Those who like their country music fired up with loads of expression and shades of other genres will find the right mix with Canadian singer Tebey Ottoh.
Gearing up for the release of his second disc Two this month, he plays March 8 at the International Beer Haus.
There is plenty to relish on the new disc, from the engaging, catchy sensibilities of opening cut Wake Me Up to the storytelling verve of Till It’s Gone which deftly manages to be a tad wistful and yet upbeat.
Tebey sounds terrific from song to song, like he’s pouring an unbridled expression and enthusiasm into every note. Let It Down also floats along easily – an attractive, romantic ballad that again shows Tebey’s vocal ability in a slightly different light.
Similarly, I’d Be Lying taps into his more vulnerable side lyrically and vocally to remarkable effect. The country tones are there, but the song resonates mostly as compelling acoustic pop tune.
Co-written by Tommy Lee James and Laura Veltz, the aforementioned Till It’s Gone, the first single from Two, spent three weeks in the Top 10 and became his second consecutive radio hit.
It’s fair to say the 29-year-old, Nashville-based singer/songwriter has told some fine stories over his career – in a variety of genres and with artists including country superstars Big and Rich, Canadian pop star Shawn Desman and One Direction.
But he’s not afraid to essentially categorize himself in the country vein.
“I’m definitely a country singer, but I grew up listening to everything and I like to write in all genres, so I wanted to push the envelope some and make a record that fell on the far contemporary side of country.”
While his amped talents as a multi-genre songwriter make him well-suited to do so, more than anything, his desire to is rooted in a love of performance he’s nurtured since first taking the stage at the Burlington, Ontario, church he attended with his family as a child.
Soon enough, he won the Canadian Open Country Singing Contest and by 15, Tebey had signed a development deal with MCA Records and moved to Nashville with his father to hone his craft as a singer and songwriter.
Less than a year later, he landed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music and found himself working on what was intended to be his debut record with producer Bob Rock.
On the strength of his 2002 single We Shook Hands (Man to Man), his potential was recognized with a Canadian Radio Music Award nomination for Best New Male Country Artist, a CMT special documenting his development as an artist and a segment on CBC Radio’s ‘Sounds Like Canada’.
But while that first single broke the Top 40 US Billboard Country Singles Chart and peaked at number three in Canada, it just wasn’t enough for RCA.
So he moved back to Toronto and did whatever he could to stay in business. He soon found success with number one songs like Run, recorded by 2006 Canadian Idol runner up, Rex Goudie and Let’s Go, co-written with Shawn Desman, but it was a call from one of his former Nashville-based co-writers that enabled Tebey, once again, to extend his reach internationally.
“It literally came out of nowhere. John Rich of Big & Rich just called me up and said, ‘Hey man, we just cut a song you and I wrote’.”
The track, entitled Radio, set the stage for both a co-publishing deal with Ole Media Management and Tebey’s return to Nashville in 2007.
Since, his songs have been recorded by Canadian country artists Emerson Drive, Doc Walker, Jason Blaine, Chad Brownlee and Aaron Pritchett among others.
He has also seen his songs recorded outside the country genre, by pop acts like One Direction, FLO RIDA, Shawn Desman and The Veronicas. Recently, he scored his first number one single in the UK, All About Tonight, which was performed by Pixie Lott, and garnered a nomination at the 2012 BRIT Awards for Single of the Year.
Meanwhile, there’s no doubt the future is bright with a CD as consistently strong as Two. Other gems include Take Me Back, kind of a one-past pop/rock tune melded with a touch of country and a lyric that reflects what we can all relate to – looking back to happy, simpler times in life. The title track falls back into contemporary country territory, but Tebey’s strong vocals keep it from sinking into that overly common and shiny country/pop treacle.
The simply structured Music Man rounds out the CD on a comparatively personal ballad. And at the end of the day, he said he enjoys balancing the role of singer and songwriter.
“I see no reason why I can’t be fully committed to both. I’m in this for the long haul.”