in Canada these days? Do you feel like it’s too spread apart around Canada, or what’s your feeling on that?
KA: I’ll tell you, I can speak to the fact that I’m very excited to be bringing the caliber of artists that we’re bringing, Nashville artists as well as some Canadian artists. My feeling on country music in general are simply the fact that my company has owned, I’ve country bars in the past. We own a famous country bar now called Nashville North in Georgetown, Ontario, at Winston Churchill and Highway 7. You know, the place has really taken off. But my opinion about country music in general is that there’s really a crossover happening into the pop genre, artists like Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts of course, a lot of these artists, Lady Antebellum, who is a huge act that we have on our bill, five-time Grammy award winner, just recently. They really are rolling across the country and the pop genres, being played on the pop stations as well as the country stations, and really developing sort of two distinct personalities, as a group. I think the country music sector in Canada is growing at a furious pace, and I’m excited to be a part of it, I’ve fallen in love with country music by virtue of the fact that—I’ve never been a huge country fan, I’ve always liked all the mainstream country artists, but by virtue of being involved in this endeavor as well as our Nashville North property, I’ve really come to love and embrace country music and realize just how many wonderful up-and-coming artists there are.
SC: For the up-and-coming Canadian musicians that are coming, such as Corb Lund from Alberta, and Tara Oram from Newfoundland, and The Treasures… this is a better question to ask them, but in your opinion, how do you think they felt when they were approached to do this inaugural event.
KA: I think they’re very excited. CMT is obviously a behemoth in the country music world, both here in Canada and the United States, and I’m excited of course to have the big acts on the bill, the Rascal Flatts and the Big A, and the legendary Ronnie Dunn from Brooks and Dunn. But at the same time, I’m equally as excited to give the opportunity to these new up-and-coming artists, to expose their music and their talents on the stage beside these globally recognized artists. So, I think I, imagine, I hope that they’re very excited at the prospect, not only at getting paid to come and play, but also the opportunity to work with the people at CMT and also these legendary acts that we have on the bill.
SC: Yeah, I think it’s great exposure for them too. What I think makes or breaks a festival of this caliber are the headliners. This seems like a non-issue for you, as we have the Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum and Ronnie Dunn, and Blake Shelton from “The Voice”–
KA: Yeah, Blake’s a really exciting artist. I’m realizing more and more, as we go, that Blake’s just becoming ultra-famous right now, he’s a really exciting guy to have on our bill, and actually his new album releases today. I got to hear a couple of singles yesterday, before the album released, and the guy is just a super-talented guy, I’ve become a big fan of Blake Shelton myself.
SC: How important was securing these key artists for your inaugural event?
KA: It was absolutely important, in fact we realized that we had to get the right artists on the bill in order to even announce the show, so sort of the order of operations from a talent-buying perspective, the first thing was to lock up our Rascal Flatts, Ronnie Dunn, Lady Antebellum obviously, having some immense exposure in the recent past, they became an important property to us as a secondary act to put on the bill, and then once we had that, we had the sort of anchor for our festival and we had the ability from there to really build a great show from there, and we’re still actually buying some additional talent and will be releasing a Sunday lineup and some additional up-and-coming Canadian artists as well. That will be released in the near future.
SC: Yeah, I was just about to ask you if you could give us any details to feed the rumor mill on the To Be Announced on this show.
KA: It’s a tough thing to do, I’ve got to mind my P’s and Q’s, as my mother would say, but I can say we’ve got some pretty exciting announcements yet to come, one in particular who we’re trying to lock up in the next few days, so as soon as we have that information available, the contract, I’ll be happy to let you know who those people are.
SC: All right. So, for the campers and the fans who are staying at the venue, are there going to be any meet-and-greet opportunities?
KA: We’re working through that now. Obviously these are all contract-based, so we’re working with artist management now to try to decide how we can manage the meet-and-greets and things like that. One of the exciting things about this festival I’m very proud of is that we’re allowing kids 12 and under free access to the venue. So we really want to make this an opportunity for the family to come out and enjoy a great weekend of country music and all kinds of family activities, but we also don’t want it to pressure their wallet these days as well, obviously the economy is still in a rough place, and we want to make sure that we can make it as affordable as possible for people to come and enjoy this event as a family.
SC: And where can people who haven’t bought tickets yet, find and buy tickets for this event?
KA: All the information is available at cmtmusicfestival.ca, on our website. We also have a Facebook page, CMT Music Festival, lots of activity and traffic and information on the Facebook and the website. We have a Twitter account, CMT Music Festival, so they can keep track of things there, and of course tickets are available on Ticketmaster. So people can go right to our site, cmtmusicfestival.ca, and there’s a big click-through button there that says ‘Purchase Tickets’ which will take them directly to our custom web page at Ticketmaster.
SC: All right, thanks for your time Kit. Good luck with this inaugural event, and I will see you at the CMT Music Festival.
KA: Great, Sean, I look forward to meeting you, and thanks for your time for the interview today.
The 2011 CMT Country Music Festival promises to be a memorable affair, and with the first group of performers already announced, the excitement will only continue to build as the August event comes closer.