KAMSACK - To add to the list of fascinating things that happen in Kamsack – you never know when an impromptu concert might break out on the small town’s main street.
And that was exactly the scene on a beautiful fall afternoon when the amplified sound of old-style country gospel drifted through the streets and caught the attention of those running errands or meeting up with friends in the town’s centre.
“I woke up that day and told my wife that I had a powerful feeling that I should go to Kamsack and share some music,” said Canadian country music artist, Troy MacNaughton, of Canora.
MacNaughton grew up on a grain and cattle farm north of Norquay, surrounded by ponies and quarter horses where he and his sister, Twyla (Waldbauer) were members of the local 4-H Club. In those days, Troy’s mom was his first musical influence - always singing around the house and playing guitar. She encouraged Troy to learn to play piano at an early age, and around the age of 16, MacNaughton would eventually pick up his mother’s guitar and teach himself to play.
“Looking back, it seems like an ideal place to grow up. But in those days, I just felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. I was around 14 when I took my first drink, and I thought – ah, there’s my answer, becoming a heavy drinker in my teen years. After high school, my parents had enough of my behavior and kicked me out of the house for my own good. I decided to head to the city to put my past behind me and bury my pain.”
Taking off for Regina, MacNaughton would soon slip into the city’s bar scene. “When I left home, I couch surfed for a while. I spent a lot of time at the Longbranch country bar, listening to the band and wishing I could be up there playing with them. Within six months, I was the lead singer. It all happened so fast.”
Eventually, MacNaughton would go on tour with the band and his drinking lifestyle only intensified.
“At the age of 21, I was in such rough shape from my lifestyle that when my doctor saw me, he told me I had to go straight to the hospital. My choice at that moment was a cab or an ambulance, so I called a cab. I was afraid I was going to die and sitting in that cab, I thought to myself, God, help me…and I felt this peace come upon me. I was admitted to the ICU for next 48 hours. It was a frightening time. I thought I was young and invincible – and suddenly I was surrounded by people dying from car accidents, there was blood everywhere, and I was hooked up to all kinds of machines.”
While recovering in the hospital, MacNaughton was inspired to write a song about his brother, Shaun, who passed away when he was just two weeks old. The infant died while holding his father’s finger on the way to the hospital. The song, The Brother I Never Knew, would ultimately help bring healing to his parents.
“Not long after that, I heard a whisper repeatedly saying: Read the Bible…and so I did. I started at Genesis and I read straight through to Revelation.”
Feeling grateful for recovering from his experience, MacNaughton said he knew he had to make some serious changes in his life. Through a buddy who wrote for a publishing company, he would eventually find his way to Nashville, where he spent 12 years working alongside some of the world’s greatest country music talents.
MacNaughton was honoured to meet some of his heroes including George Jones and Charlie Pride, and he recorded songs with Hank Williams Jr.’s drummer. Many of his colleagues would comment on how MacNaughton’s music touched them deeply.
“It was a humbling experience,” recalled McNaughton. “The talent down there was amazing. But the music industry is like a revolving door - there is always someone newer or fresher coming up. The industry gets what it needs from you and then it just spits you out. It’s a lifestyle of constant pressure and I came to the point where I was just done with it all.”
After leaving Nashville, MacNaughton wasn’t sure what he would do next and depression set in.
Sing for Me
“After much prayer and reflection, I heard the Lord tell me: Sing for Me. Once I surrendered to that, the songs just came. After all of my training, these songs were just so different. I didn’t have to start with a hook, there was nothing technical about them – they were just completely spontaneous. At that point, my depression lifted, and the more I poured myself out for others, the more I was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
When MacNaughton found his way back home to Saskatchewan, he married a local girl, Crystal Heshka, from the community of Gorlitz, not far from where he grew up. The pair now resides in Canora.
“When my wife’s grandmother was 100 years old, the entire family was called to the hospital say goodbye. When we arrived at her bedside, we could actually hear the death rattle. I remembered that the Bible says: make a sacrifice of praise, even when you don’t feel like it, praise Him. So I sang some old hymns that she used to love. After a few songs, she opened her eyes. A couple of hours later, when the rest of the family showed up, she was sitting up, eating, laughing, and talking. She went on to live to 104.”
Today, MacNaughton continues to play where The Spirit leads him. This has included paid gigs like private functions, concerts, festivals and community events, but also free-of-charge performances in prisons, funerals, churches of various dominations, hospitals, First Nation reservations, and street corners – where The Kamsack Times found him.
“I don’t worry about the things I used to,” confided MacNaughton. “I wake up and I say: who can I bless today? I sincerely believe music heals. I play to honour the Lord and lift those who are down and looking for comfort. I want others to sample the power of the Holy Spirit and to taste and see that It is good. Wherever you go, scatter good seed and you will see a harvest.”
MacNaughton has produced seven CDs, featuring country gospel, acoustic tracks, and a Christmas album. His latest CD will feature a collection of old time hymns that were recorded by John Anaka at a studio in Yorkton. For more information, folks are invited to check out his website: www.troymac.ca