It was a blustery October day in Pitt Meadows when country music duo Clint van Blanken and Leah McKenney headed to Jordan Oorebeek’s studio in Pitt Meadows to record one of their latest songs.
Their song-writing partner, Mike Kubat, was visiting from Los Angeles for the weekend and was also making the trek to the studio.
But no sooner had the group gathered when there was a massive power outage.
Not being able to record as planned, the group decided to turn the day into a song-writing session.
They lit a bunch of candles and started to brainstorm.
Their producer, Oorebeek, already had a melody in mind.
They finished the lyrics that night.
Own This Town, their latest release, was born out of that wind storm.
“It was a really fun song to write,” said McKenney.
“It kind of ended up all four of us with Jordan and his wife, Calsie, who is young with the baby, and we were all kind of writing in candlelight. Calsie and I were reminiscing about the things we used to do when we were girls growing up,” McKenney added.
The song is about women looking back after a day at the beach, how they would hit the bar and the dance floor.
“It’s a little bit of a coming of age story, but the feelings that the song evokes can be applied to anybody. Whether it is the current 19- to 25-year-old demographic that’s hanging out at Rooster’s every weekend or the 30- to 40-year-old person who has maybe moved on in life and now they’re starting a family and reflecting back on those days,” added van Blanken.
They recorded the song a couple of months later with Clay Krasner from Terri Clark’s band on bass, Travis Toy from Rascal Flats on dobro and banjo, and Carly McKillip from One More Girl singing backup harmonies, only after they fine-tuned it and made sure they had the sound that they were going for.
Van Blanken has been playing guitar since he was 13. He has toured North America and was a member of the Roxy Nightclub house band in Vancouver for four years, 2003-07. He is a touring and recording guitarist for Canadian country star Cash Crawford and played the Merritt Mountain Music Festival.
He has also shared the stage with The Barenaked Ladies, Aaron Pritchett, Joey Clarkson, Our Lady Peace, Nickleback, Hinder, Todd Kerns (Slash of Guns N’ Roses), Keith Urban and Loverboy.
“It’s what I’ve grown up on. My father’s a really, really good country singer and I just grew up with it in the household. And it’s just been something that’s been really important in my life,” McKenney said.
The past three years the pair have been working on their most recent project, Thorn Hill.
“It is a song writing project,” explained van Blanken, adding that the music industry has changed quite a bit since he was growing up.
“The market is so singles driven now. So people, instead of investing all their recording capital in trying to do 10 songs for an album, people are now focusing on singles.”
They might write 20 songs in half a year, but they whittle them down and pick the best one to sink their money and efforts into.
“You release a single and you hope to get some sort of response from that. Then you ride out the popularity of that song for as long as you can and you’ll get right back to work writing your next song,” van Blanken continued.
They came up with the name Thorn Hill because, van Blanken explained, country music is roots oriented.
“We all sort of grew up in this area and Thornhill was the area when we were kids. Like in high school, we would go and have bush parties. And in the winter, when I was a kid (it was) the area where I would go sledding when it snowed. So for a country act, we just sort of gravitated towards that name,” he said.
McKenney and van Blanken have no illusions of fame and fortune.
McKenney is the mother of a one-year-old and van Blanken has a day job.
“We do it because it’s what we love to do. Some people go out and play soccer on the weekend with their buddies. We get together and write songs and record them,” said van Blanken.
Their next single will be released in late spring, early summer.
It’s about a couple dreaming about where they would like to go.
“Part of the song is like: ‘Where do you want to go/ Petaluma or Mexico/Maybe we could take a rocket ship/ or maybe I could get lost in your sweet lips,’” said McKenney.
The pair are hoping to market the song to car companies.
• The singles by Thorn Hill are all available at iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and CD Baby. A video featuring van Blanken and McKenney singing Where Do You Want To Go is on You Tube.