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SALLY COLE: P.E.I. dream come true

Summerside native Ali Walker is making her debut at the Cavendish Beach Festival this summer. She will be performing on the Sirius XM Stage on July 6 and on the Kitchen Stage on July 7
Summerside native Ali Walker is making her debut at the Cavendish Beach Festival this summer. She will be performing on the Sirius XM Stage on July 6 and on the Kitchen Stage on July 7 - Sally Cole

Summerside native Alli Walker thrilled to make her debut at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival July 6 and 7

The Cavendish Beach Music Festival (CBMF) has been on Alli Walker’s mind for the past decade.


One year she signed up to be a server in the VIP area so she could meet someone who could introduce her to Taylor Swift, who was performing that summer. Luckily, that important connection was made.


“I met someone who got me backstage to meet her. And that was a totally cool experience.”


Another year the P.E.I.-born singer-songwriter took her mother to the popular summer event where they enjoyed some of the hottest names in country music. “We were spectators but I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to come back here in a few years as a performer.”


So, this spring, when she finally got up the nerve to apply she was surprised when the festival team said yes.


“It’s long-awaited but I’m very excited,” says the Summerside native, who will make her Cavendish Beach Music Festival debut on the Sirius XM Stage on July 6 and on the Kitchen Stage on July 7. 


Performing music from her debut album, “The Basement Sessions: What I’ve Learned So Far”, her show will feature her original compositions including followup single, “Sunny Day”, which premiered last week. 


Walker calls her style of music mindful music and conscious country. 


“It’s authentic and vulnerable storytelling based on mental health issues, empowering messages, life’s hard lessons and the tough questions we ask ourselves, delivered with the roots of old and new country.”


For her Cavendish Beach Festival shows, she will be accompanied by Justin DeGraaf, bass, and Ryan Pellicciotta, guitar and vocals, and Eric Paul, drummer. 


Among those in the audience will ibe her friends and family, including her parents, Jean and Sinclair Walker, of Summerside.


Walker is one of the up-and-coming artists performing at the CBMF this year, says Jeff Squires, president, White Cape Entertainment, of the festival that runs July 5-7, featuring award-winning musicians Eric Church, Carrie Underwood and Hunter Hayes.


“Cavendish Beach Festival is an exciting event for Prince Edward Island. Any time you can take in world-class talent that we’ve been able to do year after year and showcase them on the mainstage in Cavendish and wrap all things about P.E.I. tourism around it, it’s an incredible product and an incredible showcase of our great Island.”


I became interested in Walker’s story when I heard she left the Island 10 years ago after studying as a vocal major at UPEI and performing with the Feast Dinner Theatre in Summerside. “I caught the singing bug, so I moved to Toronto to chase my dream," says Walker.


Since that time, she’s been hard at work.


A year after moving to Toronto she met music producer Eric Paul who later became her husband. “He basically took me under his wing and helped me work through the various stages of development.”


Because she hadn’t played many gigs, the couple has spent the past nine years playing all over Ontario. Then, as part of her development, she went to Nashville and Los Angeles to write songs.


“We co-wrote hundreds of songs with people and played lots of performances. Now I am finally releasing music, which is long-awaited, but I’m very excited,” says the 29-year-old. She's also enthusiastic about playing back on P.E.I. for the first time in 10 years. 


"Because I’ve only played in Ontario, my parents have never seen me. So, for them to see me play is pretty cool. And, the fact that it’s the Cavendish Beach Festival is amazing because I thought it would be a little homecoming concert someday.”

If you are going:
What: Cavendish Beach Music Festival
When and where: July 5-7, Cavendish, P.E.I.
Tickets: Go to https://www.cavendishbeachmusic.com.

Sally Cole is an entertainment writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at sally.cole@TheGuardian.pe.ca or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.

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