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Justin Labrash to play Music in the Forest May 18 show

Award-winning Saskatchewan country singer joins Music in the Forest series for May 18 show

LAC LA BICHE - The third show of the 2024 Music in the Forest series is an afternoon gig on Saturday, May 18 by Saskatchewan-based country artist Justin LaBrash. 

The show, at Lac La Biche’s Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park amphitheatre will have a strong country and western flavour as LaBrash brings almost a decade of his award-winning music to the stage.  

Things have been going well for LaBrash, who is not only a five-time Saskatchewan Country Music Association (SCMA) award winner, but also owns and operates JLB Ranch in southern Saskatchewan. The entertainer is also a certified rodeo judge with the Canadian Cowboys Association (CCA).  

Last June at the SCMAs, LaBrash was named Songwriter of the Year, he won Country Album of the Year and was named Male Artist of the Year.  He’s hoping to earn more hardware at the 2024 SCMA gala in June where the artist and his recording team are nominated for eight SCMA awards. 

“To be recognized by my peers and fans is an incredible feeling that never goes away,” he told Lakeland This Week as he prepares for the upcoming show in Lac La Biche. 

LaBrash, whose full band is called True North, says his sound has been described as a three-layer cake of Brett Kissel, Hunter Hayes, and Paul Brandt with AC/DC frosting and sprinkles of Wheatus, which is an American rock band. The main influences in his own range of music range from classic country icons such as Johnny Cash to 90’s groups like Blackhawk and Sawyer Brown.  

Over the past eight years, he has played more than 600 shows across Canada, including 102 concerts in both 2018 and 2019.  

Even when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the spring of 2020, he found ways to keep on the road by creating North America’s first drive-in live concert tour.  

The #driveinsask2020 Tour and the 2021 Hell or High-Water Tour came about in response to the pandemic lockdown restrictions. As LaBrash explains, he and his team built the stage trailer with the help of local companies who pitched in their resources. The musicians also worked with public health authorities to, as he puts it, “safely pull together a concert that people could enjoy from the safety of their vehicles and yet soak up the healing benefits of live music.” 

LaBrash said playing outdoors throughout year-round the pandemic-created tour in temperatures ranging from minus 30 to plus 30, performing in pouring rain, thunderstorms, under tornado warnings and snowstorms was an unforgettable - and wonderful experience. The drive-in tour was well-received by music fans and industry supporters. 

“We set the record for the first and largest drive-in shows in Saskatchewan’s history,” he said, adding that the tours were genuine community-building events and he and his bandmates were grateful to have been able to do.  

These pandemic-era shows were also an opportunity for the country-western singer to raise money for local charities.  

“At each show of these two tours, we featured a local charity and over the two tours, we raised over $50,000 and hundreds of pounds of food for more than a dozen Saskatchewan charities when their own fundraising projects were cancelled,” he explained.  

At the start of the pandemic, when the world was shutting down and all shows were cancelled for the year, LaBrash’s song, “See You in the Stars” went all the way to top spot on the Canadian True North Country Radio Indie chart.  

“It was a very welcome bright spot that came at the perfect time,” he stated. 

When he wasn’t touring, LaBrash was busy writing songs. Right now, he is working on going through more than 100 new songs to select eight or 10 for his next studio album.  

Much of his latest songwriting and recording has been done in his own studio in a small ranch he bought last year in southern Saskatchewan. 

In 2022, his single, “Somethin’ About Nothin’ received attention in the USA. When asked why he believes people took to this the single, LaBrash said it’s something people can relate to. The song, he explained, is about not having much, but always finding something to be grateful for. In these tough times, he said, fans are reminded to find the good in everything because it is there.  

Local show

While LaBrash has graced small venues and festival stages from coast-to-coast over his years on stage, the May 18 show will be his first foray into Lac La Biche. As for what fans can expect at the show, LaBrash says it will be an intimate acoustic show where he will connect with the audience, who will hear the stories behind the songs.  

“I will be playing some originals like “Running Away” and “We Ran Out” as well as some covers from artists who have inspired my sound. I might even open the setlist up to taking a couple of requests,” he said.  

Being a true-life cowboy, rancher, and CCA rodeo judge provides plenty of inspiration for many of his songs. As to where that inspiration is derived from, those places are varied and can happen in the most unexpected places, LaBrash says.  

“My songwriting inspiration strikes at the strangest times and in the weirdest places...on a plane, in the field working on the back of a horse, or on stage while singing a different song,” he explained. 

Doors open for the May 18 show at 1:30 p.m. and the music starts at 2:30 p.m. For more information about the concert and to purchase tickets, see the Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park website. 

The Music in the Forest program has been running in the region for the past several years, bringing a wide-range of independent Canadian musical artist to the local stage for intimate performances. Ticket prices start at just $15. 

Chris McGarry

About the Author: Chris McGarry

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