James Barker describes this past year as “an absolute blur.” His James Barker Band has enjoyed the type of meteoric rise that’s not unlike a fairy tale, one that dates back to a fateful performance at the 2015 Boots and Hearts Music Festival.

After years of attending the annual country music event, Barker and his bandmates entered the Emerging Artist Showcase and won with their sunny melodies and catchy, sing-along choruses. “The moment we were announced as the winners, it was a rush of emotions like we’ve never felt,” Barker recalls. The winning prize included an opening slot for Thomas Rhett on the main stage of the festival, a single with Universal Music Canada and a trip to Nashville – all seminal events that helped create a launching pad for The James Barker Band.

The following year, the band signed to Universal, and returned to Boots and Hearts for a homecoming of sorts. Since then, they’ve released three Top 10 country singles, “Lawn Chair Lazy,” “Just Sayin’,” and “Chills.” Those songs were co-written by Nashville songwriters Gavin Slate and Travis Wood – collaborators who were, in fact, another valuable result of their festival win. As Barker explains, “I met Travis Wood when we performed together at the Emerging Artist showcase; I reached out to him after the competition to see if he’d be interested in writing, and he invited me to write with Gavin Slate. That’s really where it all began.”

Things won’t be slowing down for The James Barker Band in 2017, as they’ve just released their debut EP, Game On. Future plans? Barker says, “We’ve always prided ourselves on being busybodies, and trying to play as many shows, and meet as many fans, as possible. So we just keep counting our blessings and hope it never stops!”