The annual Country Thunder musical festival near Craven has become one of the biggest events on the Saskatchewan music calendar each year, with tens of thousands of fans showing up to listen to some of the biggest names in country music.
But it has also become an opportunity for aspiring Saskatchewan musicians to showcase their talents for a larger crowd.
Micah Walbaum, the daughter of Aaron and Jacquie Walbaum of Forget, was among the up and coming country musicians selected to perform on the festival’s main stage this year. She had her opportunity on Sunday – the festival’s final day.
Walbaum earned the chance after the people who own the Happy Nun Café in Forget informed her mother about the Proudly Saskatchewan talent contest, and suggested that Walbaum audition.
“I didn’t really get my hopes up, because it was for all of Saskatchewan, and I’m only 15,” Walbaum said in an interview with Lifestyles.
But she cracked the top 10, and had a rehearsal at The Tap restaurant Regina on July 7. She finished third, which earned her $250 and the chance to play at Craven.
The first place finisher earned a recording deal in addition to the chance to perform at Craven.
Walbaum performed three songs at Carven: Long Time Gone by the Dixie Chicks, Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton, who just happened to be the headliner that night, and Done by the Band Perry.
“I chose Long Time Gone specifically because I could also partake in my fiddle. I play the fiddle, and I just wanted to show my talent in that as well,” she said.
She selected Tennessee Whiskey because she likes the song.
“It’s one of those songs that I’m really comfortable singing. I chose Done because I’m just a huge fan of The Band Perry. I really like their stuff.”
While she was a little bit nervous performing in front of such a large crowd, she had a lot of fun.
“I was really happy to have that opportunity.”
It was a hot day on Sunday at Craven, so the crowd wasn’t as big as it was for Stapleton that night, but she still had a good crowd watching her.
During her time at Country Thunder, Walbaum and her father spoke with Jimmie Allen, who was one of the musicians to take the stage on Sunday.
Walbaum must be a big fan of the Tennessee Whiskey song, because she played it at the audition at The Tap when she punched her ticket for Craven. She also played two of her own songs, Love can be a Tricky Thing and Confusion Love.
Walbaum didn’t grow up around country music, because her parents aren’t big into the genre. But a lot of her friends enjoy it, and have introduced her to it.
Her parents are also very talented musicians, though, and her mother is a former Estevan Idol (now Estevan Sings) winner.
“It’s really nice to have input on the music world, and how things work, because I’m still only 15, so I don’t really know a lot of the experiences when it comes to having a music career, but they do,” said Walbuam.
Her parents have provided her with a lot of input. Her two sisters are talented musicians, meaning that music is often heard in the Walbaum household.
Walbaum has been singing for virtually her entire life, has been playing the fiddle since she was four, and has dabbled in guitar and piano.
“I haven’t really put (my singing) out there, I mainly just kept it to my family and some closer friends. I haven’t really done a lot of outside public performances with my singing, so this was a big thing for me. It was really new to me.”
The announcers told her they believe she will be going places in her music career.
Walbaum will be keeping her musical skills sharp this summer when she works as a summer student at the Kenosee Lake Kitchen Party – the annual music camp that attracts people of all ages.
“I have been going for about eight years now, and it is definitely a huge part of my music life, especially when it comes to fiddle,” said Walbaum, who is in her first year as a summer student.
She has been doing a lot of promotional work and providing help around the camp. She has been in Regina to play at pop-up mini camps, dances and to perform at senior citizens’ buildings – anything she and her fellow summer students can do to promote the camp.
As a student, the kitchen party has allowed her develop her own style of music, and that wouldn’t have happened without the instructors at the camp.