Oct 26, 2018 4:52 PM By: Anna Borowiecki of the St. Albert Gazette
St. Albert musician Travis Switzer, a five-time winner of the Canadian Country Music Association Bass Player of the Year, was inducted into the 2018 Hall of Honour recently.
“It feels great. It feels surreal to know I won’t be nominated for anything – unless I pick up a banjo,” laughed Switzer.
The country association rules state once a support musician is inducted into the Hall of Honour for one instrument, he cannot be nominated again unless it is in a different instrument category.
“To win five times and be retired out of the category is ‘wow.’ You can go your whole career never being nominated, but to win five awards is really something. Being 34 and being retired is kind of weird. But it’s also cool. It’s special,” he said.
Unlike singer-songwriters nominated for a song or album, support musicians are nominated for the year’s entire body of work that includes tours, festivals, live performances and recording sessions.
“I had a great year. I toured with Dallas Smith on his Side Effects Tour. And then I played with Meghan Patrick. She was female vocalist of the year and opened for the James Barker Band on the Game On Tour. And then there was Jojo Mason. He’s had a few gold records. I managed to balance both this year,” Switzer said.
Born in Lethbridge, Switzer moved to Saskatchewan at age six with family to be close to his widowed grandfather. Grandpa, a former air force pilot, obtained a commercial licence and spent time flying in the summer.
“Flying was his passion and I loved it because I got to spend time with him. That was my favourite part of childhood.”
Back at home, Switzer’s father, a bluegrass bass player, had formed a band. Dad strummed banjo and steel guitar. Mom sang and his older brother played snare drum and mandolin. The band needed a bass player and the young Switzer was it.
“Both my parents were very musical and supported the arts. It was a no-brainer.”
Switzer became so wrapped up in playing bass, his father drove him 80 minutes back and forth to Regina every Saturday for music lessons.
“It was quite a drive, but he could see I was really committed.”
Upon graduation, the young, motivated musician enrolled at Grant MacEwan College’s two-year music program focusing on jazz, pop and rock.
Although specializing on bass, Switzer’s first professional gig was as a fill guitarist in Jasper for a Christmas party.
“I didn’t know how to play the guitar, but for 100 bucks, I quickly learned.”
Every artist needs that one big break, and Switzer’s came in 2005, when Samantha King hired him as a sideman to record an album and go on tour with her band.
“It was perfect. You show up, do a good job and go on to the next gig. I had no interest in being famous. My goal was to be a freelance musician and I’ve stuck with that. It was also my first introduction to country bands and country festivals. That gig was my introduction to all the musicians I know today.”
The six-foot bassist has worked the professional circuit for close to 15 years and accumulated a track record of gold-plated artists who have his number on speed dial.
Names such as two-time Grand Master Fiddle Champion Daniel Gervais, Grammy nominated songwriter Deric Ruttan and Darren Savard, Dallas Smith’s music director.
“I can’t forget Jason Blaine. He gave me a big, big, leg up in his band and I’ve ended up knowing him for a decade.”
Three other St. Albert artists who received CCMA recognition are: Jackie Rae Greening, who was inducted into the CCMA Hall of Fame; Ben Bradley, who was named the 2018 Drummer of the Year, and Aaron Goodvin, who received a nod for Songwriter of the Year.