By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – On a North American tour with Canadian rock royalty, and headlining his own hometown along the way, is a musician’s dream turned reality – for Roy Nichol.
As the current drummer of national rock-staple April Wine, Nichol is a source of pride for many of his fellow Cornwall residents.
“Well I don’t know about hitting the big time. I tell people I’m not famous, I play with famous people,” he said. “All I have to do is play drums and sing well. Something I have done all my life. So, I never found it to be a big jump to stardom.”
After a year on the road, going city to city, hotel room to hotel room, Nichol graduated from a second and third-tier act, to the main event at the city’s largest annual summer music festival.
“I played that gig about four times, only with the opening acts though,” said Nichol.
There are no trashed hotel rooms or wild party nights in his recent ride to rock history. A father at heart and all-around skilled musician, his first drum roll took place nearly 40 years ago.
Nichol moved to Calgary and played with ’80s rock group, Steeler. He returned to Cornwall with a diploma for recording and engineering from Columbia Academy of Recording Arts.
Since ’93, Nichol had played with the SamHill Band. Other Cornwall-outfits he played with are Shotgun, the Stacey Thorn Band, Rubsalt and Spare Partz. For two years, members of SamHill formed a Journey tribute group, Raised On Radio. Nichol was then able to step out from his drum set and be the frontman/lead vocalist of the band.
SamHill performed across the U.S., Ontario and Quebec. In 2006, they were the house band on TV’s Rockstar Supernova, during Canadian performances.
Nichol also worked on several projects at Cornwall’s Dream Builder Studios, where he is head sound enginer.
The newly minted elite rocker had a real glimpse of a working musician’s career throughout his life. Now it’s in full view.
As Nichol played this year’s Lift-Off festival, his name echoed throughout the crowd. After the performance, his signed drum skins were being purchased in the merch tent.
“Well, signing autographs and getting pictures taken all the time was kind of bizarre at first,” admitted Nichol. “Personal things are what a lot of fans strive to get. It means a lot to them… I figured out.”
For Nichol, the biggest payoff is playing with the bands and musicians he grew up on.
His favourite memory on tour, is sharing the stage with bands Boston and Kansas in St. Louis at a big outdoor concert.
“I idolized these guys when I was younger. Now I am talking with them as new friends,” said Nichol.
On stage, ‘Nip’ as he called by Myles Goodwyn and the rest of April Wine, is a tight fit.
“It’s a great gig, we get along really well,” he said.