Stuart and Jenna Walker are University of Guelph students by day and country musicians by night.
The brother and sister duo are in the midst of launching their careers in the country music industry while balancing their full-time studies.
“This year is going to be the craziest year,” says Jenna, who is in her fourth year of marketing management. “But right now I am just so excited to start playing shows and getting our name out there.”
The sibling’s band, The Reklaws, jumped into the country music spotlight this past summer when they won the emerging artist competition at the Boots And Hearts Canadian Country Music Festival. The band performed at the Bowmanville festival in front of a crowd of 40,000 people and a panel of judges.
Winning the top title is a huge boost to Jenna and Stuart’s aspiring music careers, because it comes with a deal to release a single under the record label Big Machine – the biggest record label in country music – and a guarantee that the song goes platinum.
This recent success came on the heels of the pair being selected as one of six musical acts from across the country to participate in the inaugural Canadian Country Music Association Discovery Program. The initiative provides education, resources and support to Canadian country artists, including the opportunity to perform at the Country Music Week Discovery Showcase in Edmonton.
“All of this has caught us by surprise, but it’s something we have wanted our whole lives,” says Stuart who is in his second year of his bachelor of science degree. “We have to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.”
Stuart, who sings back-up vocals and plays banjo, and Jenna, who sings lead vocals, have been performing since they were eight and 10, respectively. They would entertain the crowds who visited their family-run theme farm in Cambridge, Ont.
The brother and sister, along with their parents and three siblings, still live on the farm called Yee Haw Adventure Farm, where visitors can run though corn mazes, go on hay-wagon rides and watch pig races. After each pig race, Jenna and Stuart would perform “Jackson” by Johnny Cash.
Their first performance outside of the farm came a couple years later at a cafe in Sauble Beach, near the family’s summer cottage.
“It was the most nerve-wracking experience, but I am so glad we did it,” says Jenna. “It was great practice to get up on stage. That’s where you learn is on stage.”
From that moment on, the pair was hooked.
“All I wanted to do was be on stage and perform,” says Jenna. “I want to be the star of the show.”
Stuart shares the same craving to be in the spotlight.
“I love being in front of crowds and entertaining people,” says Stuart. “As long as everyone around me is having a good time, then I feel the night is successful.”
They both took vocal lessons and began writing songs. Once Jenna and Stuart reached high school, they formed a band and played at school assemblies and coffee houses before graduating to performing in bars.
“Our first performance at a bar is actually how we came up with our band name,” says Stuart. “The owner asked us what name he should write on the billboard, and my mom said we should call ourselves The Reklaws so we did. From there it just stuck.”
The Reklaws is the brother and sister’s last name, Walker, spelled backwards with an “s” added to the end.
After spending a couple of years writing songs and figuring out their sound, the duo eventually travelled to Nashville to work with a producer on writing and recording – the same producer who wrote Taylor Swift’s first number one song. They enjoyed the experience so much that they signed on with this producer and have since returned several times to write and record. Their most recent trip resulted in their first single “Kiss Kiss.”
With a handful of songs now recorded, the siblings are hoping to focus on touring and will likely be performing at universities and bars across southwestern Ontario.
“We thought about taking a year off from university, but we love Guelph too much,” says Jenna. “We would miss it. For now we are just going to see where the year takes us.”
To learn more about The Reklaws, visit www.thereklaws.com. To book them for a show, email firstname.lastname@example.org.