Since he made it as a country music star, George Canyon’s been fulfilling dreams of his that were put on the shelf back when he was a child, dreams that have nothing to do with country music, and dreams he never even knew he had.
“I’ve lived an incredible life. I’ve lived so many lives within these 41 years, it scares me,” Canyon says. “I’m blessed every day. It’s unbelievable.”
Canyon was a 14-year-old air cadet in Nova Scotia when he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, forcing him to forgo his ambition to be a pilot in the Canadian Air Force.
A longtime singer/songwriter, he abandoned his musical career, too, working as a bylaw officer to support his family.
In 2004, Canyon auditioned for “Nashville Star” — a TV singing competition, similar to “American Idol” — and his past came back to surprise him.
“That was phenomenal, and a life-changer, for sure,” he says of the show.
To date, Canyon has sold more than 250,000 albums, two of them reaching gold status and earning him multiple JUNOs, East Coast Music Awards and Canadian Country Music Awards.
In 2009, after passing a series of medical tests, he was able to get his pilot’s licence, and was appointed honorary colonel for the Canadian Air Force at 14 Wing Greenwood in Nova Scotia.
Last December, National Defence Minister Peter McKay appointed Canyon the first-ever Colonel Commandant of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, and today, Canyon flies his own light aircraft.
He’s also become an accomplished actor, having appeared in shows such as “Heartland” and “Trailer Park Boys.” He recently wrapped up filming “The Christmas Miracle,” a TV movie in which he stars and provides the title song on the soundtrack, which will be released as a Christmas single at the end of the year.
While he usually plays cowboys, he’s not typecast, he insists.
“I am a cowboy, though — we live on a ranch with horses and cattle and all that,” he says. “I’m actually hoping to get cast in a horror movie. My wife and kids and I get a kick out of watching horror movies, and I’m hoping to play a cop in this one. I was also actually in a big Warner Brothers blockbuster that will come out in 2013, but I’m not allowed to say yet what it is. But I play an air force pilot, so it’s kind of cool to come full circle.”
“Better Be Home Soon” is Canyon’s latest record, the title track a cover of a Crowded House song he’s been doing since the 1980s.
“I never thought I’d ever do it as a single,” he says. “My piano player said, ‘You should look at doing that one,’ and we tried it and it didn’t work that well. Richard (Marx, who co-wrote songs on the album) said, ‘Let’s do this to it,’ and it came alive.”
The enhanced digital version of the record includes songs written and co-written by the likes of Johnny Reid and Kenny Rogers, too. “When Love Is All You’ve Got” is a song written by Marx and Rogers which Canyon and Marx sing as a duet, on the suggestion of Canyon’s wife, Jennifer.
Canyon says he’s looking at doing “Classics Volume II,” a second tribute to the traditional country artists and songs that inspired him as a child and a follow-up to his 2007 release “Classics,” and is planning on making it an entire album of duets.
A religious man, he’s also working on a Christian music album which he hopes to release by the fall.
“I hope and I pray that my fan base sees I wear my heart on my sleeve and they know my faith and my love of the Lord and my family, so I think the two worlds just meet perfectly,” Canyon says.
Canyon, who has family in Deer Lake and says he spent a lot of time in Newfoundland growing up, will perform at Mile One Centre this Saturday night, on a double bill with Terri Clark. Tickets range between $57.95 and $72.95 and are available online at mileonecentre.com.
“Craziness, that’s the usual thing,” Canyon says of what fans can expect from his St. John’s show. “We’re a bunch of kids up there, so we go a little nuts and we have a lot of fun. It’s a harder thing to do, bringing an entire band across to Newfoundland, so when we get there, we let it fly, that’s for sure.”
This article has been changed to fix a typographical error.