Four years ago, Lake Babine Nation performer Joel West would not have imagined that he would be blowing away a large crowd in Merritt with his talent and strong stage presence.
But that’s exactly what happened this year at the Merritt Rockin’ River Fest 2016.
West and other seven performers from across the province who won regional playoffs were competing for a chance to open for Sam Hunt at the Merritt Rockin’ River Fest 2016, the night before the festival began.
Although West wasn’t the winner of that singing competition, he was in the top five.
The contestants were later given another chance at the big stage by competing at Spirit Square in Merritt. West won that competition, earning the chance to perform a song at this year’s festival, backed by country band Appaloosa.
“I was a big ball of energy and I had fun,” he described his performance. “I got everybody screaming, and all the other artists said I was a natural on stage.”
West was later invited to sing at next years’ Merritt Rockin’ River Fest. Famed country superstar Toby Keith will also be performing in 2017.
West admitted he wasn’t very confident going into the singing contest.
“I didn’t think anybody was going to like me,” he said humbly. “I just played as hard as I could.”
His courage and positive attitude proved to be powerful, however.
“I just though, ‘I’m here, I’m gonna do it, this is my passion and I can see myself on the main stage.'”
West said Merritt was the largest crowd he had ever played for.
“When I went down there, it was huge,” he said. “I knew it was going to be big, but I didn’t know it was going to be that big.”
West, who’s been sober for over three years now, said his struggles have made him a better performer.
“I put all my pain and heartbreaks into music, and it works,” he said.
Lake Babine Nation (LBN) Chief Wilf Adam said the nation could not be more proud of West.
“He is a meaningful ambassador to our LBN family and to the rest of the world in terms of personal development,” said Chief Adam. “We continue to encourage young people like Joel to reach for the stars and beyond.”
“He never gives
When asked what singing means to him, West said it’s always been a dream, since he was a kid.
He also said he has a message for people who have a dream but are going through struggles in life.
“If you believe in yourself and you know that you’re worth it, don’t be afraid, just keep pushing,” he said. “No matter how bad it is, know that you’re going to make it.”
“Next year is going to be a great show,” he added. “So clear up your schedule.”