With over ninety of his original songs recorded by artists in Canada and the US, Doug Folkins is an acclaimed songwriter with a strong sense of relevance and a respected stage presence.
Folkins keeps his hometown of Sussex, New Brunswick close to his heart as eastern Canada comes out in a variety of his songs despite now living on the west coast and spending the rest of his time in Nashville, Tennessee as he is a signed artist with Lynn Gann Music Enterprises.
His career has had an incredible number of accolades including winning Best Country Song in 2018 at the Canadian Songwriting Competition in addition to receiving nomination after nomination for prestigious awards.
The amount of success his songs are having is a testament to the passion Folkins puts into the songwriting while the momentum behind his progress is a product of his impressive drive to create.
The newest single "Hula Girl on the Dash" is more than your new driving tune, as this is a definite contender for country song of the year and provides the clearest view of where Folkins is headed.
There has always been a sort of small-town feel to the music of Doug Folkins but I feel like the newest single is showing something else, something more. A stronger international relatability maybe. Something that was not overlooked but not completely present until now.
There is an unmistakable modern tone to the new single that may be a pivot in the country star's timeless sound.
The arrangement is tight and the chorus sticks in a way that sculpts an all-around hit ready for serious attention.
However, for a starting point, I recommend 2012's album "Ceilidh" as your first introduction to Doug Folkins.
Named after a social event where Scottish or Irish folk music is sung, the album is ideal for those special gatherings that are looked back on fondly with the music imprinted in your mind as firmly as the good times.
The song "Farewell to Nova Scotia" lets you smell the salt in the air no matter where you are listening from and leads into the best version of "Drunken Sailor" you've heard yet.
2018's EP "Riding the Brakes" is another acceptable first exposure to Folkins. The song "Wait on the Weekend" gained the most attention out of the six tracks as it packs the hardest punch plain and simple. The song is for everyone that lets it all hang out on the weekend. Those still free at heart no matter how stress filled their life is from Monday to Friday.
"Ride It Out" rounds out the EP and is the best example of understandable and empathetic lyrics, as anyone who has been down and out will find similarities in their own life story.
The lyrics "Hold on, grip a little tighter, wait for better weather it's just a storm, we can find shelter as long as we're together" takes you to a time when love was the only piece of stability in your life. When rock bottom became painfully unacceptable and a new view of life revealed itself to you. The song is an awakening. A gut-wrenching reality check that anyone who has lived long enough will endure in one way or another and was the perfect choice to end the EP.
Doug Folkins is the definition of a dedicated hard-working musician but it is the finished product that he creates which is most impressive.
There is a versatility to the music that provides the ability to be either the soundtrack to an unforgettable evening or your fall back and comfort during times of solitude and heartache.
I was able to speak with Doug Folkins over the phone recently and ask him about his music.
You call “Riding the Brakes” a redemption song, what would you have done differently in life if you could go back and do it again?
I think everyone in life has mistakes and wishes for a re-do sometimes. Once you take a step back and look at the decisions you’ve made and you think, maybe I could have done more, I could have tried harder, I shouldn’t have had my foot on the brakes so to speak.
The intent of that title was, if I could do it all again I wouldn't touch the brakes instead I’d go full-on.
What was your first guitar?
It was a Canadian made Simon and Patrick acoustic built in Quebec. I still have it too.
Who is your favourite musician or band not getting radio play?
Well, the big three for me would probably be Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Tyler Childers those are the guys that I listen to. On the Canadian side, I like Donovan Woods.
The song "Devil Take My Soul” off of the “Touchstone” album has some dark lyrics in it. What was going on in your life at the time?
I started playing music in a little punk band at University and we were writing some dark stuff and some goofy stuff too. We were called the “Chaotic Cesspools of Sin.” I liked the energy of punk and then it kind of crossed over into Celtic. But with “Devil Take My Soul” it was really about a groove that I had at the time and the lyrics just fit. I wrote differently back then.
Is your music played more in the US or Canada?
The good thing about streaming is it provides artists with analytics so you know where people are listening from. Right now I’d say it’s about 85% of my streaming listeners are from Canada. But that can change pretty quickly if you get put on a playlist in the US.
What is it about Nashville that is most important to you?
The music business is different there. It’s a city rich with songwriting creativity. There are a lot of similar people there trying to make it with their music. There is a real energy there and a respect for songwriters like nowhere else. There is real respect for creativity there.
You’ve performed over a thousand shows, what is the craziest fan moment?
I remember performing at a wedding once, a real redneck meets a hippy girl type of ceremony.
The groom left the reception and came back bursting through the doors on his dirt bike. The guy started doing doughnuts on the dance floor and filled the place with smoke. People were scattering, it was pretty crazy.
Are you in a different headspace when you co-write a song as opposed to writing by yourself?
I think when you’re co-writing you leave your ego at the door. Say you and I were to write a song together. The important thing is the finished product. We take some of mine and some of yours and we compromise for the good of the song.
When you’re writing by yourself you have more flexibility but you may not be as motivated. When you’re writing with someone there is a lot of push and pull involved and you’re driven to be your best at all times.
What is more important to you, lyrics or music?
For me, I’m a lyrics first guy. My lyrics are stronger than my melodies. I can do melody and I can do music but my lyrics are better. However some of my favourite songs the lyrics aren’t what gets me there emotionally, it’s the music and the power behind it.
Punk rockers have a defined look and an attitude that turns its back on society and embraces revolution. Country musicians and fans have a defined look as well but what is the message of the country scene?
To me country is about the rural attitude and lifestyle. But more so it’s just about outdoor fun. The look I think really comes out at festivals. I think the idea is that it’s fun to kind of dress-up. It actually goes kinda deep with the look, for instance, are you a cowboy hat guy or a ball cap guy or a no hat guy. Once you pick you can’t switch.
The country scene is ever-evolving. Changing constantly, yet relevant as always. There is a purity to the genre, a kind of carefree liberation available to anyone open-minded enough to embrace the communal state of mind. A connected consciousness that nurtures growth and a sense of family. Country music provides a special feeling, a connection and acceptance available to anyone drawn in by the rhythmic gravity produced by musicians like Doug Folkins.