Sandwiched in between Wisconsin and Ontario is Quesnel.
That’s not how it is for most travellers, but The Reklaws have never followed anyone’s usual path. The Canadian country duo makes backwards turn into forwards at almost every turn.
Start with their band name. It’s the reverse spelling of their family name, Jenna and Stuart Walker. Their logo, consequently, is an inverted capital R. And when you go back to their origins as a music act, they have turned rejection into stardom.
It all started in Ontario when ttheir mom and dad operated the Yee Haw Adventure Ranch, a full-time farm and part-time tourist destination.
“We grew up with performing,” said Jenna to The Observer. “They started a farm the five kids could work at, because they didn’t want us in the house playing video games. We did pig races, haunted house, haunted hay rides, corn maze, pumpkin patch… It was pretty much every weekend in the fall. Stu and I really got our start performing between the pig races. People started saying ‘you guys should maybe do something with that.’”
A Nashville-based reality TV production company showed interest in turning the Yee Haw experience into a show. The show never came to fruition, but Stuart and Jenna had a sense of what they were capable of, and The Reklaws were born.
This was no Jonas Brothers or Jackson Five situation, though, with overbearing adults pushing kids unnaturally hard. Stuart said he and Jenna were the ones who wanted to be in the school plays and youth group bands, while his other sisters (he’s the lone boy of the bunch) “were just fighting over clothes, it seemed like,” he said, tongue in cheek.
His oldest sister became a chiropractor, the youngest two are in university, and The Reklaws are burning rubber on both sides of the border. Their first hit was Hometown Kids in 2017 and since then it has been a string of feel-good fireballs like 11 Beers, Feels Like That, Old Country Soul, Can’t Help Myself, I Do Too, and just about every song they’ve ever pushed out into the world. Unlike most artists in yesteryears, they don’t produce filler tracks. Every song is a potential hit.
They are also soaking into the fabric of the culture in other ways than just tall chart numbers. Long Live The Night (not to be confused with the Joan Jett rocker, but they share a similar spirit) became a CFL feature song, Roots became an official Canadian hockey anthem via the World Juniors tournament, their clever duet What The Truck with Sacha broke Canadian download records the week it was released.
They are a tale of two forces, and not just because they are a bro-sis duo. They work well as a stand-alone act, but they are also sensational collaborators (Brett Kissell, Dean Brody, Jake Owen, the aforementioned Sacha, Nate Haller, The James Barker Band, and more). They are master composers themselves, in whose hands nouns become verbs, rhymes need not end in the same suffix, and verbal syllables dance with the rhythm section, (they even beat Pink by a couple of years to the double-negative punch when they released Not Gonna Not long before her Never Gonna Not Dance Again track) but they also excel as co-writers (some of the famous Canadian names in their collab nest include Gordie Sampson, Donovan Woods, Brad Rempel and Todd Clark as just a sample) and have no problem plucking a great track from their many Music Row friends.
Take for example their recent video-streaming hit Middle Fingers. It’s not on the radio, but it’s going to live a long life because people just love the humour and power in its F-you vibe penned by Jenna’s good friend Emily Reid (she’s Jenna’s supportive friend in the hilarious music video).
“I remember just loving that song and saying ‘what are the chances you’d let me cut that?’ And she said yes, 100 per cent,” said Jenna. “It was just such a fun song, and I was feeling like there were no girl songs out there bringing in that energy. It doesn’t have to be a heartbroken country girl. I knew it had to come out, and the crowd is so awesome with their middle fingers when we play it, it just gets me going, so funny.”
She points out that What The Truck was also subject-risky and took the same path of video and streaming to become an indelible young classic.
On the other hand, The Reklaws also got invited to join the superstar cast of collaborators on the Serena Ryder charity version of Oh What I Wouldn’t Do to raise funds and awareness for Kids Help Phone and mental health causes. Perhaps it was because of their song People Don’t Talk About. It’s not a radio hit either, but it has the hallmarks of lasting a lifetime due to its pervasive message.
“That song was a tough one for us to decide to put out because it is about a, ahhh, a situation. With our mom. We lost her last March to mental health,” said Stuart. “It was kind of just encapsulating our feelings about it, what we imagined her feelings were. It’s funny that it’s called People Don’t Talk About because we didn’t want to put it out, because we didn’t want to talk about the issue at hand. But I’m so glad that we did because so many people have reached out. They tell us about how it helped them, how some people put it on every day.”
“I think that’s what needs to happen with conversations like that,” Jenna added. “It wasn’t just about our mom. I think people can relate to it about so many things – separations, divorce, whatever families are going through, whatever someone’s dealing with. It’s important for it to come out. I do think that song is going to have more of a life, I just don’t know what it is yet. It’s just important that it’s out.”
The Reklaws bring it all, their power and their party, their smarts and their savvy, to West Fraser Centre on Aug. 4, their only Western Canadian date for the rest of the summer.