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Country duo from North Dumfries, Ont. make their big American debut

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A Canadian country duo from North Dumfries, Ont. played in front of a worldwide audience on Tuesday night.

Siblings Jenna and Stuart Walker, better known as The Reklaws, performed their new single on the TV show America’s Got Talent.

“It kind of fell into our laps because we just put out a song with Drake Milligan, who’s part of America’s Got Talent, and the producers reached out and asked if we wanted to audition,” explained Jenna on Wednesday. “It was terrifying because we have a career here [in Canada] and we knew it was kind of putting ourselves on the line to see if we could get judged by Simon Cowell. Which is terrifying.”

The decision to appear on the show was a no-brainer for these musicians.

“We did it because we’re yes people, and we knew this opportunity doesn’t show up everyday,” Jenna explained. “It went great, so we’re thankful for that.”

That didn’t mean the siblings weren’t nervous about the outcome.

“I felt quite cool, calm and collected going into it,” Stuart recalled. “Then we walked out on the stage and [Cowell] was the one in charge of interviewing us. As soon as he started talking, I was like: ‘I’m inside my television.’ It felt like we were inside a television show for 10 minutes.”

The Reklaws ultimately decided to perform their new single titled ‘People Don’t Talk About.”

“We were between two different songs for this competition,” Jenna explained. “This one seemed to just be the one that felt right. We lost our mom to mental health two years ago, just over two years ago, and it felt like if we had one chance to get on the stage to perform a song in front of this many people, to hit some people at home who may be dealing with the same thing, I think that’s what we wanted to do. We did it, and we knew it was kind of a risk, but we also knew that these conversations need to happen and if we could be the voice for that, then we felt honoured to do so.”

At the end of the performance, judge Howie Mandel praised their song choice.

“Your singing and writing is impeccable, and I don’t usually respond to lyrics, like I’m responding to this,” Mandel explained. “I’ve been very open, my little soapbox is mental health and the stigma attached. The thing that allows me to survive is the ability to talk about it.”

The Reklaws also got rave reviews from his fellow judges Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and Cowell.

“That was a great, great audition, seriously good. Unbelievably powerful, that song was stunning,” Cowell said.

“He was lot nicer than he has been in the past,” Jenna joked afterwards.

The Reklaws walked off stage with four enthusiastic yeses. They couldn’t say much more about their future performances on the TV show.

The pair, meanwhile, already have a pretty impressive track record here in Canada.

The Reklaws have previously won three JUNOs and eight Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) awards.

They’ve also had four #1 hits on Canadian country radio, as well as two double platinum, eight platinum and 13 gold singles. Their debut, a song called “Long Live the Night,” became the theme song for CFL Thursday Night Football in 2018-2019, and “What the Truck” featuring SACHA was the fastest-ever Canadian country song to reach platinum in the streaming era.

Radio host Chris Byrne, of Pure Country 89 in Windsor, Ont., is excited for the world to know of one of Canada’s biggest talents.

“Watching them yesterday, I was so proud,” he told CTV News. “I felt like a proud uncle as they were getting a standing ovation from the crowd.”

Music publicist Eric Alper also has high hopes for what the duo’s appearance will mean for their careers.

“There are still 350 million people in America that have not streamed or bought their records and that may change very, very quickly due to this appearance,” he said. “Everybody is looking for that one opportunity. For The Reklaws, it actually might be a traditional television talent show that does it, which is kind of really cool when you think about it.”

As for what’s next, The Reklaws already have a pretty packed calendar this year.

They’ll be playing at festivals across the country, including the Big Valley Jamboree, Sunfest Country Music Festival and Country Thunder Alberta.

“We are pretty much hitting every major market across this entire beautiful country this summer,” Stuart explained. “It’s where we thrive. It’s where The Reklaws began, with live shows.”

“We can’t wait to see everyone this summer,” Jenna added.

Fans can find tour dates on The Reklaws’ website.

“They’re just going to go through the roof,” Byrne warns. “If you want to get in on smaller ticket sales before they get to Taylor Swift ticket sale prices, then now is the time.”

The pair are also set to perform at the 2024 CCMA awards in Edmonton on Sept. 14.

They’ll air live on CTV, starting at 8 p.m. ET.

- With reporting from Leighanne Evans and Ashley Bacon

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