Vancouver Island singer/songwriter WiL had plenty of sonic choices to explore when it came time to mapping out his fifth CD, El Paseo, released late last month. Local fans can check out the stellar results when he performs at The Vat on Oct. 11th.
Wil Mimnaugh (WiL), had several songs ready to go including Roam, featured in the video for Travel Alberta’s media campaign ‘Remember to Breathe.’ The only thing left to do was find the funds to record, which his manager did using a crowd-funding platform called FANPUSH.
WiL’s fans met his goal in a matter of days, leaving him inspired to write a few more songs along the way, settling on 11 tracks.
“These songs just came pouring out of me; they are some of the best songs I feel I have ever written to date and am so grateful that I was able to record these songs and put the best of what we got on the new record,” he said.
‘El Paseo’, when translated from Spanish to English, means ‘The Ride’.”
The results are exceptional – from the opening cut Hold Me On, the haunting charms of the title track and You Know I Do to the terrifically-crafted showstopper A Whoo Hoo complete with its rich, textured guitars, a touch of banjo and the superbly arranged vocals. WiL is a master at melding genres, tapping into the best in creating his own unique approach to creating music.
And the best way to head into a season of recording? Don’t go heavy on the planning.
“I found out a long time ago that having a pre-conceived notion of what we were looking to do – you just never meet those expectations,” he explains of his approach to recording.
WiL has admitted that he’s not a huge fan of making records – it’s the ‘live’ shows that really get him excited. Studio work can bring a sense of looking at things just too closely, he points out. “You’re trying to control an elusive thing.”
That in itself can be a hit or miss kind of thing, but when it works well it’s a gift.
That said, he does have fun with the collaborative elements.
“I always defer to laughter and stupidity over drama and anger,” he laughs. “I’m enjoying it more now because of what I’ve learned.”
Still, there’s nothing like hitting the road and connecting with fans.
“I just love the live, organic environment so much – if I had it all my way, that’s all I would ever do. I’m also a huge fan of improvisational, sporadic stuff – like when you show up at a show and it’s 20 below and the propane cans are shutting off. You’re late for a sound check because you got rear-ended somewhere – nobody cares about your day, but you have to make it work.
“So you are up on stage frazzled like bee hive and all of a sudden you just plug in and you have the show of the year.”
It was an impromptu performance at The Barley Mill in Calgary that led to a six-year run playing cover tunes and a reputation as ‘that solo guy who breaks strings and packs bars.’ WiL used the skills he had learned playing covers to write eight songs which became his first CD Both Hands, released in 2002. That project was followed with By December. Other CD highlights include In This Together and last year’s Live at the Ironwood – recorded in Calgary.
As to his latest disc, with a desire to produce the album himself, WiL enlisted the aid of studio engineer/multi-instrumentalist and owner of Poplar Sound Studio, Jayme Langen.
“This record, as much work as it was, had an equal amount of wonderful back and forth between Jayme and I over almost nine solid months.” They recorded the track Hold Me On in a three-day session that cemented their collective wish to forge ahead.
As for Langen, WiL can’t think of a better guy to team up with. “He listens – he’s a remarkable listener. He’s processing while he listens – he doesn’t just pretend to listen. I sometimes talk a lot – I can’t just answer yes or no, I’ll give a big preamble to it. But he’ll listen, so he’s amazing that way. Plus he’s phenomenal drummer, a bass player and an incredible guitar player. He wears all these hats very well.
“He also has the perfect amount of humility.”
Looking back, his love of music came early on.
On Friday nights he would sit and listen while his folks played and sung along to legends such as Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins and Hank Williams.
“My father was a weekend warrior who played guitar and sang – my mom came from a choir background and ended up with an amazing voice,” he recalls. “On the weekends, after my parents worked really hard all week there would be kitchen parties with friends and family. I loved it – there was also always vinyl being played. My mom would clean the house with the vinyl cranked – listening to Nana Mouskouri or Simon and Garfunkel cranked up through the house.”
By the time he was 13, he was defining his playing style blending his love of ‘old school country’ with new influences. “Before I knew it, I was listening to anything I could get my hands on. I didn’t care what it was or where it came from.”
As for where he is these days, he couldn’t be more pleased. And he can’t wait to show fans what the new CD has to offer.
“This is easily the closest one yet,” he explains of the disc’s capturing of what makes him tick. “How I feel and what I do live – this is the closest thing to the demos that I’ve had going which is lovely.”