When filling in as a drummer for country artists, Rob Harvey said he listened and learned.
“I just soaked up the knowledge from how the bands were rehearsing, to how they were running tours and doing their financing,” Harvey said. One day when the time was right, he’d use those concepts to create what he called “the ultimate country band.”
Today, Harvey is the band leader for Bella Cain, a high-energy modern country band that has performed at the Wisconsin State Fair, Milwaukee’s Summerfest and countless venues throughout the Midwest, including many in Lake County. Several shows are scheduled for later this summer.
Known for its varied instrumentation, dancers, five-part harmony, and screen shows, the group performs at least 130 times annually. For half of the members, it’s their full-time job, and the group is writing original music to be released the end of this year, Harvey said.
Harvey also works as a firefighter and paramedic for the City of Waukegan.
“It can get taxing,” he admitted, but being a firefighter allows him the flexibility to get the time off to play in different states such as Texas, he said. And he’s not giving up on the music career he started when he was 5 years old and took his first drum lesson
When Harvey created Bella Cain, he had a distinct vision. “I wanted to mix youthful energetic players with large instrumentation, which means we have banjos, we have fiddles, we have piano, and big guitar sounds. But I never wanted to play with prerecorded tracks. I wanted to be genuine. If you hear a banjo, then someone is on stage playing the banjo. It gives us credibility and authenticity.”
He also wanted five-part harmony. “You can’t hide from singing. If you can’t sing, you can’t sing. Our singers have a background in gospel and choir singing at a church and in vocal ensembles,” Harvey said.
“The concept was to bring that Las Vegas style show to modern county music, and showmanship, and then throw a little mix in it like Bruno Mars or Journey or some other genres that everybody likes.”
Bella Cain has its own tour buses, plus 20,000 Facebook fans. He calls the group’s fans Bella Cain Nation.
“What has become Bella Cain’s staple, what has made us so popular is that Bella Cain starts at 100 miles an hour, and ends at 150 miles an hour,” Harvey said.
He added he’s worked to maintain a type of unpredictability to the group’s performances. “So just about the time the audience thinks they know everything about our show, we’ll pull something on them,” he said.
“We might start with a big guitar, big drum sound, then the next would be a patriotic song to all the veterans, after that, we bring out the Bella Girls, they’re great dancers with professional dance experience.
“After that maybe we come out and we really slow it down and we do a song dedicated to all the families. Then we might get crazy, we’re jumping up and down and hanging around the stage.”
The group also projects images on a video screen and uses lasers for special effects.
“We’re playing pictures of the crowd on the screen, or the words of a song so you can sing along. Our show is very interactive,” Harvey said.
Now that the group has built a fan base, it’s working on original material.
“We are in the middle of recording several songs to be released at the end of the year, songs that are relative to what is on the radio today and that relate to some of the artists we respect like Eric Church and Keith Urban,” Harvey said.
Harvey praised his musicians for “giving 100 percent at every concert,” and for providing talents and skills necessary to fulfill his vision.
Amber Dawn, for example, female vocalist and pianist, brought with her the knowledge of harmony with her background singing in church choirs. Judson Brown, a vocalist, plays fiddle, piano and harmonica and is “probably the best guitar player in the state,” Harvey said.
Fred Krubel “is another guitarist extraordinaire. He’s been playing music his entire life. He majored in music in college. Both Judson and Fred are playing and practicing and performing on average 16 hours a day. I’ve never seen anything like it. They are dedicated to their instruments and their crafts.”
Another band member, Russ Greeley, was recently nominated as fiddle player of the year in Wisconsin, Harvey said.
“When I established Bella Cain, I was not only looking for quality musicians, but I was also looking for great people who had great morals and values, people who were going to end up being some of my closest friends,” Harvey said. “And that’s what has occurred.”
Article by Sheryl Devore featured here.