Here is a story that appeared in the Prairie Post in June of 2016
Story by Ryan Dahlman, image by Matthew Leibenberg
Swift Current singer and musician Glenna Switzer has a lot of friends and fans.
This is evident with the amount of area musicians and singers who contributed on the recording of her debut CD A Long Time Comin’ — 29 — and by the number of people who showed up for her CD release and dance party — a sold-out Lyric Theatre.
Switzer was honoured by the attention she received at the March 11 event.
“It was a packed house, sold out show. Just like everything else that has happened since recording the CD, I was just blown away by the support I received with a sold-out show, and not only was the show sold out, I had lots of family members there and dear friends,” explains Switzer. “I am humbled and honoured by the number of musicians (18) who came out to play, not only on my album, but also to my CD release party. Some of them came from many miles away. I am not sure what I did to deserve that, but man, I am just blown away by it all.
“I was so busy being in shock. That’s all I can say about it. I was just in shock all night. Like even members of my grad class from Central Butte High School came. They travelled a long way to support me. People who I never expected were there and people from all age groups. That’s how I describe the evening, was I was just in shock … dumbfounded.”
Switzer, true to her nature, is being modest. The success is not a fluke nor are people just being supportive because of the fact she’s popular in the community. People are being supportive because Switzer is a great person:she is also a gifted musician.
Switzer was nominated as all-star band keyboard player of the year for the 2016 Saskatchewan Country Music Association Awards while her album’s producer Mark Penner was nominated as record producer of the year.
The CD’s title A Long Time Comin’ is no cliché. Switzer worked really hard on the CD and puts it right up there with all that she has accomplished.
“Yes, this is the highlight of my career. Other highlights were putting on the 2011 SCMA awards, and winning Country Music Person of the Year,” explains Switzer. “I feel proud of the fact that I had something to do with musicians working together and putting on shows like the Southwest Tour to raise money to help other musicians. When we work together, we can achieve a lot. And comradery, anyone who has ever been part of a team, knows what a wonderful feeling that is … When I was a kid, making a record was a close to impossible dream, but as I have gotten older, things have changed. You don’t have to have a record contract any more to make a CD. People have home studios and lots of musicians are putting out independent projects. With companies like CDBaby, who look after sending it to music streaming sites for you, it’s not such a daunting thing anymore. It is still a ton of work though, to record a CD.
“Another highlight was winning 2012 Keyboard Player of the Year. All my life, I wanted to be accepted by my peers. I wanted musicians who I greatly admire, to think I am a good musician. So when I won that, I felt maybe that was the case after many years of hard work and just the fact that these musicians wanted to play on my album shows me that as well. It’s a very cool feeling … (As well) Premier Brad Wall invited my husband Blaine and I to a luncheon with Prince Edward with other folks from the community. I was very honoured to have been invited. ”
Switzer is busy. She works on the Southwest Tour and that is important to her. She says musicians young and old can gain exposure and experience from being on the tour.
Plus, Switzer is a teacher. She has 53 students who are fortunate to be taught singing and piano/keyboard.
As part of the educational journey, she takes them to the Youth Open Mic at the Lyric once a month.
“I tell my students horror stories day in and day out of the awful things that happened to me when I was learning how to play and sing in a band. And, how lucky they are to have the Lyric Youth Open Mic to go to,” explains Switzer.
When asked if she was going to do another CD, she laughed as she noted a need to recover from this one.
She says even the CD release party show took a lot of energy despite having experience with two Southwest Tours and the 2011 SCMA Awards.
“The week before the show, I hardly slept, but the reason for that was not that I was worried about the musicians, it was my performance I was worried about,” explains Switzer. “Yes, I have played in bands for years and am used to being on stage, but this was the first time ever, that I had a theatre style show where I sang nothing but my own songs.
“Those memories have been coming back to me ever since the release of the CD. As I said in my closing remarks at my show, I have dreamed all my life of making a record. So, I thought I will make my CD, achieve a lifelong dream, and maybe sell a few off the stage at gigs to help me pay for it. I kept saying over and over after the first 500 were gone in 10 days, ‘I can’t believe this.’ Not only are people buying my CD, but they like my songs. I mean, I like the songs and some of them are very personal, but people like them. That just blew me away.”
From the Prairie Post in January 2016
Long-time musician Glenna Switzer releases debut album
She is a classically-trained pianist and has been teaching music in Swift Current for 33 years. She has been playing keyboard in her own band and with many other bands for 23 years, but she was much younger when she already decided to make a record.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a child,” Switzer said. “I always wanted to make a record, but of course, they’re not called records anymore.”
After years of teaching and making music while raising a family with husband Blaine Switzer, who is a champion tie-down roper, she has finally been able to realize her dream to record an album.
“I just wasn’t able to do the album before this point in my life,” she said.
Switzer has been working on the album for more than a year and it was officially released Jan. 1 as a CD and also online through iTunes and CD Baby.
“It’s amazing how it turned out actually because I’m an old rocker and there are several songs on the album that are as traditional country as you can get,” she said. “I had 29 musicians play on my album. It was important to me to have lots of piano on it, but I’m also a huge fan of the dobro and the steel guitar. I wanted those instruments and because of that, a lot of my songs sound almost bluegrass or traditional country.”
She did not have a specific sound in mind for the album when she started to work on the project.
“It happened as we went along, as each of these 29 musicians added their gifts,” she said. “The songs became what they were meant to be.”
Switzer has met many musicians during her musical career and she wanted to use their talents on her album.
“I’ve got a lot of friends,” she laughed. “Actually I stopped there. I would have had more musicians on the album even because there’s a lot of people that I admire. There’s a lot of people who have helped a great deal in this business and me having them on the album was my way of saying thank you to them for all the things they have done for me over the years.”
The album was recorded at South Hill Studio near Herbert, which is owned by singer-songwriter Mark Penner. He played a couple of instruments and sang harmonies on a number of tracks. Switzer appreciated his patience and gentle nature while she was working on the album in the studio.
“It was a perfect place to record for me because being that this was my first album, of course I didn’t really know what I was doing, and he was very patient with that,” she said. “He never got upset with me, not once.”
She wrote all 10 tracks on the album and she has a personal connection to most of the songs.
“It’s definitely a variety because the song I wrote for my wedding is on the album and the first song I ever wrote is on my album,” she said. “Those songs are 30 years old by now, and so it is kind of experiences of mine spread over a lifetime.”
Penner suggested the song about her wedding day, “Today is the Day”, needed an accordion player. Switzer immediately knew who to ask and her mother in law, Joyce Switzer, agreed to play the accordion for this track.
She shares the songwriting credits on three different songs. She co-wrote the song The Night I Turned 30 with singer-songwriter Will Ardell.
“I gave my husband a songwriting credit on one because he helped me with a line I was stuck on,” she said. “Then my friend Debbie Busse helped me with another one. She’s not a songwriter, she’s just a very good friend of mine. I sang it to her and so I said, ‘What do you think about this?’”
It is not always easy to write a song, but she often thinks about ideas for a new song while she travels to perform with a band.
“I’m the kind of songwriter where things have to come to me,” she said. ”I spend a lot of time on the road driving through the night home from gigs and ideas will come to me — lyrics, a little song idea. It’s very difficult for me to sit down, say at the piano, and say now I’m going to write. I have to wait for it to come to me, it seems.”
She still plays with her own band Blackwater as well as with Bradford’s Corner and the Vern Michaels band, but for the past five years she has also been performing as a freelance keyboard player with many other bands.
“I’ve been really enjoying that,” she said. “When I go play with other bands it’s not about me, it’s about them. … I play what they want me to play, and when it’s done I go home.”
Glenna’s training as a classical pianist and years of experience as a musician will help her to perform on short notice.
“It allows me to go into different situations,” she said. “I get asked to play at a lot of things where you don’t get a lot of notice, like funerals, weddings. Somebody will call me to fill in in their band on the weekend and I won’t have much time to prepare, and so my education definitely has helped with that.”
It has been very rewarding to work on her first album and she will be taking a break before thinking about another one, but she already has an idea what that will be about.
“I’ve always considered myself a musician and I’m also a piano teacher, so I would very much like to make a CD of me playing the piano,” she said. “I’d put classical on it, I’d put rock and roll piano on there, a real variety. That’s what I would really like to do next.”