Willie Nelson hails from Texas, has been making records and playing live for a mind-warping 51 years, and has racked up an astonishing 25 No. 1 hits and 68 studio albums. Bee and the Bare Bones is based up north in British Columbia, has been together for around a year, has produced a lone single (“Fool”), and hopes to have a full-length out in the coming year.
What both have in common is that they’re headed to Merritt, B.C., for the Rockin’ River Music Fest. And with one act a living American legend and the other just starting out, you can guess who’s completely thrilled about meeting whom. Reached at home in Kamloops, Bee and the Bare Bones singer Madison Olds says that she and Merritt-based bandmate Abby Wale can’t believe they’re going to be in the same town as the Red Headed Stranger, let alone on the same bill.
“Willie Nelson is a classic—you can’t help but want to see him,” Olds says. “My bandmate is like, ‘My dream is to touch one of Willie Nelson’s braids.’ ”
The 19-year-old is quick to credit her parents with starting her down the road that’s led her and Wale to Rockin’ River.
“They played music their whole lives and really inspired me to follow my dream,” Olds says. “Because they’ve been so supportive, my family has given me the confidence to chase what I think is a really scary dream to go after. There are so many talented people out there, and it’s really discouraging when you see how many of them you are up against. You’re like, ‘Ahhh—I’m not good enough to compete with them.’ ”
Except that along with Wale, she’s proven that maybe she is. The two entered a 2016 songwriting contest sponsored by Chevy and Country Music Television. Judges were impressed enough with a demo that Bee and the Bare Bones was invited to a second-round live-performance part of the competition, eventually walking away with the top prize, which included a trip to Nashville along with a recording session there. Out of that came “Fool”, which leans heavily on honey-coated harmonies and desert-sunset guitars.
The Chevy Country From the Tailgate competition also solidified the musical direction that Bee and the Bare Bones has been heading in. No one pledges allegiance to a single genre in the Spotify era, which means that Olds and Wale are as enamoured with pop and rock as they are with country.
“I’d never really written or played much country growing up,” Olds says. “But I’ve always loved listening to it—it’s such feel-good music. Last year my grandmother told me about this competition—the Chevy Tailgate contest—and said, ‘I think you should give it a try.’ I had a friend and we’d written a song with a bit of a country vibe to it, so we submitted it.”
And from there, things clicked to where Bee and the Bare Bones can’t believe how far they’ve come in a short time. Olds admits that when they got the call for Rockin’ River, her first thought was that someone was playing a joke on them.
“We had trouble processing it because everything has happened so fast for us,” she says with a laugh. “Even to this day we’re still trying to figure it all out, like ‘Oh, okay, so we’re sharing the stage with Willie Nelson.’ That’s such a big honour. People are going to be talking to me, and I’ll be a complete blank slate, with them going ‘Hello, is there anybody there?’ ”
Bee and the Bare Bones plays the Rockin’ River Music Fest in Merritt on Sunday (August 6).