Louis Bigras, the lead singer of the Hillside Outlaws, a country band from Penticton B.C., has always loved to perform. But it wasn’t until he won a karaoke contest that he realized he wanted to spend the rest of his life making music.
The grand prize was $1,000, says Bigras, “so there was some pretty stiff competition.”
Winning the competition made him consider that there might be something to it. If people liked his singing, maybe he should explore it a little. This ultimately led Bigras to take up song writing. “I love singing covers, but if you’re always singing covers, it’s always somebody else’s song. I just wanted to sing something that I wrote, that really connected with me, so I could make other people feel as connected to my music as I feel to music that I listen to.”
In 2016, he wrote his first song and started to pursue a career as a solo musician. Eventually he met Carlos Jiménez and Erik Galata through mutual friends in June 2016. They were also musicians and they decided to try playing together to see how it sounded. They became the Hillside Outlaws, adding lead guitarist Langley Jackson to the group later that summer and completing the band.
The band released its debut EP, Country Jukebox, last week (July 30), and are now following it up with a few shows around B.C., including the ones in Quesnel this Friday and Saturday.
They participated in the Breakthrough Project 2018 in Vancouver, placing as a finalist in fifth place in the battle of the bands. “Unfortunately we didn’t win, but we came away with a lot of good feedback and a lot of good pointers,” says Bigras.
The group has had their new single “Hair of the Dog” played on 14 radio stations across Canada, as well as on a satellite radio station. Bigras says the song is about what it’s like to go up on stage as an artist: “[The crowd] thinks they’re there to see us, but really, we’re there to see them. It’s kind of the energy that we get. It helps us live, essentially.”
The group decided to come to Quesnel after hearing that it has a thriving music scene and a market for country music. “We wanted to come tap into that market and hopefully get some new fans,” says Bigras. He adds that he likes small northern towns, being from a small northern town in Ontario. “So it’s kind of a place where I feel at home. It’s one of those towns that reminds me of where I grew up.”
The Hillside Outlaws are performing at the Cariboo Hotel, 254 Front Street, on Aug. 10-11 at 9:30 p.m.