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Taking Alberta By Storm

Susan Peterson

Published in The Sentinel Courier - Pilot Mound, MB (Tues., Oct 1, 2019)

No surprise to their family and friends, Melody and Dan Wiklund wowed the local crowd at Call-Inn’s Hotel during a quick visit home at the end of July.

* Nominated for a Red Deer Entertainment Award (2017)

* Opened for Julian Austin and Charlie Major Tailcreek Raceway (2018)

* WINNER of the Red Deer Entertainment Award for group or duo (2018)

* Performed at The Calgary Stampede - Brakemen Foundation Tent (2016-2017)

* Performed at The Westerner Days Fair & Exposition (2018)

* Performed at the 2019 Canada Winter Games (Red Deer)

Not bad for two performers who have no professional training and attribute their ability to music time at family gatherings or listening to their parents’ favorite record albums.

Melody and Dan Wiklund are taking Alberta by storm with their musical talents and show no signs of losing popularity.

Melody grew up in Pilot Mound, Dan in La Riviere and although they each were musical, it took until after high school for their paths to cross. “I hadn’t performed in public other than the school’s music club,” Melody recalls, “but I let my inhibitions down after a few drinks at a Karaoke Night at Pilot Mound Hotel and belted out a few tunes.” At the time she and Dan were in a very new relationship, but he didn’t hear her that night. Acting on an enthusiastic tip from Mark Cesmystruk that he should listen to her sing - maybe put her in the band - Dan pulled out his guitar and said to her, “Okay, let’s hear it.”

He was stunned by her smokey, raspy, beautiful voice. “I fell in love just a little more during that moment,” he remembers. “And yeah, we let her into the band.”

Melody’s Music Club teacher, Rosemary Collins, recalls her as a “sprite of a beautiful girl who didn’t mind being in the front row during performances. Her character and that sparkle in her eye let her confidently stay in front. She loved to sing and would rather stay inside practising by the piano instead of going out for recess.”

“Her voice always stood out in Music Club,” Mark Holland said proudly of his daughter.

As she grew up, Melody sang along to the likes of The Supremes, Tina Turner, Cher, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Anything her parents put on the turntable, she imitated, including blues and soul artists like John Lee Hooker - great artists to

train a developing voice.

Dan was immersed in music from birth. His grandfather, Albert Wiklund, played the

mouth organ and squeeze box. His maternal grandmother, Jean Stephens was an accomplished pianist who taught area students, although surprisingly, Dan was not

one of them. “There was lots of piano time with Grannie learning simple songs and duets,” Dan’s mother Gloria recalled.

“He did take piano lessons for about 18 months, but he learned by ear rather than notes, and it was a waste of time and money to continue.” Dan’s dad Les always played in a band and Sundays were practice/ family days. “Practice for the band and fun for the families who got together,” according to Gloria.

When he was 12, Les, taught Dan three chords on the guitar and told him he could play any country music song with them. Dan disappeared into his bedroom for a few days, emerging with chords he had put together himself. “Most of Dan’s teen years were spent in his bedroom practicing and perfecting his chord progressions, tempo and, very quickly,

his song writing,” Gloria said. “We may have not seen much of him but we could always hear where he was.”

Dan never left home without his guitar and he continued writing lyrics. A collaboration with a classmate at their high school graduation left not a dry eye in the house. Dan remained near the La Riviere area for a few years after graduating. He and Brad Scharf

played together and made La Riviere’s last Jamboree memorable for all in attendance. “During the break the two of them rushed home and learned a song that was popular

at that time,” Gloria recalled. “Back they came, kicked off their shoes, sat on the edge of the stage and brought the house down with their newly learned song.”

It was about this time that Melody came on the scene. “It didn’t take them long to start collaborating on material,” Gloria said. “The first song they entered on a radio station contest was recorded in Kim’s General Store [known for its great acoustics] after closing

hours. This was pretty much the first time we heard Melody sing and we were all absolutely astounded.”

The couple moved to Red Deer in 2001 and were married two years later. Even though Dan was passionate about music, he trained in heavy duty mechanics. Melody took work at a print shop in Red Deer where she continues to work full time. (It’s her designs found on the memorabilia sold at their performances.)

They put bands together and performed songs they wrote, but after a time they tired of

replacing band members and decided to strike out on their own. That was 2017. It was a bit scary, but the performances they’ve given, the venues they’ve played in and the awards they’ve been nominated for / won are proof that it was the right step.

They recently released their own album - Love Aches - featuring a song written about Melody’s dad Mark, called "Deer Hunter." It was recorded in their home as, not surprisingly, Dan’s talents have expanded into production.

They enjoy charity work as well. Several weeks ago they played in a Jesse Roads fundraiser for The Mustard Seed School Lunch Program in Red Deer, which ensures

youth experiencing poverty receive a healthy and nutritious lunch throughout the school year. The program makes and delivers approximately 350 meals daily to low income

students. Close to their heart is the "Guitarz for Kidz" program in Red Deer, aimed to put used instruments into the hands of local youth in an effort to change teenage focus

from drugs to music. Red Deer also hears Dan & Melody on a daily basis without realizing it. Radio Jingles

for Leah’s Bar & Grill, Nerds 2U, Express Plumbing & Heating, Maple Tree Bakery and Copies Now (where Melody works) were written and performed by the couple as well.

“We get more airplay than any other artists in Red Deer,” Dan chuckled.

With all of that - award nominations, writing their own lyrics, producing their own albums - you might wonder what’s next for this singing duo. Realistically, they aren’t looking for fame. “I like being able to shop for groceries without being recognized,” Dan said.

“We’re on our own musical path and we find it soul fulfilling. If people respond to us that’s a victory.” But they would like to sustain a lifestyle with income from their music so they also focus on improvement by attending music seminars, most recently in Texas, where

they played in front of professional singers to be critiqued. Next on that agenda is October’s MONDO Festival in New York City, to which they not only were invited, but

were also asked to perform in the showcase.

It’s been a whirlwind of busyness for the couple over the past few years, but they are living proof that natural talent is powerful - if you work it.

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