A Local Star Who’s Hitting It Big: Dylan Ireland

Photo via Dylan Ireland on Facebook.

A few months ago, a good friend and fellow music lover suggested I listen to a band that was from the Peterborough area. I fell for their catchy lyrics and melodies, which have now embedded themselves into my conscious memory.

I am always filled with a great sense of pride for my hometown, and for the many talented people from there who go on to do great things. The Express and Company are no exception, and are definitely a band to look out for.

The band consists of frontman, singer-songwriter, Dylan Ireland, and vocalist Melissa Payne, who also plays fiddle and rhythm guitar. The duo also occasionally travel across Ontario as a five piece band, with Joe Hay on drums, Liam Wilson on bass, and Benj Rowland playing a variety of instruments. All five are talented and recognized artists individually as well.

On her own, Payne released a self-titled album and played at the Boots and Hearts music festival in Bowmanville this year. She is an award-winning artist, like Rowland, who is a touring, multi-instrumental one-man-band. At this year’s Peterborough Folk Festival, Ireland and Payne kicked off the weekend by playing the opening set for Joel Plaskett.

I was fortunate enough to attend this sold-out show, which turned out to be a big hit. The atmosphere was energetic and riveting, and it was a night of toe-tapping, sing-along fun for the audience. At the festival, Ireland was also the recipient of the Emerging Artists award, which, over the years, has gone to other notable Canadian artists such as James McKenty from The Spades, and Serena Ryder.

Whether preforming as a duo or five piece band, The Express and Company have been described as enchanting and lively, wowing audiences across the country. They toured extensively at the start of their career, and in light of the release of their full-length album in spring 2013, totaling over 200 shows and counting. They even played for an audience in the Yukon!

Their hit single “Carry Me Along” has been on CBC Radio 2’s Top 20 Chart since June 28, and has been hovering around the fifth position week to week.

You can help out these talented artists by voting for them on the CBC Radio 2 website to keep their success going.

When the editors asked if I wanted to interview Ireland and The Express and Company (just a “sweet local band,” I was told) I played it cool, responding, “Sure, I’d love to.”  Behind the computer screen I was grinning from ear to ear, overly excited to get this opportunity.

Some Facebook and telephone tag later, I was sitting in one of my favourite coffee shops across Ireland, a man whose lyrics had been playing over and over in my head for months now. I found myself shaking hands with an extremely down-to-earth guy with a collected sense of humour. Any nervousness I had had before about talking to a chart-climbing musician quickly went out the window.

Dylan and Sarah

So, Dylan, how long have you been playing for?

Since I was 11 or 12. I started playing with my dad and brother, but I grew up always listening to my dad and uncles. [They] all played in a band called the Swamp Band. I grew up listening to them play, and it was a lot of fun being a kid and going to all kinds of outdoor concerts.

This was obviously a big influence in your career choice?

Yes, absolutely! It’s just a part of who I am, and this is why I was so inclined to play.

How would you describe your sound as a band?

It would really have to fall under the category of Folk and Folk Rock. When we get the full five piece playing together, it gets a little louder.

What do you feel makes your style different from other emerging bands and singers right now?

Well, I hope it’s our songs and attitudes of our band members. It is difficult with Folk becoming more popular and mainstream to have something that stands out completely.

What has been the most challenging part of breaking into the music industry?

Probably getting up the courage to put together the full length album of original works, [and just] going out and hoping that people like the songs that you wrote in your living room with family and friends.

What songs of yours are you most proud of and why?

That would have to be “Out by the Trees” because it is the only song on the record that is about something very specific and deeply personal to me. There are a lot of lyrics in that song that really hit home for me and my family. Oh! “Carry Me Along” too because it is on the radio, on my favourite radio station.

Has being from the Peterborough area helped or hindered you in your growth as a musician, as well in the popularity of the band?

It has helped for sure; moving to Peterborough specifically has helped majorly. Being from the country, there has been so much growth from coming here. I met and still play with the same people I met when I came to Peterborough.

What are some of your experiences and feelings regarding the arts and music culture in Peterborough? Is the community a supportive one?

Yes! Peterborough and the people here have been very supportive, especially the clubs, bars and venues. They really help and work with you to put on good shows in great places.

What has been the most exciting part of 2013?

Our song being on CBC Radio 2, for sure.

How does it feel to win the Emerging Artist Award from the Peterborough Folk Festival?

Great! Awesome! There have been a lot of wonderful and successful musicians who have won. It’s a real honour. Melissa and Benj have also both won it.

A lot has been happening for The Express and Company lately. Your full-length album came out in the spring of this year, and you’ve been on CBC’s Top 20 chart for several weeks now. You’ve also won the Emerging Artist’s award from the Peterborough Folk Festival. What can your fans, old and new, expect from you for 2014?

There will be a lot of gigs, and we will be beginning recording a new album in the spring, and the hope is that we’ll have it out this time next year.

I’m going to ask you some fun questions now that I know our readers will be dying to know the answers to. What are you listening to right now?

Wow, I’ve never been asked that before. It’s been a lot of stuff really, stuff like Joe Fort, The Arkells, Daniel Romano, some new pop rock, classic country, and just lots and lots of 90’s hip hop.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?

Oh, Melissa is going to hate this one, but … a professional poker player. I just love it.

What would you say to those who haven’t heard your music yet?

Listen to it, please and thanks, just give it a shot. You’ll like what you hear.

On that note, you can definitely check them out by visiting The Express and Company on YouTube, on their website (http://expressandcompany.com/), or by purchasing their album from Seventh Fire Records. The Express and Company’s albums, as well as Payne’s self-titled album, can be bought through them. The digital album is also available on iTunes.

This Friday, September 13, The Express and Company will be playing in Oshawa, Ontario, at The Moustache Club. Show starts at 10pm. See you there!