Scott Ward, The Wardens: Canadian Roots Band Profiled

Updated on November 2, 2017
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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

The Wardens (L to R): Ray Schmidt, Scott Ward, Bradley Bischoff
The Wardens (L to R): Ray Schmidt, Scott Ward, Bradley Bischoff

Scott explains that the band started in 2009 during the centennial celebrations of the Canadian National Parks warden service in Banff. He says, “At that time, Ray and myself put together some songs that I had written and we performed them. Brad had written some songs and put them together independently. After that gig, we thought we should try playing together. We realized that we had three songwriters with a good blend of harmonies. After that, Parks Canada hired us to work at the Tunnel Mountain campground a couple of nights a week over two summers. We had a ready-made crowd of 50 to100 people there. It was a way for us to learn to play live and refine our craft a bit.”

After this, he says Parks Canada cut them loose, so they could branch out and start playing more gigs. Scott continues, “We managed to get into Alberta Showcase and we got a big tour out of that. We got into B.C. showcase and got a big tour out of that through B.C. and we’ve just been building from there. We’ve attended two showcases in the U.S. so we’ve got two tours there in 2018. It’s just been gradually building over the last eight years.”

Each of the band members writes their own songs according to Scott. He says, “We bring the songs to the group and give them the thumbs up or the thumbs down. After that, we work together on the arrangements and suggesting changes to the songs. Sometimes it looks half again different by the time we’ve all had a go at it, but we collaborate that way.”

They all bring a different songwriting sensibility to the band. Scott says, “I’m more of a pure back-to-the-60’s folkie, Brad’s a little more country and I call Ray the poetic one. Brad and I sort of write the straight-ahead Ian Tyson style ballads. Ray writes stuff with a few more twists and turns.”

Scott points out that he had 35 years of warden experience, Brad had 30 and Ray is still an active warden in Glacier National Park, so their songs focus on that experience. He says, “ Protecting the land for all of those years, working with wildlife, backcountry patrols on horseback, mountain rescues and the characters we’ve met along the way all makes pretty good fodder for songs.”

The Wardens released their new album entitled Sleeping Buffalo in April of 2017. Scott talks about it and says, “We recorded it at Leeroy Stagger’s Rebeltone Ranch. We were down there for close to three weeks in three little ventures and the songs were all new except for Ya Ha Tinda Bound because it’s the 100th anniversary of the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch which is the national parks horse ranch. We re-recorded that one and did a better job than we did on our first EP. “

He continues, “We had a really good working relationship with Leeroy and got his input on how the album sounded. We hired some pretty good musicians to work with us on that. Now we’ve expanded our band to include Scott Duncan on fiddle on a part time basis. He’s a Calgary musician who also plays with John Wort Hannam. We use Scott as often as we can get him.”

One of the challenges that Scott mentions for The Wardens is that they started later in life. He says, “It’s a bit more tiring going down the road. At least halt the time, we’d end up doing our own sound. We have a really nice double Bose tower system. Ray used to work as a sound tech so he can get a really nice mix for us. It’s a lot of work by the time you drive to a gig, set up, do a soundcheck, perform for two hours and man a CD table for an hour. It makes for a pretty long day. “

Another challenge that he mentions is The Wardens increasing success in the music industry. He says, “I think we’ve done pretty well considering that none of us are 30 years old any more.”

Alberta’s roots music scene is vibrant in his view. Scott says, “I have to give a big shoutout to CKUA radio for playing our music as well as other western Canadian artists. We just did the Wide Cut Country Festival and it’s amazing the quality of musicians that were attracted there. Some of my favourites are John Wort Hannam, and Leeroy Stagger. After we worked with Leeroy, I became a friend and then a fan. I love his last couple albums. Blake Berglund and Belle Plaine are friends from Saskatchewan and I really like their music. I think I become a fan of the people we work with.”

In the future, Scott says that The Wardens plan to keep expanding their reach as a band. He explains, “It seems like these days we’re gigging once or twice a weekend, so it works out to about 50 shows a year. We’re working at our limit now so it’s kinda nice that we can just pick and choose our gigs. We pick the ones that we really want to do and that’s our plan for the future. We plan to keep enjoying it, keeping it fresh and trying to put out another album. It’s in the works now and we want to get some better quality videos out. There’s always work to do to try and get ahead.”

Taking half of the summer off is how the members of the band recharge their creative batteries. Scott says, “Brad goes to his cottage and I go to see my daughter and her kids in Victoria. We take a breathing space in the summer and our touring season usually starts in early September and runs right through until spring.”

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