The perfect road trip needs the perfect accoutrements - namely a well-curated playlist to fit your mood. Here are six playlists crafted for almost every type of driver. (Before you ask, yes, Life is a Highway is included. It’s a staple. Deal with it.)
Mark Richardson’s not-actually oldies
Driving songs should be familiar – you don’t want to work too hard with them because you want your attention on the road, but you do want to sing along. They should name places, so you feel you’re going somewhere, but they don’t have to if they’re catchy enough. If you’re making a journey of any length, they should also have some length to them, so you can get properly involved and the time will pass more quickly. And they should have some energy to them: save the relaxing classical tunes for your congested commute, to calm yourself from road rage. You’ll need a couple of gentler songs, though, to temper all that energy.
The beauty of driving is, if you’re alone, you can sing along as loud as you like with the windows closed. My playlist includes the full-length 14-minute live version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird because I love it, nobody else in my family does, and by the time it’s done, I’m 14 minutes closer to my destination. Warning: It’s best not to air-guitar unless your car has lane-keeping assistance. -Mark Richardson
Stephanie Chan’s easy-listening podcasts
Over the past few years, a very specific type of podcast has become my go-to when it comes to long drives. I need the podcast to be engaging and exciting so that my drive is pleasurable. But it can’t be so engaging that I focus too much on the podcast and not enough on the road. I want to be delighted by a new tidbit of learning or taken on an epic narrative that culminates in a satisfying ending. I don’t want a dark, true-crime drama that leaves me world weary and questioning humanity’s goodness by the time I turn off my engine.
This playlist is the easy-listening soft pop road tunes of podcasts, featuring single episodes from across the podcast universe that will inform and delight, and leave you charged and ready for whatever adventure awaits you at your destination. -Stephanie Chan
Doug Firby’s Prairie tunes through windy wheat fields
Is that mangy coyote galloping across the field to the beat of Alberta Bound? Or is it just the sort of hallucination induced by the alchemy of open skies set to an equally expansive aural accompaniment? The mesmerizing rhythm of prairie grasses in the summer breeze turns a trip across the Prairies into an existential experience. The music borne out of this environment speaks to solitude, romance and at times aching loneliness, accented by plaintive guitar twangs and lyrics that speak of broken hearts and betrayal. It also speaks of the extraordinary personal bonds that come from a shared experience. As Blackie and the Rodeo Kings sing, “I’m alive on the prairie with my rider by my side.” When you’re on a day-long cruise across this deceptively rich landscape – these “acres of elbow room,” as John Wort Hanham describes it – it’s best to have an arsenal of tunes that, at turns, encourage contemplation, laughter and bounce-in-your-seat fun. It’ll make the trip pass by faster than a summer cloudburst. -Doug Firby
Petrina Gentile’s power female hits
Music makes a road trip. Time passes quickly with the right tunes. Not to mention the other benefits of music - it reduces driver stress and creates a fun, entertaining, and enjoyable atmosphere. But the key is upbeat, catchy lyrics that won’t make you drowsy behind the wheel, especially on long treks. Lively, punchy, in-your-face tunes that get your heart pounding and blood flowing fast. That’s the heart of my playlist. It’s filled with inspirational female artists. Some tunes are driving related; others share a predominant theme of conquering and overcoming hardships and obstacles. Timely, in this day and age.
I never leave home without my tunes. My playlist even accompanies me on work assignments, covering new vehicle press launches around the world. The music reminds me of home. It’s also a great way to connect with co-drivers or pass the time when you have little in common. Plus, there’s no better way to test an audio system than to blare the tunes! Apologies to many of my co-drivers, captive audience members who endured my secret indulgence, singing behind the wheel. - Petrina Gentile
Matt Bubbers’ trans-Canada tracks
Canada is a big place. To get anywhere it’s going to take a while. Whether you’re on the bus or in your car, you’ve just got to settle in for the long haul. We measure road trips in hours or even days, not kilometres. Because of the sheer distance there is to cover, this country has, I think, produced more than its fair share of great tracks to listen to while on the road; we’ve just got so much of it.
As expansive as this country is, it pales in comparison to the breadth of our musical output. Every sound, every sort of beat can be heard emanating from car windows here on a summer day. With so many wonderful and disparate sounds, it makes creating any sort of cohesive or representative playlist a challenge. (Sorry.)
The thing about being in the car is you can listen to whatever the heck you want. A good road trip jam is anything that a) won’t put you to sleep and b) sounds good. If it makes you drum on the steering wheel, all the better. If you can sing along to it, do it.
These songs are all by Canadian artists or artists based in Canada. The playlist was absolutely crowdsourced with input from friends, but next week I will remember some obviously perfect track I forgot to include. Turn it up, and drive safe. - Matt Bubbers
Brendan McAleer’s kid-friendly tunes that won’t drive you crazy
Some of my fondest memories have been forged when out on the road with my kids. Destinations can disappoint, but the actual journey – emergency pee breaks and all – is the thing you remember years later. My kids are young enough not to roll their eyes at my music choices (mostly), and I’m not embarrassed to belt out a little Taylor Swift when we’re moving past any witnesses at highway speeds. Mixing classics, Canadiana, and yes, a little Disney, makes a soundtrack that everyone can enjoy. They won’t be kids forever. You have to make the most of it. - Brendan McAleer
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