The Once make Camrose stop for Rose City Roots
The Once, featuring Phil Churchill, Geraldine Hollett and Andrew Dale, are playing the Bailey Theatre on Friday at 8 p.m. Supplied
The Once are the accidental band that could.
Geraldine Hollett, Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale never set out with the goal of being a band or even being in a band. They were small town Newfoundland actors who were thrown together for one song on one night and slowly they built up steam to where they have travelled Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia with their take on folk music.
On Friday, they will be stopping in Camrose for Rose City Roots with an 8 p.m. show at the Bailey Theatre.
“I can’t wait to be there,” said Hollett. “I can’t wait to look around, I can’t wait to have my daily walk in your town, check it out and see what you’re made of so you can see what we’re made of and we can just be together. Is that normal?”
The Once have always done things a little differently. For a Newfie folk band, they border a little bit more on the pop side of the spectrum, but their stories and songs are unmistakably from The Rock.
They were created out of necessity one fateful night when their theatre director sold out a show, except he didn’t tell anyone. The group scrambled to put a performance on and the trio cobbled together a few songs.
Next thing they knew they were being asked to play for some friends at their cottage, and then they were asked to do some shows in St. John’s. Before they knew it, CBC was asking them to play a show.
“We were like ‘Geez boys, we need a name, I think we’re a band,’” said Hollett.
Like any band, they hit the Dictionary of Newfoundland English — a dictionary that translates Newfie sayings into their English equivalent — in search of a name. The biggest requirement was that it had to include the word “The.” That’s when they landed on The Once, as in “I’ll do it at the once.” To the rest of Canada, it means “I’ll do it in a minute.”
“We had never seen the sayings written down that we had been saying for as long as we could remember speaking,” said Hollett. “We were like ‘that’s perfect, we’ll do it.’ It was very shortsighted, we had no idea we were going to do anything with this.”
They have spent most of the last decade since then on the road touring. Though this will be their first time playing Camrose, they have played Alberta many times before. It is a bit of a home-away-from home for the band. It is one of the three provinces where they feel like the crowd really understands them, the others being Newfoundland and Ontario.
“Whenever we go there, there is always an audience and they’re always grateful, and we feel very blessed to have those three places to go to,” said Hollett. “When we’re worried we don’t know where we fit in, we know we fit in there, so that’s pretty cool.”
For those who have not heard or seen them before, they’re not the standard Newfoundland band. They are an acoustic band with strong harmonies that will get you going on the dance floor, but they do keep things under control.
“We’re kind of a little bonkers, but our music is folky pop,” said Hollett.
“We love telling stories and we like us a good foot stomp. You’re not going to get a big ol’ kitchen party that’s raucous, a lot of people think with a Newfoundland band that’s what you get. We’re not, but we’ll get you going.”
They are now working on their sixth studio album, due out in the spring. They do not have goals of world domination, though performing with the band Passenger they went around the world. Their sights are more set on enjoying the ride and making a living playing music.
“Ten years ago I said ‘I want money to come to my mail box and I want to travel the world to get that money’ and then within six months that is all I’ve been doing since and we haven’t stopped or looked back,” said Hollett. “It’s not always easy, but it’s our lot in life and we really enjoy it, it’s fun, it’s good for our souls. Thank god that we get to do it.”