When Barney Bentall was a teenager he knew he wanted to be a musician, even if it went against his family’s expectations.
“Somehow, somewhere deep down I knew that’s not where I wanted to go,” Bentall, now 58, said.
Bentall was born into one of the province’s best-known families. His grandfather, Charles, was once the head honcho of the Bentall Group and its construction company, Dominion Construction and although his father, Howard, was a senior minister at a First Baptist Church in Calgary, there was an expectation that he become an active member in the family business.
“There was a lot of pressure,” Bentall said.
However, despite the immense pressure, Bentall refused and decided live life to his own tune.
“I think it is a wonderful gift in life create something that is your own. There are lots of people who work in family businesses and it is such an honourable tradition,” Bentall said. “But for me, I knew I had to do something different.”
The decision to go against the family wishes was not an easy one for Bentall, but turned out to be a prudent and successful move. Bentall would eventually go on to become a platinum-selling and Juno Award-winning recording artist as a member of his band Bentall and The Legendary Hearts.
“I had my own path or journey to pursue and I am really glad I did that,” Bentall said.
On Wednesday (May 28), Bentall will be performing at the Port Theatre as an opener for Bachman and Turner. Bentall is looking forward to opening for Canadian music icons Randy Bachman and Fred Turner.
“I am very excited to do it. I’ve loved their music … to play with that band and open for them is a real honour,” Bentall said.
Long before Bentall enjoyed success with his band, he performed under the name Brandon Wolf.
“That was because of the family,” Bentall said about performing under the name Brandon Wolf. “Then at a certain point I went, ‘Hey I am Barney Bentall. That’s who I am. I am going to live and die by that and that’s who I am,’ but back in those days it was fairly towering specter and so I just wanted to find my way anonymously.”
While most people might assume that because Bentall came from a family of prominence and wealth that he was automatically well looked after. However, that wasn’t the case for Bentall.
“They [people] will tend to think a lot of things even though you’re doing this on your own,” Bentall said.
In 1987 Bentall almost considered walking away from music when he, along with his wife and four children went broke while living in an a basement. The situation forced Bentall to head to Toronto, where he convince a bunch of music executives at Columbia/Sony Records to sign his band.
“There was a time when I thought I had to stop if I didn’t get to another level,” Bentall recalled. “That’s when we really dug in and got signed to Columbia Records.”
Following the deal with Columbia/Sony Records, Bentall and The Legendary Hearts would go on to release five albums, with many reaching gold or platinum status, until 2000.
Shortly after leaving Sony Records in 2000, Bentall decided to take some time off from music and ended up working on his ranch in the Interior, where he soon discovered that making a living in music was far easier than as making a living as rancher.
“One of the most fundamental things I learned was that I used to think music was hard, but after ranching I thought music is pretty easy,” Bentall said about ranching. “I just felt very lucky to do it. I would never consider myself to be a naturally gifted musician or writer, but I worked at it.”
Bentall returned to the music scene in 2007 as a solo artist and is currently member of various musical collaborations.
Bentall’s son, Dustin, is also a recording artist and is currently signed to Aporia Records. Bentall said that newer bands are far more supportive of each other today, than they were when he started out.
“I think that was one fundamental difference from when we started out,” Bentall said. “It was a little bit more competitive back then because it felt like there were only so many spots out there and now it just seems like a different environment. Everybody seems to want to work together and be supportive.”
Looking back at his career, Bentall is grateful he followed his musical dreams.
“I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to make a living,” Bentall said. “I feel very lucky to be doing what I am doing.”
Barney Bentall performs with Bachman and Turner at the Port Theatre on Wednesday (May 28) at 7:30 p.m.