When B.C. born singer-songwriter Madeline Merlo takes the stage at the Rockin’ River Music Festival at the end of the month, she’ll be crossing an item off her bucket list.
“I remember when I was 16, I wanted to go to the Merritt Mountain Music Festival — but they cancelled it that year,” she said. When a country music festival returned to the Nicola Valley under the Rockin’ River banner, Merlo set her sights on being a part of the new festival.
“I was like, ‘Okay I’m gonna play this festival one day,’” said Merlo.
The 22-year-old is not merely playing the festival — since winning a Canadian Country Music Award in 2015, and being name the BC Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year, Merlo has earned a spot on the main stage on Sunday evening.
Merlo released her debut album in April — and while she’s looking forward to playing in the Nicola Valley, Rockin’ River is just one of many performances this summer for the budding star.
She’ll also be up alongside country legends at the Calgary Stampede, as well as the Boots And Hearts festival in Ontario later this summer, giving her a chance to fine-tune her live performances, as well as learn from some of the industry veterans.
“I think that’s the best part about these festival settings, that you’re surrounded by a lot of other artists. A lot of the Canadian [artists] are my friends, so it’s exciting to see them,” she explained. “With the bigger names — I’ve been on tour with Dean Brody and Paul Brandt — I don’t sing like them, or make the same type of music as them, but the way they interact with the audience and captivate them, there is so much to learn.
“I think as a young artist and a new artist, it’s so important in those situations to be a sponge and learn as much as you can,” she added.
Though she’ll be absorbing as much as possible on July 31 when she takes to the main stage ahead of headliner Dean Brody, Merlo said she’s also aiming to stay in the moment on-stage.
“If there is a crazy, big moment with a big crowd, you just have to take it in and try not to cry,” she said with a laugh. “When you have an audience sing a song back at you, that you wrote, it’s crazy.”