Interview – Northern Heights

By: Jenna Melanson

Calgary, AB based country/pop duo, Northern Heights is made up of Chad McMonagle and Eli Budwill. The two have released one single, entitled “Small Town Getaway” , and are hard at work on single number 2.  I had the chance to ask Chad a series of questions about their background, their music and much more.

First off, can you take a moment to introduce yourself to the readers?

My name is Chad McMonagle and I play guitar as well as sing in a Canadian country duo called “Northern Heights” based out of Airdrie, Alberta.

Where do you tend to pull inspiration from when writing?

Eli & I tend to pull inspiration out of anything and everything that is going on in our lives while keeping our “look” & “sound” in the back of our minds. It’s important for new artists like ourselves to establish an image in the beginning to show people who and what you are. We released “Small Town Getaway” as our debut single because it represented us the best. Ourselves and many other thought that it would be the best track to come out with. However, just because that is the music we decide to show to the world, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s all we are. Eli & I have always enjoyed writing a good ballad and have quite a few in our catalog.

Who have been your biggest musical influences throughout your life?

This is a funny question that we often receive when doing interviews and people tend to laugh at my response. Growing up, I went through so many phases and so many changes of the genre of music that I listen to that at this point, I listen to everything. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. I tend to lean towards heavy music like Bring Me The Horizon or Architects when I am at the gym or I need to get pumped up. I love going out to clubs and hearing some good EDM music that has this intense vibe changing ability. The Skrillex & Diplo single featuring Justin Bieber is solid. Sometimes when I am at home relaxing, I’ll throw on some softer folk music like Mumford or Ben Howard. I absolutely love country music at the end of the day though as my top pick. However, that has only been the case in the past year or so. Country music has changed everything for me as a person and as a musician/songwriter. I hope to be as good as some of the artists I listen to someday.

Your single, “Small Town Getaway” was released in August, how has the response been?

The response has been overwhelming. We spent a lot of time preparing for the release of this project. We started writing demos to take to the studio back in January and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We come from a Pop/Punk background as we used to play in a band together that had influences such as Blink 182 & All Time Low. When we parted from that band and decided to form a country duo, it was a new challenge that we were anxious to take on. After spending months writing about 15 demos, we finally reached out to MCC Recording Studio in Calgary where we were hooked up with producer Chris Byrne who also happens to play in The Road Hammers. The 3 of us spent a few days narrowing those 15 demos down to 3 that we would later take to the studio and record with Canada’s top musicians. Once we finished those 3 singles and decided that Small Town was the one to release, it was go time. We had no idea what the response was going to be like. Would radio hate it? Would they love it? Would anyone buy the single let alone would a radio station add it to rotation? We are incredibly proud to be able to say that after spending 6 weeks doing a cross Canada radio tour, our song is being played on stations from BC all the way to Nova Scotia. Coast to coast! It was such a relief and an amazing feeling to accomplish something so great for our debut single. I love getting the emails every Friday saying that more and more stations have added the single in all these different provinces across the country.

What was it like to hear your single on the radio for the very first time?

The first time we heard our single on the radio without streaming it was in Yorkton. I was taking a shower at our campsite late at night and they had the local country station playing. All the sudden I heard a familiar sound and then I realized that it was our song playing on the radio! I was beyond excited and couldn’t believe it. I knew that the single was playing on all these stations but I had never actually heard it the way we hear our radio every day while driving except for this time it was OUR song!

You’ve just returned from a radio tour, how did that go?

Our radio tour was incredible and we met the most amazing people that we will forever be lucky to call our friends now. Most people split the west coast and the east coast up when doing a radio tour. They’ll take a car and do BC, AB, SK and maybe MB. They’ll fly to Toronto, rent a car and do the surrounding area while staying with friends or getting hotels.. People think we are insane when we tell them what we did.. We packed our little Toyota Matrix, we purchased a little portable stove, packed a cooler full of soups and noodles from the dollar store and took off. Starting in Vancouver, we traveled across the entire country for 6 weeks and went all the way to Halifax, hitting sometimes 3 stations a day. We did interviews all day, pulled over for a quick meal that we’d cook on the side of the highway, drive all night and pull into a campsite when it got too dark to keep driving. We’d set up a little 2 person tent, catch a couple hours of sleep, wake up and do it again. This last for 6 weeks from Vancouver to Halifax. It was a great experience and we really got to see how beautiful our country really is. From stopping for a quick swim at one of the Great Lakes, to camping along the Hopewell Rocks at the bay of Fundy all while visiting even the smallest radio stations to make new friends, do interviews and perform acoustically.

You have released two clips from the “Small Town Getaway” video, when can we expect a full video release?

You can expect a video from us very soon but it won’t be Small Town. We have been working on a cover that we’ll be filming and sharing with everyone during the downtime until we release our next single.

What was the highlight of filming the video?

Filming those little teaser clips was interesting. It was actually right after we had written those 15 demos and wanted to see how people would react to them. We hit up some open mics around Calgary and played the songs to complete strangers without even having a name for the band yet just to “test the waters”.

When can fans expect a second single? Can we get any hints?

We are always writing new music. We have so many songs that we want to share with everyone but like before, we’ll be working with Chris Byrne and the rest of our team to narrow it down to the perfect follow up release to Small Town. We want to be one of those bands that is always pushing and striving for greatness. Always putting out better and better music with each release. We’ll be back in the studio in November and you can expect some teasers with a release date early 2016.

Any idea when an album will be released?

Albums are tough to pull off these days. Especially being a new and independent duo. The amount of money and time it costs to put into even just a single is substantial. I’m hoping we can release an EP next summer or even around this time next year. For now, we are going to push a few singles to radio and create a name for ourselves so that when it comes time to do an album, we will be able to sell it.

Is there a tour in the works anytime soon?

Absolutely. Hopefully we’ll be able to release a third single to radio and do another cross Canada radio tour next summer just like we did this summer but instead of only doing radio interviews, we’ll set up shows along the way as well. The entire focus of this debut single release radio tour was to end up in Halifax for the 2015 CCMA’s. They’re being held in London, ON next year so it would work out perfectly.

What’s up next for Northern Heights?

Right now, we are writing new material to take to the studio, rehearsing with the full band, booking shows, working on covers, doing some promotional stuff and doing our best to keep giving fans something to look forward to. We’ll be doing some fun giveaways and contests shortly as well so keep an eye out for those! Concert tickets and more…

Canadian Beats is all about Canadian music, who are your current favourite Canadian bands/ aritsts?

Dallas Smith, High Valley, Wes Mack, Brett Kissel, Dean Brody, those are just to name a few. We actually met all of those guys and many more while attending the CCMA’s! It was spectacular. We also have some great friends that are doing amazing for themselves in Canadian country music.

Here at Canadian Beats, we like to include a portion of questions that may help your fans learn something new about you, so here goes:

What was the first concert you attended?

I have an awful memory and cannot for the life of me remember what my first concert was. I remember going to Warped Tour with my Dad when I was super young.. Maybe 12 or 13? My Mom took me to Motley Crue when I was very young as well which ended up being very inappropriate. We always have a good laugh about that.

What is your current go-to song?

On our radio tour, we always played Wes Mack – The Way You Let Me Down followed by Florida Georgia Line – Anything Goes. Recently, I’m super into Brett Kissel’s Airwaves as well as Pick Me Up.

Do you have any tattoos? If so, what are they?

I have many tattoos. My forearm says “Never Give Up”, I’ve got an owl tattoo, an eagle with a ship, a Panther, a rose, I’ve got an anchor with “Mom & Dad” on my ribs and then I have a little alien on my ankle because I have a weird obsession with aliens and X-files.

What is your favourite Autumn activity?

Corn mazes!

Social media is so important in the music industry today, what’s your favourite social media platform?

My absolute favorite social media platform is Instagram. You can follow me ChadMcMonagle.

Last but not least, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Fans are friends. Thank you to everyone who has purchased our single, followed us on social media, requested our single on radio and a special thank you to those fans who have been following Eli & I since the early days, 5 years ago in our Pop music days. Nobody in this industry would be able to do what they do without fans. It’s always said and it is so true.



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