Local boys ready for liftoff

By Sara Hanson

Before you can lose everything, you need to have everything. But, before you can have everything, you need decide what everything means to you.

Maybe everything is having a ton of money, or maybe it’s having a great group of friends. Maybe owning a house in the suburbs is everything, or maybe it’s just being alive. For musicians, however, having everything is often reduced to the simple freedom of being able to do what they love the most-create and perform great music. Unfortunately, the financial woes of a competitive music industry often create barriers that prevent artists from having just this.

The members of Hot Little Rocket have experienced their share of financial struggles over the years, but their music certainly hasn’t struggled, as they have managed to stay afloat for almost a decade as one of Calgary’s most beloved rock bands. The title of their third full-length album, How to Lose Everything, looks strangely appropriate, as the band is one step closer to owning everything after being chosen as one of X92’s Xposure contest winners. While the band was awarded a $15,000 prize, HLR frontman Andrew Wedderburn warns the prize money doesn’t mean the band has everything just yet.

“What we never really had was the idea that someone was going to come along and wave a magic money wand that would relieve us of the responsibility of having to work,” says Wedderburn. “It was kind of a surprise this year when somebody did come along and wave a magic money wand over us, but even then there is still a lot of work to do and a lot of responsibility. None of us are quitting our day jobs any time soon.”

With their magically acquired money, HLR was able to make their first music video, something Wedderburn says the band has only dreamt of doing in the past. In addition to making one of their dreams a reality, the Xposure contest has provided HLR with an outlet to introduce their music to an entirely new world of listeners-the audiences of corporate radio. Wedderburn admits that when the idea for X92 first surfaced, he was sceptical that a corporate radio station would stand by their word to support local music. However, he has been pleasantly surprised with X92’s genuine efforts to provide opportunities for Calgary’s talent to shine amongst the masses.

“Whatever audience a commercial station is going after, there are great bands that can play [that type of music] that deserve their support,” says Wedderburn. “In the past no one wanted to gamble on that. No one wanted to say ‘we could put our money into that.’ It’s great in theory, but in practice, is that going to pay any bills at the end of the day?”

In the wake of both the satellite and digital music revolutions, the sudden decision by corporate radio stations to support local talent might be seen as nothing more than a marketing tool to win over new audiences. While Wedderburn hopes the integration of local music is more than just a phase, he retains the firm belief that HLR’s continued success would not be possible without their campus-community radio roots.

“CJSW is the most supportive, quality radio station,” exclaims Wedderburn. “They do so much for local talent in this city. They’ve done so much for us over the years-we wouldn’t have made it without a station like CJSW that keeps people interested in and aware of your music. There is no other station in the country that does as good a job.”

If playing local tunes turns out to be nothing more than a trend for corporate stations, HLR can be sure their beloved CJSW will still be there for them. However, if X92’s exposure provides the band with an opportunity to finally quit their day jobs and hit the road full time, Wedderburn says he has no reason to leave Calgary for good.

“I still love Calgary and the attitudes that people have about seeing and performing live music,” says Wedderburn. “We are lucky to live here, because you go around the country to other places and you realize that we’ve always had great venues and really enthusiastic people. But because we are off the main tour drags, it’s not the case that there’s always something happening, so you’ve got to do it yourself and people have always done that.”

While these rock veterans may have everything to lose as they prepare to release their first music video and embark on a cross-Canada tour, it’s hard to see exactly how-after almost 10 years of dedication to their craft-they would lose everything just yet.

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