Entertainment

Country star Quayle lights up campground

John Law

By John Law, Niagara Falls Review

Rising country star Stephanie Quayle rolled into the KOA campground in Niagara Falls for a surprise show Saturday night. The 'Drinking With Dolly' singer is doing several intimate gigs to promote her new song, 'Winnebago.' PHOTO: John Law / Niagara Falls Review

Rising country star Stephanie Quayle rolled into the KOA campground in Niagara Falls for a surprise show Saturday night. The 'Drinking With Dolly' singer is doing several intimate gigs to promote her new song, 'Winnebago.' PHOTO: John Law / Niagara Falls Review

When blossoming country star Stephanie Quayle recorded her catchy road trip tune Winnebago, she had no idea it would lead to her first-ever visit to Niagara Falls.

But it was all part of a week of firsts for her, including a performance on top of the Empire State Building and at Cooperstown. All because she decided to take her own song's advice.

“It represents that feel good, take to the open road kind of song,” said the Montana-born singer shortly after rolling into the Falls Saturday. “I get these wild ideas, so I went to the label and said, 'Man we've got to go live this song.'”

In this case, it meant visiting all six places name-dropped in the song, which includes Buffalo. And she wasn't about to visit Buffalo without a side trip to Niagara Falls.

Partnering with KOA (Kampgrounds of America), whose head office is in Montana, Quayle performed a mini-set at the Niagara Falls location on Lundy's Lane to surprised campers Saturday at 7 p.m., before doing another impromptu set on Hornblower Cruises Sunday morning. She then headed to Buffalo, and will hit Las Vegas, Prince Edward Island and Fort Bragg in the upcoming weeks.

At every stop, Quayle personally greets fans before joining bandmates Lars Thorson (guitar) and Aaron Lagrone (percussion) for an intimate set.

In Niagara Falls, she sat atop a picnic table in front of a fire pit for a crowd of about 150 people.

Every set includes her 2016 hit Drinking With Dolly, which got her named by Rolling Stone as one of 10 country artists 'You Need to Know' in a recent issue.

The wistful song isn't just a tribute to Dolly Parton, but other female country music giants like Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. It struck a chord with fans yearning for a return to country's less loud, less rock-oriented era.

If you're tired of 'bro country,' this is your song.

“Last year was just such a monumental year for myself and my career,” says Quayle, who was working the country trenches for nearly a decade before the hit earned her national attention. “I'm so grateful for every opportunity because we've been working really hard to get here.”

It doesn't hurt that Parton herself is a fan of the song. Quayle beams describing a typed letter the Nashville legend sent her thanking her for the tune.

“I remember exactly when I heard she heard it. I was at the Atlanta airport and the label president called me and said Dolly had heard the song. There was this pregnant pause – I was just waiting to know, did she love it? Did she hate it? - and she said she loved it.

“That was such a gift. When I say emulate, I say that in the most respectful way. If I could be one inkling of a Dolly, that would be incredible. She brings so much joy and light to people.”

Growing up on a buffalo farm, Quayle picked up piano at four, started songwriting at 12, and joined her first band while on a study abroad program in Switzerland.

Exposed to traditional country her whole life, her old school style is just a “natural inclination.”

“I just make whatever moves me,” she says. “Whatever I perform has to be authentic. If I write, if I find it, if I don't believe what I'm playing, then how can I expect the fans to care?”

jlaw@postmedia.com