Travel & Culture » Atlantic Canada

Small Ponds featuring George Canyon

The country star discusses his home town of Pictou County, Nova Scotia and why he loves Canada.

HOME TOWN: Born and raised in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.

POPULATION: It’s a very rural county on the south shore of Northumberland Strait; total population about 45,000.

YEARS IN RESIDENCE: 22

WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Southern Alberta

LOCAL SCHOOL ATTENDED: West Pictou District High

CLASS OF: 1988

LOCAL JOBS YOU HELD: As a teen and in my early 20s, I worked at

Canadian Tire and at Aberdeen General Hospital; also dabbled in music

YOUR PASTIMES THERE: Fishing, hunting, dirt biking, hockey, swimming, skiing

FAVOURITE HANGOUT: The beach

BEST FRENCH FRIES: McCain’s!

FAVOURITE NATURE WALK:Along any beach

BEST DATE SPOT: Wherever my wife wants to go, I follow.

FAVOURITE SPORTS TEAM: Toronto Maple Leafs

BEST SWIMMING HOLE: Hopewell , Nova Scotia

FAVOURITE RINK: Westville Hockey Rink, where I played as a kid

NICEST ROAD FOR A HIKE/BIKE/DRIVE: Any mountain road in the Rockies

YOUR TOWN’S CLAIM TO FAME (OTHER THAN YOU): Coal mining

WHAT PART OF THIS PLACE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD BRING WITH YOU ON THE ROAD? The people

HOW DID THIS PLACE CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR LIFE? Strong musical influence in the area

LAST WORDS? Canada is the greatest country in the world. I treasure every moment I get to spend at home with my wife and children in Alberta and I am very blessed to have been born and raised in Nova Scotia.

Pictou County is a rural Nova Scotia enclave that lies opposite Prince Edward Island. It has produced such disparate luminaries as Peter MacKay, current Minister of Defence in the Harper government and Mike Smith, better known as Bubbles on the “Trailer Park Boys” TV series. In 1970, it also produced Frederick George Lays Jr., now better known as country singer George Canyon. Born in New Glasgow, he lived and worked in the county, honing his musical talents while he and his wife worked several jobs to pay the rent.

“Canada is the greatest country in the world.”

At his wife’s suggestion in 2004, at an age when others might have given up on a music career, George entered “Nashville Star,” a kind of country-music “American Idol.” He took the competition by storm. George has since had a string of hits and was acknowledged as the most played country artist on Canadian radio in 2009. Two of his albums—“Classics” and “Better Be Home Soon”—went gold in 2011. His gift is his wonderful ability to take snapshots of life’s big moments in his songs, including “My Name,” an unlikely but moving ballad sung from the point of view of a stillborn child. Meanwhile, his devotion to his family shows in much of his work: “Just Like You” and “Madi’s Song” were written for his kids.

With two Junos and several other awards on the mantel, George takes stardom seriously and is keen to set an example. He is especially proud of his work, raising awareness about juvenile diabetes (he was diagnosed at age 14 and still uses an insulin pump). His song, “I Believe in Angels” was adopted by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. And, as a former air cadet, George serves proudly as Commandant Colonel of the Royal Air Cadets and works tirelessly in support of Canadian troops. Learn more at georgecanyon.com