A multi-talented husband and wife duo in Longview are enjoying the spotlight after spending most of their career as backup musicians.
Since the release of Over the Moon’s debut album Moondancer last year, roots/swing duo Craig Bignell and Suzanne Levesque are now centre stage. Moondancer was released in the United Kingdom last June and in Canada last October to great reviews.
“We just recorded it here at home pretty much ourselves, so it’s pretty neat that it’s sparking a chord with people,” said Bignell. “We play with all kinds of other artists, but this is the first time we’ve done something ourselves.”
Moondancer reached the top 20 in the United Kingdom’s BBC Radio, prompting several radio interviews, Bignell said.
“We have some friends in the business over there and they wanted to build a following for us before we go touring there,” he said.
In Canada, Moondancer has been getting radio play on folk/roots and college stations across the country where it’s also hitting the charts.
On the heels of the release, the musical couple has been busy with performances scheduled across North America, including a local show for Bragg Creek Performing Arts at Redwood House in Redwood Meadows Feb. 10 at 8 p.m.
Moondancer tells listeners tales about the land and people of southern Alberta – from the intriguing story of the Frank Slide in Turtle Mountain to a silly song about riding a horse under a full moon in Old Alberta Moon.
“We live on a ranch southwest of Longview where it’s really beautiful, but savage,” Bignell said.
“The other night we let our dog out and there was a cougar outside the door waiting to eat her. I have to let her out with a shotgun.”
The title track came from Ian Tyson’s song Moondancer, after Bignell sought approval from the music legend.
With the couple’s first album behind them, they’re already working on their next one.
“We are going to write a trilogy about a war bride in England falling in love with a young soldier who happens to be a cowboy and she moves to Longview from downtown London,” he said.
Each song will describe different parts of her journey – the first about leaving her family and the ship ride on the ocean. The second will tell the story of her journey across Canada and the third about the people and wild animals in the west.
Bignell, an award-winning vocalist and multi-instrumentalist from Toronto, said he spent most of his musical career backing up people like Canadian country musicians Blake Reid and Charlie Major.
The release of Moondancer is new territory that he looks forward to moving forward on.
“We enjoying playing with other people, but it would be really nice if our duo was the main thing,” he said. “It would be nice when we get to do this more ourselves.”
Bignell met Levesque at a dinner party five years ago while in Alberta to record with actor, singer/songwriter Tom Jackson. At that time, Bignell had a recording studio in Ontario where he recorded drums, banjo and percussion for musicians.
“Everybody sat in this big room in (Jackson’s) house and passed the guitar around and sang,” he said. “I had played a lot, but never played guitar in front of anyone, let alone sing a song by myself. I was always a harmony singer.”
When it was Bignell’s turn, he was nervous and his voice shook. Levesque came to his rescue, grabbing her bass, sitting beside him and singing harmonies.
“Our voices just blended,” he said.
Coincidentally, Bignell had recorded percussion for The Travelling Mabels, the band Levesque plays bass guitar and sings harmonies for.
After hitting it off at Jackson’s party, the two began performing together and married two years later.
For Levesque, releasing their first album together is a great next step in their musical relationship.
“I love the album and what we did with it,” she said. “It’s a good partnership.”
Levesque said this is just the start for Over the Moon and looks forward to time spent on the road doing tours. They have been requested to do a tour in China for two weeks in 2019.
“When you’re with your partner it’s nice because you’re away from your house but not your partner,” she said. “The hard part of the musician lifestyle is being away from your family. When you’re going on adventure and playing at different places it’s fun. You get to experience things together.”
Levesque grew up playing music with her family and in recent years has been performing with her mom’s band The Travelling Mabels.
“Even when you take a break you fall back into it,” she said. “You sing with you family for so long it’s just in sync.”
Tickets to see Over the Moon perform at Redwood House cost $30 for adults and $28 for seniors and can be purchased at braggcreekperformingarts.com or by calling 1-888-655-9090.
To learn more about Bignell and Levesque go to www.overthemoonband.com