Born in Edmonton, Nils Edenloff, lead singer of the Rural Alberta Advantage, writes songs about love, life, and growing up in Alberta. “We really try to write emotional music that’s honest. I’ve never been one to fake an emotion,” says Nils as we talk what it was like growing up in our shared province. “Paul [Banwatt, drums] and I started hosting an open mic night here in Toronto. I would say that’s how the band got started.” Edenloff moved to Toronto in 2005 and founded the band, picking up keyboardist Amy Cole along the way.
“The main point of the band centres around me on guitar playing some folksy acoustic song and Paul trying to make as much ruckus on the drums as he possibly can, but people like it.” Songs like “Tornado ’87” and “Frank, AB,” are about losing love due to tragedy and natural disaster, grounded in the province’s history, while songs like “The Breakup” are about love coming and going and growing up in different places. “With ‘The Breakup,’ a lot of the songs when we were starting out were me trying to recover going through a breakup and stuff. But, it’s also a lot of the stories, a lot of the situations with those songs, they’re based around the events of, between Fort McMurray, the transition of winter to spring, you know, that breakup of the ice and kind of putting the two together. I was going through stuff at the time, always a bunch of stuff.
“In the song, ‘Tornado ’87,’ I was about nine at the time that happened. I was actually on the first time I had taken a trip away from my family: they were in Edmonton, I was up in Fort McMurray staying with my grandparents and it was just sort of a traumatic moment for the city, for me, for everybody. And it was something that you need to draw on and sort of feel and draw on the memories of that event. I didn’t realize probably till after we recorded the song and released it how many people are even now still trying to deal with that event because even talking to people after shows and hearing stories from people, it’s definitely left a mark on people.” At the age of 15, Edenloff moved to Fort McMurray where he lived until after high school. It was through music that he was able to find ways to dealing with and interpreting his world.
“I’ve always been a fan of singer/songwriter stuff, you know, the Canadian sort of folk — it would be impossible not be a fan of guys like Leonard Cohen or Gordon Downie. That’s the type of music I’ve always been drawn to, that type of music, personal, intimate music. It doesn’t need everything to be crazy, it’s really partly confessional, partly storytelling. I think, at the end of the day, as loud and crazy as our shows may be our or studio stuff, all the songs really, at the heart of them, have that sort of emotional core, just played on an acoustic guitar around a campfire. I think all of our songs really have that sort of aspect.
“I think I’d describe our music as sort of amped up indie rock and folk, that sort of thing. It’s emotional music. Music, for me, is just so much a personal thing: the fact that we’re playing these songs that mean a lot to me and they come from very personal events or memories, the fact that our songs are touching audience members far and wide, further than I’d ever had expected, is incredibly flattering.
“I’ve always treated music in a very therapeutic sort of way. If we weren’t playing shows for people and no one knew who we were, I’d still believe I’d be hunched over a guitar or piano in my apartment or in my house because, at the end of the day, music is really for you.”
Catch the Rural Alberta Advantage as part of a pre-Sled Island event at Luke’s Drug Mart on June 2.
By Kayden DesmondAB, Alberta