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Country troubadour hits the North

Sean Hogan asked more questions than he answered when talking about his trip to Whitehorse this weekend. Like many Canadians, the country music star has never been this far north, he said.

Sean Hogan asked more questions than he answered when talking about his trip to Whitehorse this weekend.

Like many Canadians, the country music star has never been this far north, he said.

“Will I see people dog sledding?” he asked. “When is it light there now?”

While unacquainted with Yukon, Hogan is not new to touring.

Eight years ago, he travelled to Australia.

“That was cool, but this will be cooler,” he said laughing. “Very cold.”

Hogan isn’t new to the industry either.

He’s been a professional musician for 16 years. He’s just released his sixth album.

A year after his debut in 1996, he won the Canadian Country Music Association award for Best Independent Male Artist.

Since then, he has been nominated for 11 other CCMAs and won Roots Artist of the Year in 2003.

But Hogan is not your stereotypical roots artist, said the association’s Brandi Mills.

The genre tends to connote a very “folksy” sound - which Hogan does achieve with some of his banjo, steel guitar and harmonica musicality, said Mills.

Most define roots music as something that would never be played on the radio, she explained.

But Hogan gets loads of airplay - both in Canada and the United States.

“He’s probably one of the only artists that I can think of that does have that sound,” she said. “It’s folksy and it’s traditional, but, at the same time, it’s totally marketable.”

She dubs it “contemporary traditional.”

Roots musicians tend to cultivate success based on their geography.

And while some of Hogan’s music videos are obvious in their local homage, like when he walks through the alleyways of Vancouver, he has received attention all over Canada and largely in the States as well.

Hogan has his O-1 (a three-year visa for artists, athletes and celebrities) and was seriously considering moving to Nashville after spending a considerable amount of time commuting to the country music mecca.

But in the end, he’s just too Canadian, he said.

“It’s definitely music city, it’s definitely commerce of the song and, as much as it’s good to have airplay there and it’s fun to go down and write, let’s just say I’m not really a red-state-guy.”

Plus, news that Hogan’s third child - and first boy - would be coming along soon kept the family planted in Canada.

“I’m glad there’s a big country with a lot of people that like my music, but I’m not looking to quickly become an American,” he said. “I feel more comfortable when I am up in Canada.”

He mentions Neil Young - one artist that he loves.

Young made his career in the United States and has lived in California since the 1970s.

But that was another time and another music industry, said Hogan.

“Nashville’s the kind of city that will chew you up and spit you out,” said Mills laughing. “We’re way nicer about it.”

And while the Canadian industry doesn’t have the same expertise as the inventors of country music, we are the second biggest exporter of the sound, she said.

“Based on the fact that it’s a storytelling genre, Canadians embrace that and it directly relates to who we are,” she said.

For Hogan, telling those stories doesn’t just pay the bills.

The stories that come back are really what keeps him dedicated, he said.

“I’ve gotten lots of different letters,” he said, remembering one that claimed his music helped them get through chemotherapy and another that said one of his songs helped them get over an abusive relationship.

“When you can sing and write songs and people relate to them ... and you enjoy playing and people dig your music it’s like: wow, what else would I want to do? I’ve been lucky.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Another compelling perk of Hogan’s job is the freedom to roam, he said.

While he was born in Sarnia, Ontario, and lived for six, cold winters in Saskatoon, he and his family now reside in Campbell River, British Columbia.

His drummer, Chad Melchert is from Edmonton, bassist Darcy Johnstone is from Calgary and on electric guitar is Eric Reed from North Vancouver.

They are from all over and get to go all over, said Hogan.

Now, he will get to see another part of the world he’s never seen before.

“I get to experience Whitehorse and some of the people there this weekend and I am so lucky to be able to do that,” he said. “That’s my job! I’m doing what I love to do.”

Sean Hogan and his band will be at the Jarvis Street Saloon tonight and tomorrow. They will play two sets at 10 p.m. and then again at 12 a.m. Opening band, Chris Moir will start at 9 p.m. and a DJ will play all the “in-betweens.”

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at