Why Nickelback at Boots and Hearts in 2023 makes sense


Next summer Nickelback is headlining the biggest country music festival in Canada, Boots and Hearts (Aug. 10-13), at the sprawling Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, promoting their 10th album and first in five years, Get Rollin’. The other headliners are Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, and Tim Hicks.

Some people understand the booking — namely country music fans. Others took to social media, perplexed seeing a rock act on a country bill. I guess they haven’t paid attention to the increasingly genre-diverse lineups at the Ottawa Bluesfest and Montreal International Jazz Festival. Even within the genre, the famed Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, California, loads its stages with country acts from mainstream to bluegrass and even has a dedicated alternative stage.

One person took the digital ad announcing the Nickelback show and comically photoshopped cowboy hats on singer-guitarist Chad Kroeger; his brother, bassist Mike Kroeger; guitarist Ryan Peake and drummer Daniel Adair — although we’re sure they’ve got their own or will by the time August 11th rolls around. All but Adair grew up in country music territory — Alberta, in a tiny town of about 2400 people called Hanna.

Last year, Kroeger attended Boots and Hearts as a fan, supporting his management team’s new artists that were on the bill, such as Nate Smith and After Midtown, but also took in Florida Georgia Line’s headlining set. But it’s not much of a stretch to believe that Nickelback shares a significant part of their 50-million-albums-sold audience with country artists.

Even how they dress, typically just jeans and tees could translate to a country image — just throw on the cowboy hats and boots.  Simple. And we have a feeling they’ll do that for fun at Boots and Hearts. In fact, in 2018, Chad Kroeger hopped onstage with Joe Nichols at Rockin River in Merritt, BC — home to the Canadian Country  Music Hall of Fame — to sing “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and donned a cowboy hat and boots to do it.

Then there’s the music. It’s not all pounding industrial-strength aggression like “Burn It To The Ground,” “The Betrayal (Act III),” “Animals,” and the new “San Quentin.” But 2005’s “Rock Star”? — a country-rocker. 2008’s “This Afternoon”? — country-ish.  “Photograph”? — country ballad.“ Kroeger’s voice has that twang in those songs too. Isn’t it all about marketing?

And Kroeger, a master songwriter who collaborates with artists in all kinds of genres, signed country star Dallas Smith when he was a young rocker fronting Default. When he made his country music debut in 2012, Kroeger had a co-write on “The Song That’s In My Head.” It’s all about how you dress them up.  Smith, not surprisingly, is on the Boots and Hearts bill too, on Keith Urban’s day. 

In 2019, Chad Kroeger told this music journalist, “I write country songs constantly, all the time. Wrote one recently. Just amazing songs. Wrote one with Tyler [Lewis] called ‘Fixer Upper,’ and it’s just so good,” he said of the Top 3 finalist on the 2006 season of Canadian Idol.

So the point is, it’s not so weird to see Nickelback on a country bill.  Even their heavier songs can easily be countrified, and they’ll probably have a fun time doing it.