Oshawa home to country music scene

Photo by Jessica Stoiku

James Chiang bar owner of the country bar The Corral

For 30 years, the Corral has served as Oshawa’s watering hole for country music lovers. The country bar, located just north of Highway 401 off Simcoe St., still brings people in from different regions and cities.

“Country has always been a specific genre within music where people are very tailored to either listening to country music or not,” says Fausta Sutton, the Corral’s general manager.

When Sutton started working at the bar in 2003, it was more of an older crowd walking through the doors. But from what she’s seen over the years, country music has become more popular among university and college-aged patrons.

“We’ve always been a popular place to come. But among that age group I think so, and people seek to come here even from different regions and cities.”

Sutton believes an old stigma on country music has been altered. It has left its grassroots and evolved to fit a more pop-style mold.

“There was nothing about listening to Cotton Eyed Joe or Fishin’ In The Dark every night. I used to have headphones in,” says Sutton. “But over the years country has changed dramatically… It’s more mainstream now… I do listen to country a whole lot more than I used to.”

Brayden York, third-year mechanical engineering student at UOIT, says country music has its appeal.

“I think that country is certainly catching on more in our age group, with all of the new age country artists coming out, and students are finding it a relaxing genre,” he says.

Amanda Stanciulescu, a second year forensic psychology student at UOIT, says plenty of college and university students have jumped on the country bandwagon.

“I was actually surprised when I got to university and country music was as big as it is here,” says Stanciulescu. “I wouldn’t say [it was] starting to gain a following, more so [it] already [had] what seems like a very dedicated one.”

According to Sutton, creating a safe atmosphere with great music brings customers back.

“Ladies feel safe here and people know that we’re very strict with liquor laws. And that the music is good, we keep it consistent,” says Sutton.

Sutton believes what sets the Corral apart from other bars is live music.

“We have live entertainment, which a lot of places don’t have. We’re not just a DJ, we have entertainment on the stage and you can hear a real band.”

Many known country musicians have made their start on Corral’s stage, including names like Johnny Reid, Jason Blaine and James Barker Band, who actually filmed their music video for Just Sayin’ at Corral’s location.

“A lot of people have started on this stage. I think it’s important because it’s a home grown stage for a lot of people.”

According to Sutton, the Corral will always extend an invite to those artists when they return and play larger concert halls. When they’re out performing on larger stages, they’ll pay tribute to the Corral.

“It’s always nice to hear that we’re mentioned at a big venue, because we really did give a lot of people a start to their careers,” says Sutton. “It’s nice to hear that thank you.”

According to Sutton, the business has changed a lot over the years, but it certainly hasn’t slowed down. But despite the fact that patrons change, along with the kinds of drinks people order, the music will always be a big part of what makes the Corral the country bar it has been for 30 years.

“Realistically I wouldn’t want to see it change at all… I wouldn’t like to change what the music is or the venue itself, because it’s really kind of a piece of history.”

Despite the fact that country music has evolved over the years, it hasn’t stopped fans from evolving with it. According to Sutton, the Corral has continued to maintain a steady following.

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Jessica Stoiku is a second year journalism student at Durham College. With a passion for writing, she enjoys exposing the arts and culture stories of people within the community for The Chronicle. She hopes to work for a publication that focuses on human interest and issues on a broader scale.