When country singer Gord Bamford invited fan on stage at one of his concerts over a decade ago, it would mark the beginning of a new musical era for Darren Gusnowsky and Rob Shapiro.
“He invited a girl on stage who happened to be a singer,” Shapiro told the News Bulletin. “That happened to be Stacie Roper.”
At the time, Gusnowsky and Shapiro were both members of Bamford’s band and also had their own band.
“Stacie Roper turned out to be a singer from her own band,” he said.
Following the concert, Roper invited Gusnowsky and Shapiro to play in her band for a couple of shows.
“She hired us for a couple of shows,” Shapiro said. “We figured that it sounded better with her singing, so we tried to convince her to join on our band.”
Roper agreed to join the band and in 2002 the Edmonton-based country band Hey Romeo was born.
“We’ve always just been a hard-working band that has toured all the time,” said Shapiro, the band’s keyboardist.
On Saturday (Nov. 1) Hey Romeo will performing at the Port Theatre with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
“Hey Romeo has never played Nanaimo and it has been a while since I have been there,” Shapiro said. “So we are really looking forward to it actually.”
The trio’s performance in the Harbour City is the second last stop on their tour with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which will also see them perform in Duncan tonight.
“To be on this tour with a special band like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is … a lot of fun.”
Last month, Hey Romeo opened for Alan Jackson in Victoria and is looking forward to returning to the Island.
“Any time on the Island, as far as I am concerned, is a good time,” Shapiro said. “Because we’re Alberta boys and gal. It’s a beautiful area and it is rare that we get there so it is going to be kind of special because we’re not used to all that water. It’s a real special thing for us to get out there.”
Hey Romeo are fresh off the release their newest album, I Got This, a six-song EP.
“These are the six of the best,” Shapiro said about the record. “We decided that we wanted to do an EP this year and one next year to always have something new for our fans.”
I Got This, which is the band’s fourth album, was written and recorded in Alberta, Tennessee and Alabama. It features a number of respected songwriters including Deric Ruttan, Marty Dodson, Clay Mills and Brad Crisler, who has worked with the likes of Doc Walker, Tim McGraw, Sara Haze, High Valley, Brett Eldredge and Brooks and Dunn.
“It was just a great experience,” Shapiro said about creating I Got This. “We met some great people and we got a chance to write with some great writers.”
The record includes tracks titled Hello Patio and Do it in the Sun, which both have summertime party feel to them.
“We wrote a lot of it [I Got This] when we were trying to get out of the bitter Edmonton winter,” Shapiro explained. “It was something like -40 C when we left Edmonton and when we showed up in Nashville it was like get rid of your jacket.”
In 2011, Hey Romeo won a Canadian Country Music Association award for Group of the Year, which they would win again in 2012.
“That was quite special. For the industry to say, ‘Hey you’re doing the right things, just keep working’ was a real nice accolade to get from your peers,” Shapiro said. “Those CCMA’s are hard to get.”
Hey Romeo perform at the Port Theatre on Saturday (Nov. 1) at 7:30 p.m. For more information on Hey Romeo, please visit www.heyromeo.com.