Whether your goal is to challenge yourself and push your limits or to enjoy the sights, sounds and unique beauty that the cave has to offer, your story begins here:Go Caving
Whether your goal is to challenge yourself and push your limits or to enjoy all of the sights, sounds and unique beauty that the cave has to offer, your story begins here:
If you like music and adventure, get ready for an unforgettable experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen – or heard. Canmore Cave Tours is thrilled to bring you two amazing performers in one very unique way.
On Friday, September 29, Ellen Froese and Derek W. Curtis will be playing the Grand Gallery in Rat's Nest Cave, located 100 feet underground - and you are going to have to climb, crawl, wiggle and slide your way through the cave to get there.
As they prepare for their debut in-cave performance, we caught up with singer and leading lady, Ellen Froese, to chat about performing below the earth, the launch of her new album, and the story behind the name of her latest single.
Q: It’s not every day that an artist gets to perform inside a cave! Where did this idea come from?
A: The idea happened back in June. I was on the road with my bluegrass-inspired band In With The Old, and we were opening for Raine Hamilton at The Bassment in Saskatoon. Raine was talking about performing the next day at Rat’s Nest Cave in Canmore. I happened to be in the process of booking the tour for my new self-titled album, Ellen Froese, and I thought it would be a really unique place to perform. So I shot the team [at Canmore Cave Tours] an email and they made it happen!
Q: What are you most looking forward to about performing in Rat’s Nest Cave?
A: The ambience of playing deep in the belly of a cave is going to be sweet! As a musician, when you book a tour, it’s great to be open to a variety of performance venues. Often you might book a fairly conventional slot at a bar, and of course those gigs are a lot of fun, but sometimes the nature of the venue can limit your engagement with the audience. So I think it will be particularly cool to perform in a cave for a small crowd who are extra stoked to be there. I think we are all going to share a really unique experience.
Touring with Derek W. Curtis will be great too. We met in February this year at the Folk Alliance Festival in Kansas City where he was playing the festival – and so was I, with In With The Old. We just got along instantly, and have kept in touch ever since. He’s been living in Nashville and he mentioned wanting to visit and tour around Canada. When I mentioned I was booking my album release tour across Canada, he said, “I’ll come too!” So we’re going to be spending a whole month touring together within the same car. It’s going to be a great adventure.
Q: Will this be your most unique gig so far?
A: For sure. At first I didn’t realise just how far underground it would be – 100 feet below the earth! It’s going to be cool to crawl through some tight spaces to get down there. Sound equipment will be minimal-to-none, eh?! It will be interesting to see how we get the guitars down there. Adam [Canmore Cave Tours’ Owner and Senior Guide] said it would be difficult if we had an upright bass player, so it will just be Derek and me with our guitars. I think it‘s awesome. Being so physically close to the audience that we don’t need to use microphones is going to make the experience a lot more intimate.
Q: Do you have any experience with caving?
A: I once stayed with some relatives in Peterborough, Ontario, who live near some interesting caves, and I was lucky enough to explore the area with them. It was wintertime so we didn’t go very far down into the depths, but it was a lot of fun and a really unique experience. Now I can’t wait for the full experience at Rat’s Nest!
Q: How does it feel to be launching your new self-titled album, Ellen Froese, in September?
A: I’m pretty excited – it’s been a long time coming! I recorded the album over a year ago but kept pushing the release day back. This is my second album, and I’m approaching things a little differently this time around. With my first album, the recording process just felt a little rushed, so I’m really excited to have had more time to work with on this new one. I recorded it on tape in my cabin. It’s just guitar and vocals, so it’s really stripped down. There’s no over-dubbing – we didn’t go in and correct any little mistakes. It’s not perfect, but that’s the way I wanted it to be, in a type of old-school folk fashion.
There are 12 songs on the album with a few traditional folk songs, and a couple of cover songs that I was really drawn towards and related to. September 13 will be the Saskatoon album release party, and then I’ll be releasing the album online on September 14.
Q: ‘I Wish I Had a Footlong Cigarette’ is the first single from your new album. What’s the story behind it?
I had been playing with In With The Old for four years before I started my solo project. Two winters ago I booked my first solo tour. It was the first time I hit the road on my own, and I booked this month-long tour all the way from Saskatoon to Montreal. There were many long stretches of driving all on my own, and after a while I got super freaking bored with driving. I smoked too many cigarettes out of boredom, and I got to wishing I had one super long cigarette that would last me the whole drive. That’s where the song came from.
It’s probably the most honest song I’ve ever written, and people seem to be drawn to it the most. I wrote it really quickly. I wasn’t trying very hard, compared to other songs I’ve written. It’s funny how that happens – but I guess it makes sense. People are drawn to authenticity, and you’re most authentic when you’re not trying. You can tell when something comes from honesty.
Q: The music video is a lot of fun – where was it filmed and who are the actors?
A: The premise was a van full of hippies just hitting the road, and picking up two golf dads along the way. One of the golf dads gets in with the hippie crew, while the other one doesn’t enjoy it. Then the first guy turns into a cigarette. It was filmed on my parent’s farm, and my friends were the actors; lots of people I met through music. The guy in the blue shirt is my boyfriend, the guy in the yellow overalls is my bandmate from In With The Old, and my best friend Ashley is also in there. I just invited a bunch of friends and these were the ones who came along for the ride!
The guy who filmed it is Landon Johnson. His film career has been blossoming lately and lots of local musicians have been hiring him. He has a really great vision. The video was filmed with a not-so-great camera, but that was exactly the kind of retro vibe what we were going for.
Q: Tell us more about your band, In With The Old. How do you enjoy performing as part of a band compared to gigs as a solo artist? What inspired you to branch out on your own?
A: I’ve learned a lot from being in that band! Working with other people, networking and making contacts has definitely helped my work as a solo artist. It can be challenging sometimes, striking the balance between working as a solo artist and as a member of the band. It can be hard to focus on both at once, but I have truly loved the experience of both.
I think being a solo artist is something I’ve always been drawn to. In With The Old is more bluegrass-inspired because we met at a bluegrass festival, and it just kind of happened without being really intentional about it. Then we just started getting gigs. With my solo work, I’m able to be a lot more intentional about it. Selfishly, I’m able to do exactly what I want with it. I’m really drawn to old school rock and roll. I’ve started to do a few shows with a new band with different members. I’m trying to keep it a little separate because my other bandmates have other projects too. One of them is in a barbershop quartet!
Q: How did music influence you as you were growing up?
A: I grew up on a dairy farm just north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. To this day, my dad always plays the country radio station in the barn for the cows. He says it’s their favourite genre, but I have a feeling he secretly likes it too.
Since I was a home-schooled, only-child farm kid, I had a lot of free time on my hands. When I dig back to my childhood, it’s only good memories. I’d say that my parents took an “un-schooling” approach. There were a lot of homeschool programs that I enjoyed and I was in creative writing and theatre groups. My parents were always self-employed people, so homeschooling meant we could all be together at home. I think they just wanted to spend as much time as possible with me when I was growing up.
I always liked music a tonne. I have really vivid memories of hearing The Beatles and Elvis for the first time when I was about four. I remember listening to Elvis in my dad’s truck, and borrowing CDs from the library. Neither of my parents were particularly musical, but I have to thank them for exposing me to piano lessons when I was four after they noticed my interest in music. I didn’t want to practise piano at first, though – they had to bribe me with candy to play. Then over the years I enjoyed it more and more. Eventually I picked up the guitar when I was 14 and that was something I really loved from day one.
Q: In addition to piano and guitar, which other instruments do you play? Are you a self-taught singer or did you take lessons?
A: I also like to play the harmonica a lot, and I do a little bit of mandolin with In With The Old. We’ve been playing a lot of festivals this summer. In terms of singing, I have had a mix of lessons and self-taught practice. It was a solid two or three years of working really hard on my singing before I felt confident. I just kept pushing through. Eventually I started vocal lessons with my guitar teacher, Danny Downing. Learning proper technique really helped and it was really satisfying to hear myself improve.
Q: What do you enjoy most about making music? How would you describe your creative process?
A: There’s just nothing that makes me happier. It’s my main outlet. I find that if I don’t write a song or perform in a while, I get antsy. I’m thinking about writing songs right now!
It’s my self-expression, but it can be stressful. I just came out of a long period of trying really hard to write songs and not having the results I was hoping for. When I started writing songs and making music, it was just something I created out of happiness. The whole process was completely for myself.
When you start performing, the awareness that people are going to be listening to your songs can influence what you create. I was going through this phase of thinking way too hard about it, and basing my songwriting on what I thought people wanted to hear. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, so I took a break from it.
I had this big learning curve that I just have to do it for myself, and now I think I’m finally back on track. I feel like it just has to be authentic, and if I try too hard to be authentic it just defeats the purpose. I have heard that a lot of musicians go through this phase: starting out by writing for themselves, then starting to write more for what they think people want to hear, before coming back full circle just to what they want to create.
Q: Is there a particular place that is most conducive for your songwriting? Somewhere that you think: “this is where the magic happens!”
A: When a wave of inspiration hits, the music and lyrics usually both come at once. I strum a few chords, hum a bit of a melody and it slowly comes to life. It usually happens in my cabin at home on the farm, when people aren’t around. I’ve never successfully written a song with someone else. There’s a lot of trial and error, and I would feel quite vulnerable. I love performing with others but I really like songwriting alone. It’s almost like journaling. I write my best songs when I’ve experienced a really strong emotion, rather than just experiencing a level mood – that’s when I like to practise.
Q: What does the rest of 2017 look like for you?
A: I’m looking forward to kicking off my album release tour with Derek, and also touring with In With The Old for three music festivals and gigs in August and September. Right now I’m still living on my parent’s farm where I grew up, but I’ll be moving out this winter. I don’t know where to just yet, but I think there’s lots of change on the horizon!
We think caving is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread, but then we are pretty enthusiastic about life underground overall. So don't just take our word on it. Here are some thoughts from some of our newsest cavers to inspire you!
"My husband and I both look back at this and agree this was one of the highlights of our vacation..."Read More
“AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE”
Reviewed By: Mo89564
Mar 27, 2017:
My husband and I used Canmore as a base for exploring Banff, but since I was curious about the area and the things to see/do, the Canmore Cave Tour (Grotto Mountain/Rat's Nest Cave) popped up when I was researching the area.
I decided to book this after I saw the pictures and read other people's experiences. We met our guide at the office in the morning that was very personable but clearly knew her stuff and was passionate about caving. We were in a group of about 8 which was nice - small, but nice to talk to others and everyone definitely looked out for each other during the experience.
Hiked up to the entrance and went in! This was where the awesomeness began. It is a physical and mental challenge - but so rewarding. You'll be crawling through sections, rappelling down into the dark and learning about the history. You'll be seeing things that very few people get to see. My husband and I both look back at this and agree this was one of the highlights of our vacation - and we're comparing this against the heavyweights known as Banff and Jasper.
Advice to anyone considering this:
-You don't have to be in pristine physical condition, but you should have a good base. It is a physical activity and you will be using muscles that you don't know you had.
-The squeezes weren't claustrophobic to me as a 5'8 135 lbs. female. My husband is 5'11 190 lbs and had no problem. A guy on our tour was even bigger than my husband, probably over 6'0 and 200 lbs and had no problems maneuvering. Your guide will give you the honest truth whether you're able to do things and if you can't or are apprehensive, you don't have to! But challenge yourself. You'll be surprised and it is a lot easier than you think.
-Enjoy that room with the stream running through it. It blows my mind what is underneath the ground that we walk on now that I've been under it.
-After your tour, buy the "Rat's Nest Cave" book by Charles Yonge. I meant to buy it once our tour was finished, but completely forgot and ended up getting the book through Amazon. It's full of history and science but has much more value. I personally keep it on my coffee table and when my friends/guests come over, it's a convenient excuse for me to segway into to how awesome the cave tour was and reminisce about being underground. That's how much I loved this tour. There are very few opportunities in this world to experience this kind of thing - don't let them pass you by.
"Had a great time exploring the Rats Nest Caves with Canmore Cave Tours. "Read More
Reviewed By: Kristen B
Sept 4, 2016:
Had a great time exploring the Rats Nest Caves with Canmore Cave Tours. Our guide was excellent and we would recommend tackling the mountain to everyone who's interested in a good time and a little bit of a challenge.
We did the 6 hour adventure tour and we were not disappointed in the least.
We're already planning a return trip for the Christmas Carolling (if available) and will be coming back again in the spring with new adventurers who are interested in going based on our experience and exciting tales.
"I've been on several tours in the Bow Valley area and this is by far the best tour I've been to, hands down."Read More
“BEST TOUR IN THE BOW VALLEY AREA!”
Reviewed By: Michelle L
Feb 13, 2017:
I've been on several tours in the Bow Valley area and this is by far the best tour I've been to, hands down. Our tour guide, Max, was super friendly, knowledgeable, a great communicator with each member of our diverse group, and seemed genuinely interested in what he does.
We started the Adventure tour by meeting at the tour office at 10:15 a.m. Once we were given an introduction and gear, we drove our separate cars to the trail-head (about 5 min drive from the office). The hike up is about 30 min and continuously uphill, but the guide is really good about taking several breaks in between to allow people to catch their breath. Once we got to the end of the trail, we removed layers as needed and dropped off our bags.
The tour lasted a full 4 hours underground. We rappelled 16 stories to get to the base of the cave, crawled through several optional crevices, explored in the dark, and learnt a lot about the formation of the cave. The options to crawl through small spaces was my favourite part. Some spaces were so small that you had to lay down and use your forearms and legs to drag yourself through them.
Overall, incredible tour. Worth every single penny. Great for the adventurous. If you're doing one tour in Banff/Canmore, do this one over any others.
Tips: Clothing (winter): wear several layers. The hike up can be cold but the cave is 5 degrees Celsius. You'll have the opportunity to delayer before entering the cave. Wear thick socks and hiking boots (or some sturdy winter boots that are good for walking). You are provided an full body coverall, knee pads, and gloves, so take these into consideration as well.
You need to be in good/average physical condition to hike to the cave and be okay with being on your hands and knees. You don't have to crawl through the tiny spaces if you don't want to because there are other paths available.
Food: You are given a cliff bar and water bottle to keep. Since you will be crawling a bit, you do not bring your backpack or water bottle down with you. I advise bringing a small snack that can fit in your pockets to bring with you into the cave. There are no washrooms in the cave (duh), so make sure to go beforehand.
"We went to Canmore for my birthday and came across Canmore Cave Tours in our search for something fun to do. We were not disappointed!"Read More
“EXCITING CAVE ADVENTURE!”
Reviewed By: David M
Aug 20, 2016::
We went to Canmore for my birthday and came across Canmore Cave Tours in our search for something fun to do. We were not disappointed! I am claustrophobic and had no problem in the cave. It's very open in most areas with only a few parts that need to be crawled through. It's a great workout and you will feel it the next day for sure.
Our guide Scott was very knowledgable and was happy to answer every question we threw at him. He made the experience very comfortable and we never felt unsafe.
Highly recommend this experience!
We believe the souvenirs you take home are just as much a part of your experience as your time in the cave so you won't find the standard gift-shop fare here.
We have partnered with some of our local artisans and asked them to help tell the story of the cave through their eyes, and their craft. You won't find these little pieces of Canmore anywhere else in the world.