Eager to introduce fans to his latest ‘live’ project, Vancouver Island-based singer WiL knows plenty about delving deep and creating heartfelt, compelling music.
He plays The Vat Dec. 5.
WiL released his first live CD Live at The Ironwood in early October and then spent most of that month touring in support of the record. After taking a break, he headed back out on the road for another round of dates in B.C. and Alberta.
He’ll also be featuring tunes from his latest disc Heart of Mind, plus earlier CDs including In This Together, Both Hands and By December.
Indeed, WiL is well-known across Canada for his live performances, so it’s surprising he hasn’t released a live album before. Then the opportunity came for him to record one at Calgary’s The Ironwood.
“The idea had always seemed risky,” he says. “Capturing the live sound is so elusive.
“And there are so many variables to begin with when you are performing live – so many links in that chain.
“It’s also one thing to go to a live show and take it all in and quite another to have those songs come off well on a live audio recording. I mean, it’s really just me and my drummer (for the most part) plus how can our sound and dynamic, that cumulative vibe and experience within the room. be captured on disc?”
But he had a change of heart knowing who would be at the helm of the project.
“But recording engineer Josh Gwilliam whom I’d worked with on a prior studio album convinced me to let him try. After hearing the mixes I asked my manager to take on the project with him – after all, she has seen thousands of my shows so if anyone knew how it would need to be presented and thus represent me, it was her.”
It’s been a busy season since with plenty of songwriting in his studio plus writing tunes for film and TV.
In 2011, his song Roam was chosen to represent Travel Alberta’s award-winning ad campaign ‘Remember to Breathe.’
Shortly afterward he was commissioned by the Calgary Stampede to compose their 100th anniversary theme song Ride.
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. By the time he was 13 he was defining his playing style unknowingly blending his love of ‘old school country’ with new influences.
He landed his first paying gig in 1992 and spent a number of years honing his musicianship while finding his true voice. WiL landed his first paying gig in 1995.
Those years he was living and working in Calgary, mainly hitting the local venues with cover tunes while trying to find his own voice. It was a fun, rather stress-free way to make a living.
Of course, in a career where you set yourself up to be criticized, being original carries its own set of challenges. WiL says there are few careers like music where you are either seeking someone’s opinion on your work, or they’re giving it to you anyways.
But he’s far more settled in his own heart as to what he does these days.
“I kind of hung up the overly analytical hat a long time ago,” he explains. “After doing this long enough, you eventually resign yourself to the fact that what you did, and what you captured, and what the show was and how you feel today is exactly what it is. It’s a cliché to say ‘living in the moment’, but it’s a term for a reason.”
It takes a certain amount of security. But being true to yourself gives you a strength and resilience to handle it all – the nice comments and the occasional jab.
“There’s a whole gamut of emotions when you are offering up so much of yourself for judgment.”
Wil’s debut disc, Both Hands was released in 2002.
It sold well and landed him opportunities to tour with the likes of Colin James, Matthew Good, Joel Plaskett Emergency and Xavier Rudd.
On his follow-up release By December he collaborated with some of Canada’s most respected musicians including 54-40’s Neil Osborne and Broken Social Scene’s Jason Collett among others.
Meanwhile, one of Wil’s favourite settings is his Vancouver Island home north of Victoria – an ideal for unbridled creativity. It’s the perfect place for those times when he wants to be essentially alone for a bit, exploring his creative richness in relative peace. Because when he hits the road, it’s truly an ‘all systems are go’ experience. WiL happily embraces everything that goes along with the busyness of touring, meeting folks, handling publicity and sharing who he is.
“I’m a big fan of extremes – I don’t live comfortably in the middle.”