A musician with ties to Canora has released a new recording.
Ron Kalmakoff who was born in Canora and lived there with his family until age 24, has several recordings to his name, the latest is Come To Me.
Kalmakoff, who found his way to British Columbia after leaving Canora, still looks back on his time in his hometown as the start of his musical development.
“My first public appearance was in Canora at around age 16 at a spring event the town would hold at the time on the main street called, June Days,” he recalled. “I heard that the event was hosting a talent show and I signed up to enter. I was very shy as a teenager but felt if I wanted to have the career I dreamed about, I had to start somewhere. I remember being extremely nervous, but the town embraced my performance and encouraged me to continue.”
As nervous as Kalmakoff may have been, he kept at it.
“From there, I started performing locally at different functions and then with a few written requests from other people, I was asked to perform on the Yorkton television show Profile. That half-hour show used to have quite a following in the area,” he said. “After that I was on my way and started receiving fan mail and local notoriety in Saskatchewan. That took a bit of getting used to.”
The next step was to hit the recording studio.
“I recorded my first album around the age, 19, in a small studio that was located in Rosetown,” said Kalmakoff. “The total experience was new to me. The album was titled To You, From Me. It featured some of my original songs, plus cover tunes. I did a very small pressing of that album so it has become a bit of a collector’s item. Over the years I have seen it on eBay for as high as $99, hard to believe.”
Small run, or not, the now rare debut album set Kalmakoff on a career path in music.
“That album helped me to receive radio airplay on stations across Canada,” he said. “I remember the first station I walked into was CJGX Radio, Yorkton and spoke with the Music Director at the time. He gave me the confidence to start sending out my album to other stations and my first song ever played on the radio was through CJGX Radio.
“The album caught the attention of the national CBC show Tommy Hunter, and I was asked to perform on the show. How sweet was that, at age 19 and I was meeting and performing on the same stage with guest performers and legends like Reba McEntire and Charley Pride.”
It was at that time Kalmakoff began to focus greater attention on music.
“During that time, I decided I wanted to start performing full concert shows, so I teamed up with a few musicians in the area that were recommended to me and started working on a two-hour concert show with four other musicians,” he said. “The band that I worked with at the time was called Prairie Wind. The five of us had a blast, so much fun together, and the musicians were so open to always trying new styles of music.
“Our first show was in Kamsack at the high school auditorium. It was a bitterly cold winter day and I thought hardly anyone would show up, because of the weather. Just before we went on, I was told that we had to delay the beginning of the show until they had everyone seated, the line-up for tickets was extremely long and by the time the curtain opened the auditorium was completely full. What a great start with so many concerts to follow after that.”
So what sort of music does Kalmakoff focus on?
“When I perform in concert now, I offer a variety of styles: light pop, easy listening, country, jazz, folk and gospel,” he said.
“My new album could be considered adult contemporary. Come To Me is a reflection of some of the styles of music I perform on stage.”
As a writer, Kalmakoff said when the mood strikes he becomes productive.
“When I get in my writing groove, I can write a lot of material, especially when I know I have a new project or deadline coming up,” he said. “Some songs come easy to me and in a couple hours I am done, while other songs need the right time and place for me to work on.
“Sometimes it just starts with a couple lines or a melody and grows from there, and I just need to be in the right time frame and place to complete the piece. I seem to write best first thing in the morning if I am driving in my car, and usually have to pull over to the side of the road to record the piece or write down the words for the song.”
With the latest recording Kalmakoff said he sees new depth in his music.
“The title track for the album, Come To Me, is probably one of the more complex songs that I have written and produced,” he said. “Yet the majority of the piece was written in less than an hour on a ferry ride from the Sunshine Coast to the recording studio in Vancouver.
“I would say that musically in every respect it is one of the most involved recording projects I have worked on. I took my time with this album and worked on the writing, recording and co-producing of the album over a two-year period.
“My voice is the strongest that it has ever been so I also pushed myself in the studio. I really worked on getting out of my comfort zone as a writer and singer to create a different and very polished sound.”
When it comes to his CDs, Kalmakoff said choosing favourite songs is never easy, and that includes his latest effort.
“Every song, whether I wrote it or not was very carefully chosen by myself,” he said. “I wanted to be sure that I would enjoy performing every song that was recorded on stage, as well. I do really like all the songs on the album but two stand out for me and even after all the times I have heard them and worked through the recording process, I still get tears in my eyes when I listen to them.
“The first one, Ever Since You Went Away, is the most personal song I have written.
“In the CD cover, there is a special dedication to my grandmother Kalmakoff and her family, which is my family. The best way for me to describe the song is, when you start losing generations of your family who have come before you, you start analyzing who you are as a person, the meaning and purpose of your life going forward and letting go of the past which is hard for all of us when we are part of the life chain through memories and thoughts handed down from generations. Listening to the song and lyrics, one would know that there is a definite connection to the prairies.
“My other favorite song I did not write, but was one of the first songs I picked for the new album. It is titled, Up to The Mountain.
“When I was in the studio recording my vocals, I knew that in order to make the song my own I had to make it soulful but also channel my Doukhobor roots, you can hear that in certain sections of the song. I put myself in a space while recording where I starting thinking back to some amazing voices and singing I’ve heard over the years from my culture and that helped me connect to the song.”
Looking at his catalogue of work, Kalmakoff likes his new effort a lot.
“I am so incredibly proud of this new album,” he said. “It has a lush and sophisticated sound to it.
“My co-producer and I worked hard on the musical arrangements for the orchestration and instruments. I worked with some of the best in the business here on the west coast. My co-producer on the project, Michael Creber, who is also my musical arranger in concert, has such amazing history in the business. I consider him a musical brother. I learn so much from him and we work well together. He is a Grammy nominated and Juno award winning artist and has the gold records on his wall to back up his talent. He has worked with artists such as k.d. lang, David Foster, Raffi and the Rankin Family. I also brought in a Canadian singer Shari Ulrich into the studio to work with. Our voices always blend so well.”
Fans can hear samples of the new album and Kalmakoff’s music, plus order the new CD, Come To Me, on his new website: ronkalmakoff.com and follow his music and get updates through Facebook and Instagram at: Ron Kalmakoff- Singer/Songwriter.