Lisa Moen and Myles Myrol go way back.
During the past 30 years or so, she’s gone from a wide-eyed little girl watching her father play bass in a popular 1990’s country-rock group, to him standing just to her left in her band.
Myrol won awards for his bass playing in a family band known as the Myrol Brothers. Music clearly ran in the Myrol household and it has been passed down to Moen, who is nominated in six categories for Saskatchewan Country Music Association (SCMA) awards.
“My dad played the accordion and violin and my mom sang like a bird. She was a beautiful singer, so there was always music in the house,” Myrol said over coffee.
Myrol’s brothers, Rick and Keith, are seven and nine years older than he is. He had some growing up to do before he could join the group.
“My brothers took to rock ‘n’ roll immediately in the ’60s and were in several bands and prominent bands in the province at that time. They did some opening act work in Saskatoon when rock shows would go through town. I was a little kid, but I couldn’t get into it fast enough.”
In the mid-1980s, the brothers, who will be playing on the SCMA telecast in a Legends and Legacy segment on April 13 at TCU Place, started working hard at their music. They won awards, played big venues and were offered a record deal. They appeared in their share of smoky bars as well.
“We were a rock band that morphed into country. Country really grew and kind of exploded with things like the (movie) Urban Cowboy. It’s not so much that we went to country, but country finally came to us. The music itself had changed, and for a good country band at that time, there was lots of work around.”
He started off on drums and moved to bass to be on the front line with his brothers. The Outlook-based band was known for its harmonies.
Moen would go to gigs with her dad back then.
“I have lots of memories as a child of watching my dad. He would take me to gigs and hide me behind the big speakers so my brother and I would watch him. We were very young, but they were so busy when I was a kid, so actively playing that everybody in our community and around Saskatchewan knew who they were, which was so cool.”
The Myrol Brothers had a chance to go really big. They decided to stay home instead.
A highly-regarded agency in Nashville wanted to represent them.
“We all had kids at home and the commitment we would have to make to the people involved was just too great. We would have been home three to four weeks in the first year; that’s the kind of commitment they want out of you, and we just couldn’t do it.”
The Myrol Brothers stayed busy in their backyard and beyond — on their terms.
“I really don’t know any band that worked as much as we did. One year, it might have been 1994 or 1995, from May until the end of October, I think we played 50 shows and some of them were crazy, day after day and lots of travel.”
There were lots of jamborees and festivals, including the Calgary Stampede and the main stage at what was then known as the Big Valley Jamboree in Craven.
A big gig in Quebec
It came about through a CBC show called On the Road Again, hosted by Wayne Rostad.
Rostad was filming a segment on Danceland at Manitou Beach. He and his crew were back at their hotel when they heard the sound of music. He listened to a set, approached the band and said he wanted them to play at the Gatineau Clog, a festival he started in 1979.
Rostad said he would set it up and fly the band to the festival.
The Myrol Brothers had never heard of the Clog and thought they would likely never hear from Rostad again.
“He was true to his word. His producer and another one of his managers got ahold of us and flew us out there and we played; there were 20,000 or 22,000 people there that afternoon. It was a fun job in a beautiful setting.”
Another cool moment was playing at Craven just before Garth Brooks took the stage. They had another brush with Brooks in Calgary.
“There was a media conference for Garth Brooks and in the background our CD was playing. There were a thousand reporters there and they didn’t play his music; they played our music. That was a neat moment.”
His family would often accompany him or meet him at events.
“So Lisa was exposed to that kind of life early on,” he said.
And she loved the life.
“I knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something musical. I was always singing, dancing and doing theatrical stuff, tap dancing, jazz dancing. I was entertaining anybody I possibly could: ‘Look at me, look at me.’”
When the brothers disbanded — other than for select gigs — Myrol turned his attention to his daughter’s music.
“I have equipment in the basement all the time, so Lisa got some friends together in high school and they started their own thing. I furnished whatever they needed mostly and then she did a couple of gigs with them.
“When she got a little older I said, ‘let’s get you out of the basement and go sing.’ We started a band and played ’60s and ’70s music, stuff right off the radio — songs that were super recognizable to everybody.”
They were called the Magic Band and had an eight-year run.
Lisa Moen went country
“At the end of the Magic Band, Lisa was leaning to doing more country, so we started a band called Bullrush.”
Not too long after, the name was dropped, player changes were made and a band was created for her to front.
That’s where they are today.
“When we are on stage, we both love music and we are both into it, we look at each other and we smile and we know exactly why,” Lisa said. “It’s such a connection and it’s such a natural high being on stage and such an adrenalin rush. It feels so good and then I think, ‘Oh my God, I am doing this with my dad.’
“I have done it with him for over 16 years and we will do it for as long as we can. We are both so grateful.”
Moen has a new single — Tell Me —and a video to accompany it. Other members of the band are Garth Howell on lead guitar and Damon Tupper on drums. They also provide background vocals. Howell co-wrote Tell Me. Bart McKay produced and recorded the song. (Visit lisamoen.com to hear and watch it.)
“We are grateful to be one of the most active bands playing right now and the more you play, the tighter your stage show gets. We have played bars in every corner of Saskatchewan where there may be 15 people, and then we’ve played the halftime show at a Rush (lacrosse game) last April to 15,000 people.
“We played before the Eagles concert at Mosaic Stadium at the tailgate party; we were the only live band to play. We got to hear the Eagles’ sound check. We literally stopped our sound check because we were listening to the Eagles.”
Tough business for women
Tell Me will hit 250 radio stations. Moen is getting great feedback for both the song and the video.
Her first hit — Silly Boys Trucks Are For Girls — was the most downloaded on Canadian radio on the day it was released.
“It is a really cool experience. For an indie act, it’s very hard to crack through and get on the radio. It’s tough.”
Getting a song played is even more difficult for a woman, Myrol said. He said 30 to 35 per cent of the songs added to a radio playlist in a month are from female performers.
“If they add 20 songs to their playlist, you are already down to competing for six slots. You are not one of 20. They’ve reduced the number of spins for women. It makes no sense. You need such massive play to get your money back; the royalty system is so frugal.”
He said a lot has changed since he and his brothers were playing and selling albums.
“They give you pennies; there are no dollars involved. We were one of the first local bands to put out a compact disc and you could make a pretty decent margin on those if you sold them off the stage and in some retail outlets.
“People don’t want to buy a whole album anymore. It changes the amount of money people will spend. There were albums that went for 15, 18, 20 dollars. Now you can buy a song for 89 cents.”
Moen said first and foremost she wants to keep playing and writing.
“We are fortunate that we actively play; we actually go out and play the music we release to radio and it sounds like it does on the radio.
“We have hit the point where, Saskatchewan-wise, we’re busy and are doing quite well. We will keep going Canada-wise and keep writing songs. We are very fortunate to be releasing our own music.”
And she gets to do it with her father at her side.
“When I introduce the band I say, ‘Myles and I go way, way back’ and at the end of the show I’m like, ‘this is my dad.’ It’s pretty cool.”
The Saskatchewan Country Music Association awards will run from April 12 to 14 in Saskatoon. Moen will perform on April 12 at the Longbranch bar, while the Myrol Brothers will be on the televised show, beginning at 7:30 p.m. April 13 at TCU Place. For more information, including purchasing tickets, visit scma.sk.ca.