Classic country music has always been a staple of Trevor Panczak’s life.
As a child, the Alberta-based country music star learned to play guitar from his father, who introduced Panczak to a steady stream of iconic performers like Hank Williams Sr., Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, and Merle Haggard.
However, there was one performer who stood above them all for Panczak: Country Music Hall-of-Famer Don Williams.
“When I was a kid starting out I would put in my bio that I was aspiring to be Canada’s Gentle Giant, and I did that because of the original Gentle Giant, Don Williams,” Panczak said during a phone interview on Monday. “He’s always had a big place in my heart and I’ve always loved his music.”
Panczak’s father wrote out pages and pages of Don Williams music, which he used to teach his son to play guitar. Panczak still has four, three-inch binders fully of music, which he took on the road when he had the opportunity of a lifetime: to open for Williams himself on his 2013 Canadian tour.
Opening for Williams, who passed away in 2017, helped solidify Panczak’s appreciation for the country music icon, and led to his current tour, ‘Genius of the Gentle Giant – Tribute to Don Williams’ which stops at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Wednesday.
“I just love the simplicity of his music. It’s actually harder to play music like that than it is to sound loud and full,” Panczak explained. “I always identified with his song selections and just the ease of his voice. He just made everything sound so easy.”
Panczak’s appreciation for Williams hasn’t stopped him from writing and recording his own original music. Earlier this year he received his 18th Country Music Alberta award nomination when he was named a finalist for Roots Artist of the Year.
Panczak said he’s proud of the nominations, but he doesn’t let winning or losing affect his music.
“Nominations are great because it means the people within the industry are taking note of what I do,” he said. “Whether we get nominated or not, whether we win or not, we’re going to continue to do what we do and that’s hopefully create good music for people to listen to and enjoy as time goes on.”
Panczak’s roots play a big part in his song-writing. He was raised on a farm near McGrath, a small community south of Lethbridge, and tries to bring those memories of real people, real feelings, and real situations to his music.
After his current tour, he plans to get back in the studio to record some original music, but not before paying tribute to his father and Don Williams one more time.
Panczak will be in Nashville this January to record a collection of his favourite Don Williams songs, which backing from some of Williams’ band members he met in 2013.
The album will also provide a chance for Panczak to pay tribute to his father, who remained a fan of Williams right up until his death from cancer complications in 2003.
“He meant a lot to me as well as my dad,” Panczak said.
“The last CD that my dad was listening too just to kind of get him through the day was the ‘Don Williams Volume 3’ CD, so that’s part of why his music has an even stronger place in my heart….
“That’s why he’s so influential and why the tribute album is going to be so meaningful to me. I can pay tribute to Don Williams and my dad and have something for my two boys, Nash and Colter, to have and hopefully cherish in the years to come.”
Trevor Panczak performs at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 22 at 7:30 p.m. Panczak confirmed the show will not be affected by the CUPE 882 strike.