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Nolan Haukness

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Bringing us to the world through song

The ground in Fort McMurray is fertile. Not in a traditional sense, of course, as it is difficult to grow much when snow covers the ground for three quarters of the year.

For songwriters, however, Fort McMurray is fertile ground with inspiration all around them.

Perhaps the band that most taps into the heart of growing up in Fort McMurray is The Rural Alberta Advantage.

Frontman Nils Edenloff grew up here and found inspiration in his surroundings as is evident in songs that mention local landmarks like the Abasand star and titling a song The Deadroads which is what locals used to call Timberlea before it became the thriving subdivision that it is today.

Now based in Toronto, Edenloff carries Fort McMurray with him and says it was his formative days here which helped him feel comfortable in the big city.

ÒWhen I first moved to Toronto from Alberta, I was intimidated by the scene. It was huge and I was wondering how I was going to stand out. I decided that I was going to dig deeper into what make me who I am and that lead to me writing a lot about growing up in Fort McMurray.Ó

It has obviously paid off as the Rural Alberta Advantage has scored Juno nominations and have played some of the largest rock festivals in North America.

Hoping to have that same kind of success, if not more, is Amy Heffernan.

While she may be a cagy veteran of the Fort McMurray scene, the pint-sized wonder with big hair and a bigger voice is still a relative newcomer to the music industry.

Three studio albums into her career, she is making massive headway after winning $200,000 in a Calgary radio station talent contest this past summer which she says will allow her to focus on her song writing and put the right people around her to take her to the next level.

As for HeffernanÕs Fort McMurray influence in her music, she relays something that I think anyone who has spent a night or two on the town here can relate to.

ÒFort McMurray is a place like no other. So I think by growing up there you get into a lot of situations that many others donÕt get to experience. IÕve also been playing in the bars up there for close to 10 years so IÕve seen a lot of stuff go down. A lot of people say after they hear some of my music that they can tell IÕm from Fort Mac, so I think subconsciously I just have a lot of situations that are stored in my brain from living there that come out once in a while when IÕm writing.Ó

Amy Heffernan holds up a mirror to a boozy night in Fort McMurray that ends in a good time and a story.  While our massive nights may pale, or at least are distinctly different than those on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, they do hear about our nights, through this blonde conduit.

In 2008 Heffernan took her talents to La La Land and has been trying to find her place in a city filled with millions of people trying to fulfill lifelong dreams.

ÒI think that no matter what city you are in, having a group of people who share in your passion and love for music, you are going to find it more supportive than competitive. Sharing ideas and working together opens so many more doors rather then trying to beat each other. I have so many extremely talented friends and itÕs really encouraged and helped me to push myself more to make myself unique.Ó

Perhaps the City of Angels has more in common with Fort McMurray than we thought.

The Fort McMurray music scene, in spite of a distinct lack of venues and rehearsal spaces for a city its size, is supportive and diverse. Like anything here in Fort McMurray, when faced with adversity, people band together and have done so in the form of Facebook groups which allow for the sharing of ideas, gigs, and opportunities.

Both Edenloff and Heffernan have taken their Fort McMurray roots with them to two of North AmericaÕs entertainment capitals and judging by their success, people want to hear them tell our story.

Hopefully this fertile ground continues to nurture more roots.

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