Home Jason's Jukebox The Chat Room: Sammy Volkov & Dana Wylie

The Chat Room: Sammy Volkov & Dana Wylie

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There is something undeniably powerful about a great country music duet. Just think of George and Tammy, Dolly and Porter, Gram and Emmylou—two soaring voices expressing deep-rooted emotion in the most human way possible.

Edmonton singer-songwriters Sammy Volkov and Dana Wylie realized from the first moment they sang together that they shared such a connection, and they are now allowing us into their world with their first collaborative album, The Day Had to Come. Its 10 original songs, produced by Harry Gregg, present a classic country sound with modern flair, but at its heart is Sammy and Dana’s unquestionable chemistry that results in simply unforgettable performances.

This probably shouldn’t come as any surprise to fans of either Sammy or Dana. Since releasing her 2017 album The Earth That You’re Made Of—which earned her a Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for Contemporary Singer of the Year—Dana has managed to balance her other work in live theatre with more recording that led to her 2023 double album How Much Muscle, which the Edmonton Journal described as, “packed with soul.”

Meanwhile, Sammy’s 2022 debut album, Be Alright! firmly established him as an artist on the rise, hitting the #1 spot on the prestigious CKUA Top 30, and outlets such as Range Magazine and CBC Music comparing his approach and style to legends such as Roy Orbison and Charlie Rich. So, if you are someone who appreciates the pure artistry at the core of country music for the past century, The Day Had to Come is sure to be one of the best records you’ll hear this year.

Sammy and Dana took some time to tell us more about the making of The Day Had to Come, which is available today on all digital platforms and Bandcamp. They’ll perform the album in Edmonton on Thursday, June 6 at The Aviary.

Where did the idea of making The Day Had to Come originate?

Sammy: We wanted to make an album of comfort music. The idea came about during the pandemic when classic folk, country, and roots records brought us both a lot of peace. The concept of a country album just felt right; we both had songs that didn’t necessarily fit into our respective solo “sounds,” and we knew that we had to make a record that highlighted big, open vocal melodies and harmonies. Classic country duets are typically showcases for heart-wrenching lyrics with sweet vocal harmony so we strove for that kind of atmosphere in making the album.

What was the songwriting process like? Did you end up inspiring each other?

Dana: We wrote the songs independently and came together with producer Harry Gregg for one early pre-production meeting where we selected songs and discussed direction. I was, and am, honoured and inspired working with Sammy, and to sing on his wonderful songs.

Sammy: I was blown away by Dana’s writing — as always — and got a big boost to my confidence when Dana and Harry expressed confidence in most of the songs I brought to the table. I look back on that day with a lot of fondness! I find Dana inspiring as an artist who is uncompromising and a person with great integrity and openness. Getting to collaborate with her has been a life highlight for many reasons.

Did you record all the vocals live together, and if so, was there a moment when you knew your voices clicked together?

Sammy: We did a lot of live vocals. My favourite memory was when we went in together to sing “Secret Subway Conversations” around one mic stand in the same room as the band. It was our first session, and we were so happy and relaxed and sure of ourselves. Our voices absolutely clicked in that moment, I’ll never forget it. We had a shared vision for the song that just worked. I feel like that comes across on the album.

What, in your opinion, makes a great duet, and were there any specific songs you would go back to?

Dana: Classic country duets are typically showcases for emotional stories that most anyone who has been in love or has been hurt through love can connect with. We strove for that kind of vulnerability in putting the album together. I feel like we wear our hearts on our sleeves throughout the record.

Sammy: We were inspired by duets by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens. There is a great variety of sounds on the album. We were drawing on classic songs from many eras, from the Carter Family, Charlie Rich, the Everly Brothers, Dwight Yoakam, George Jones, Ray Price and many more I could mention.

Are you planning to tour in support of the album, and could you see yourself making another record like this?

Dana: We have our album release with a dream band and Kaiya Kodie opening on June 6 at the Aviary in Edmonton. We will also do a couple sets together on June 27 as part of Edmonton’s The Works festival in downtown Edmonton.

Sammy: Surely more shows will come, and it would be a great shame to never record again. This is the beginning of the Sammy & Dana era!

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