From small town beginnings to the national stage, Buck Twenty is a force to be reckoned with.
Known for their high energy and infectiously positive attitude, they’ve played everything from intimate showcases to major festivals, telethons to Canadian Country Music Week, all while garnering a legion of devoted fans.
And trust us when we say, to know them is to love them.
While the Canadian music scene has definitely taken an unexpected turn in 2020, bandmates Mike Ure and Aidan Johnson-Bujold are adapting to the times the only way they know how — by making sweet music just the same.
Their latest single, All I Can Do, dropped back in February, racking up close to 30,000 streams on Spotify, so far.
Earlier this month, we sat down with Mike and Aiden (via Zoom, of course) to talk about everything from their first meeting, to songwriting in a pandemic, and more — after dishing on Grey’s Anatomy reruns and comparing Star Wars memorabilia, of course.
Many smiles and much laughter ensued.
Hey guys! Thanks so much for taking time to chat today. I’ve been lucky enough to catch you guys on stage many times over the years, but we’ve never really gotten to talk about what makes you guys tick. So, let’s start with something easy. How did you meet?
Aiden: Oh, Mike loves to tell this one. So, he’ll start it and then I’ll probably take over.
Mike: Aiden and I actually, without even really knowing, lived 15 minutes apart from one another — and we used to each do some work with a friend of ours in his home studio. I would do some recording and Aiden would come in and actually play guitar on some of the tracks, but we had never actually met.
So, there was this competition to get to open for (American musician) Tyler Ward at a sold-out show in Toronto at The Sound Academy. It was a voting-based thing and Aiden entered it with his brothers and I entered just by myself. As the competition went on, Aiden lost . .
Aiden: OK wait, wait . . .
Mike: Hey, this is my time, I have the talking stick . . . you’ll get your turn. Anyway, I had asked Aiden that if I continued on and he didn’t — and since he knew all the tracks — if he would want to play guitar with me. So, when I won, I stayed true to my word and he came out that was the first show we ever played together.
Aiden: I just don’t want people to think you’re a jerk, because you asked me before the results were even in — and I thought, there’s no way this guy is going to win. But he did. Go figure.
From then on you just knew you were both destined to be together forever.
Aiden: Pretty much.
Mike: We were back in the hotel room after that show and I remember having a discussion of, are we a band now? What do we call ourselves? I remember having that actual conversation. After that, we started booking shows. Honestly, it all just kind of happened.
Aiden: Mike is exactly right. It just kind of became, and that was it.
Coming up with a band name has to be tricky, how did you come up with Buck Twenty?
Aiden: We had a meeting in Kitchener with someone who wanted to be our manager at the time, and we were going by The Mike Ure Band, and the gentleman had suggested we change our name. It had gone from Mike playing on stage with background musicians to something a lot more equal, so we thought we would play on that because it wasn’t just about one person anymore. On our way home from Kitchener we started to contemplate names and Mike says hey what about Buck Twenty? I said, no, that was stupid.
Mike: He really did. So, 40 terrible names later and three months go by . . .
Aiden: And we needed to pick something, so I said, hey, what about Buck Twenty? Mike says he came up with that already, and I said no, I don’t think so. The name actually came from the fact we were going 120 km/h down the highway at the time.
Mike: Should we really tell people we were speeding?
Aiden: Why not? We’re rebels!
What other names did you come up with? What could Buck Twenty have been?
Mike: We could’ve been New Acres, which I thought sounded like a retirement home.
Aiden: We were going to be County Lines, that was another one.
Mike: Falling for August. We came up with that one when we were at the cabin and had a couple drinks and just tried to come up with names. Then we woke up the next morning, looked at the paper with the name on it and hated it.
Aiden: I think in the end, Buck Twenty was just meant to be.
Can you tell us how you each got into the music scene?
Aiden: I come from a family of six. I have three brothers and my Mom and Dad both sing. My dad played in a country band when he was growing up in a small town and my mom was a musical theatre graduate, as well. Plus, we grew up in the church, which is how I think a lot of people start and our family of six was in choir for a long time. I remember just sitting at the kitchen table and my dad teaching me harmonies, something that doesn’t always come so naturally to a lot of people. I took lessons growing up, piano and guitar. I picked up guitar because, if I’m being honest, I wanted to impress girls at the time. It didn’t work, but you know, that was the intention. I could kind of sing, and I could play guitar and then it just fit naturally, so I went to school for music. Later on, I studied performance jazz guitar at the University of Windsor and after I graduated, I wanted to become a teacher. Music kept getting more serious after outside of school with Buck Twenty so right now I just keep pursuing my dreams.
Mike: My story is very different. Like Aiden said, he grew up in a musical family — in my family, nobody sang, and nobody played any instruments. I just really fell in love with country music at my parents’ store where I worked. I waited tables, I chopped wood, and scooped ice cream, and there was always music playing in the background. Really, that was my first dose of listening to music and I just fell in love with the lyrics and the music and I just wanted to learn play guitar. So, I picked it up in high school and I was a little bit of a late bloomer when I started playing and shortly after that I started singing. When I went to university, I went for nursing, but I was at the University of Windsor, as well. I got my Bachelor of Science in nursing, and during that time music was just starting to become serious. It was my second or third year of university when that competition happened, and that’s when Aiden and I really got together and started pursuing it. I did finish my schooling but music just kind of became No. 1. So that’s how I got into it and it was Keith Urban’s Days Go By that made me want to pick a guitar and start playing music. I owe a lot to that one song.
The interview pauses while Aiden and I compare Darth Vader’s lightsaber to Luke Skywalker’s, and Mike adds he owns a Harry Potter wand. I win the debate by producing Han Solo’s blaster.
Your first show was kind of big deal, opening for a sold-out crowd. Other than that, what’s been your favorite performance to date?
Aiden: That’s tough, but I’m going to say my favorite show, because it’s the stage that I had always wanted to play, was the Coliseum at Caesar’s Windsor opening for Justin Moore, which was a hometown show with 4,500 people. That was one of my favourite shows I’ve ever played.
Mike: That was a great show! And my favourite show was actually a local show too, when we got to play for Randy Houser at Hogs for Hospice. A lot of people came out and I think after that one, things really started to go up with engagement on our socials and stuff. It was a great crowd and it was a great time.
Aiden: You’re right, that was a really cool moment. At the end of that show in particular, I had noticed people started taking what we did more seriously and there was a lot of validation in that.
You guys really do have a pretty devoted fan base, especially in Windsor. How does it feel to have people putting together Tik Toks of your songs, and really sitting up and paying attention to what you guys have going on?
Aiden: I think the way that I see it, I think that Mike sees it the same way. I don’t like the word fan because it doesn’t feel like that. To us, we think of everybody like our friends we’ve been lucky enough to make playing music. It’s all these people that we would have never gotten the chance to interact with before and music brought us together. That’s an amazing feeling.
Mike: I agree. And even from the beginning we’ve had so much support its crazy. It really is out of this world.
How much songwriting do you guys do? And has the pandemic changed that process at all?
Mike: We’ve always done, and still do a lot of Skype writes, which is really cool — writing with your friends both locally and really from anywhere. We would take trips down to Nashville where we would go for a week or a few days here and there. We really do want to do a lot more writing and it’s something we’re getting better at each time we do it. It’s a craft, so everyone we get a chance to write with brings a different experience and just makes us stronger.
With country artists, being a part of the writing process seems to be really important, even on a personal level. Is it that way for you, as well? And if so, why?
Aiden: Writing is such a unique art form, and it goes hand in hand with being an artist, but it’s almost therapeutic as well. It’s a craft, and it takes so long to perfect. With some people it takes their entire lives. For me personally, the process has been so important, especially during the hard times of my life. When I was younger, songwriting was just about writing words that were fun and sounded nice together — but then when you get older and you’ve been through some things, you want to be able to connect with somebody with those shared experiences. That’s what’s the most important thing for me.
Mike: Aiden said it perfectly. When you’re putting something that was in your head or something you’re feeling onto paper and into a song that people relate to it — that’s the best feeling. Also, getting the chance to hear people singing along to your songs lets you know something you’ve written has had an effect. It’s really incredible music can do that.
You released All I Can Do literally days before isolation, how different was that experience? Were you able to really promote the single?
Aiden: We put out the song at the end of March, and literally the next day they told everyone to stay inside.
Mike: It’s definitely been different, we’ve been working on this for four years since we’ve had new music and then we finally put something out and the world shuts down. We can’t do the radio tours in the traditional way and we certainly can’t hit the road to play the song live and really promote. We’re definitely going to do something with All I Can Do when the time comes, but just having it out there and having people listen to it and seeing the streaming numbers grow is a win for us at the end of the day. too. When things are back to normal, we’ll be out there promoting and having a great time doing it.
So, what have you guys been doing to keep busy?
Mike: Being a nurse in a pandemic makes things pretty busy, so, I’ve been working quite a bit. Working in home care and doing music, it’s really the best of both worlds. I work at Bayshore Home Health, so shout out to all my fellow nurses!
Aiden: I do online teaching from 2 p.m. to almost nine o’clock every day. So that’s what I’ve been doing and any spare time I get I go fishing, but there’s not a lot of spare time to be honest.
Mike: Aiden been working on our demos too — all the songs we’ve written as we’re going through them and he’s demoing them up and we have a nice catalogue going.
What are you most looking forward to doing once things get back to normal, besides playing shows of course, since we all know that’s at the top of both of your lists, obviously.
Aiden: Oh, play a show or go to a show would be at the top, you’re so right. I think I would love to play a show and then I would love to be able to go to a concert and see a show — I don’t even know if I could come up with something more important than that.
Mike: Definitely career-wise, I want to go out and play a show. The other thing sounds so simple, but just to go to a restaurant and actually sit down for dinner instead of having it to go or even on a patio. My girlfriend and I love going out to eat and that would just be a bit of normalcy for us. We can’t wait.