BY BRANDY FULTON
Canadian country singer-songwriter Tebey Ottoh invites music lovers everywhere to kick their Reebok pumps on the dash, sip on some Snapple and plug in their Walkman radios, but instead of Nirvana, listen to his new album Old School.
At seven years old Tebey was rocking out to whatever music he could find, anywhere he could. Whether he performed at competitions or in front of his family and friends, he knew that one day he was going to make it big. At 15 he packed up and headed to Nashville with his dad. Since that big move from Burlington, Ont., this country star has played with a variety of artists from different genres including country superstars Big and Rich, Canadian pop star Shawn Desman, and international boy band phenomenon One Direction.
However, his fame did not come for free.
“There is no handbook that tells you about the music business,” said Tebey, now 29, in an interview before his show in Kitchener on Oct. 19.
After two years of little success Tebey and his dad returned to Canada. He continued high school like any other student until his friend talked him up in the music industry and he was signed by BNA Records.
He said the industry is constantly up and down.
“Sometimes songs don’t sound right, or they don’t do as well as you hoped. There are always struggles and always days when you’re not sure if it is worth it.”
But that did not stop this singer-songwriter. Tebey released two albums before Old School. His first single in 2002, We Shook Hands (Man to Man), won him a Country Music Television (CMT) nomination for Best New Male Country Artist, however, the single did not break the Top 20.
Tebey moved back to Toronto where he continued to work hard in the industry.
“I had no plan B,” he said.
After another hit single in 2006 and a surprising but exciting call from one of his former co-writers, John Rich of Big & Rich, Tebey returned to Nashville in 2007 for good.
In his online biography he clearly states his career intentions:
“I really wanted to be true to myself making my own record. I didn’t want to feel like it had to fit into a certain box,” Tebey says. “I’m definitely a country singer, but I grew up listening to everything and I like to write in all genres, so I wanted to push the envelope some and make a record that fell on the far contemporary side of country.”
Tebey said it is easy to make a song that is straight down the middle, something you know that the radio will love and will shoot to the top in no time.
But, he added, “I’m not writing music and singing for the radio. Although it is nice to hear my songs over the air, I do it for the fans and listeners, and for myself.”
His most recent album, Old School, features an image that sends you back to the ’90s where times were easy and there wasn’t a care in the world.
Tebey will perform a sold-out show in Peterborough on Nov. 17 for his last show of the First Come, First Served Tour. Fans had to tune into their local radio stations to win tickets or buy a meet and greet pass.
“If you think of it, we let people come for free this year (by winning tickets), they tell their friends and share the songs, and just have an absolute party. Then maybe when we come back next year our crowd will double in size.”