The rural air of Saskatchewan seems to inspire excellence. Melanie Hankewich, formerly of Fosston, is a good example. Always musical and always ready to perform, whether singing to her dog or standing up on the stage at the Fosston Hall, she has maintained that love and used it to fuel her career as a musician, singer and songwriter.
Photo: Carey Shaw
As Belle Plaine, she has achieved success across the country and outside Canada. This past summer she and her band, Jeremy Sauer and Elizabeth Curry, originally from Lipton and Wynyard, toured the Maritimes, and in the fall they travelled through Western Canada. They have played coast to coast, and as far away as California, Arizona and Australia.
Melanie started out professionally in Regina while she was working at the Globe Theatre. When her contract at the Globe ended in 2010, she decided to take her own career full-time.
“Growing up in Fosston has helped. The small-town philosophy that it is easier to be kind has paid off in many ways.”
Entrepreneurship is difficult in any field, she reflects, but enthusiasm and support help. Melanie has had support from her family, including her grandmother and brother, as well as from friends and colleagues.
It has meant a lot of travelling, however. Just this past summer, Melanie and her band toured for a month in the Maritimes to promote the new Belle Plaine CD.
“I love the Maritimes,” she said in an interview with the News. “It is so similar to the Prairies, in terms of the people. They are warm and friendly.”
They performed in a variety of venues, mainly in rural areas. Melanie says they enjoy playing in these areas since, as all three grew up in small towns, they want to bring music to the smaller areas rather than cities. They appeared at fundraisers, art gallery shows and town halls. Her favourite was the Small Halls tour they participated in, on Prince Edward Island.
“It was a lot of fun,” she recalls. They did not get much time off but they still managed to see a lot in the rural areas, with people keen to show off local beauty. They saw a lot of New Brunswick and Cape Breton Island, off the beaten track. They were made welcome in people’s homes and treated like locals and friends. They even got invited to go back, to perform in places they missed this time.
Melanie measures success in what some might call small ways. She collaborates with other artists, such as Blake Berglund and Colter Wall; she has made a living the last five years being essentially self-employed; she has had radio play on CBC and some commercial country stations. She also won the Regina Emerging Artist Award. She and the band have stayed together through babies and breakups, and are still going strong.
If one is doing what one loves, there are no small successes; they are all big. Melanie plans to tour in Europe and do more collaborations with artists, to reach out to each other’s audiences.
“I just want music to be part of what I do.”
Her new CD will be coming out in the spring, and she hopes to include Fosston on her next tour.
By Charlene Wirtz