Madeline Merlo says she’s become a better, more hard-working artist since moving to the capital of country music.
The Maple Ridge-raised country singer relocated from Toronto to Nashville late last year. She said it was an adjustment going from Canada’s largest metropolis to a smaller southern berg, but her new surroundings have given her a jolt of inspiration and motivation.
“I’m able to work on my craft seven days a week. I’ve been writing like crazy,” she said.
“You’re surrounded by music and musicians and I just wanted to be in a place where I could grow and learn the most and for country music, that’s Nashville.”
As a new arrival, Merlo said she was struck by the highly competitive environment that awaited her, but she said she’s settling in.
“It’s equally inspiring and terrifying because it’s so saturated with incredible talent, so you really get a glimpse of just how good people are and the work ethic as well,” Merlo said.
“Everybody there is working their butts off, so it kind of makes you push [yourself] a little bit more to be more diligent.”
That diligence appears to be paying off. On May 2 Merlo’s newest single, the party jam Neon Love, hit Canadian country radio and she said she’s “floored” and humbled by the positive attention it’s received.
“When I wrote it, I felt like I had done something special that day, but you just never know. It was a bit of a boundary pushing I felt – sonically, at least – and you’re just never sure if people are going to like what you do,” she said.
Starting this month Merlo is back in Canada and has dates set for summer music festivals from B.C. to Ottawa. On June 23 she’ll be headlining Nanaimo’s Party in the Park. Merlo said she’s excited to come to the Island to play for a British Columbian crowd.
Like last year’s festival, Party in the Park is a showcase of current Canadian country. Aside from Merlo, the show features Calgary’s JJ Shiplett, Andrew Hyatt from Sudbury, Ont., Vancouverites Me and Mae, Victoria’s Eagle Eyes and Nanaimo’s Moonshine Mollys.
“We look for relevancy, who’s current, who’s hot right now sort of thing,” said Pacific Island Entertainment president Teri Smith, who is organizing the event.
“We kept with the country theme this year because country music in Canada is really, really popular right now. Some of the biggest names in North America are coming out of Canada.”
After tour season winds down, songwriting season starts back up as Merlo continues work on her sophomore album. She said there’s pressure to follow-up her successful 2016 debut Free Soul, a record that earned her a B.C. Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year Award and a pile of other nominations.
“I just want it to be perfect,” she said of her next release.
“I just want this next record to really be the best it can be. And they always say you have your entire life to write your first one and it feels like five minutes to write your second one.”
WHAT’S ON … Party in the Park at Beban Park sports field on Saturday, June 23. Gates open at 1 p.m., beer garden stage starts at 2 p.m. and main stage starts at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $48 to $79. More information and to order visit www.partyintheparknanaimo.com.