Many professional musicians have been hard at work on their craft since their teen years, but for Vancouver Island based musician Wil came to it later in his life.
Even though he did choose music as his career until he was older, it played a major role in his life from a young age.
“It was pretty cool to grow up with musical parents, because at first when you’re young it’s super exciting when your parents are having people on the weekends and they’re having kitchen party sort of things,” Wil says.
His parents would be in the kitchen with Jim Reeves or Simon and Garfunkel on the record player. His dad would be singing and his mom would often join in.
“They’d have their friends over and they’d be running beers and darts and just going for it. I’d be thinking ‘this is the coolest thing,'” he says.
Because of finances, his family couldn’t afford to go skiing, so they did their best to create their own fun.
“We played Scrabble and just played music. It was hard not to take something from that even though I was an illustrator, painter, and just an artist period, the music was always there but I never really thought of pursuing it,” Wil says.
It was the kitchen party experience he found when he started playing music in bars and pubs.
“The inception of music as a career was sort of the realization that ‘Man, I can play a bar and sing other people’s songs and get paid like $75 and drink and have fun,'” Will says. “It was like I could have that kitchen party but with strangers and have that same enjoyment. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. But I never thought of that as a career, I just thought of it as something I could do.”
Unlike many other bar and pub performers, Wil wasn’t playing the bar classics, he was playing what he wanted to play and songs that he liked.
“I didn’t do the Beatles, and those guys that do those songs in bars and pubs are fun as all hell and people love it because they know those tunes but I was doing stuff that I liked like Urge Overkill’s version of Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon from Pulp Fiction,” he says.
But after playing other people’s songs Wil realized as a creative person he needed more out of the experience.
“I thought ‘maybe I’ll try writing a song.’ Now holy shit I can barely remember any of the 140 covers that I used to do. It’s so weird. It’s like I’m reprogramed now and I can only sing the way I sing which is the way I sing,” he says.
Like many new musicians Wil faced the same trials after making his first record, going on tour, making no money and playing to empty rooms.
“I was like, ‘this is going to be my career disappointment and no income and just driving 15 hours a day and eating Tim Hortons Chili,'” he says with a laugh.
Despite playing around with his dad’s guitar as a kid, Wil didn’t really start playing the guitar until 1990.
“I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to being a musician and writing my own stuff. I was in my early 20s at this time, I wasn’t one of these protégées who’d be doing it since birth,” he says.
“I created the way that I need to play guitar and communicate. I’m not an amazing guitar player I’m a very passionate guitar player and I can hammer those chords pretty hard and put meaning into it.”
Wil wrote his first album Both Hands in 2001 and sold over 6,000 copies off stage.
He toured with artists like Colin James, Matthew Good, Joel Plaskett Emergency and Xavier Rudd and earned four nominations at the West Coast Music Awards in 2005.
“I think what I’ve learned from the years of touring with amazing people, is I’ve learned so many ways of how to tour better and how to tour better and how to be better at it by seeing people who do it well,” Will says.
“When we toured with a band called Gomez in the States, bands like that that I’m a fan of there’s nothing better than standing on the side stage and watching one of your favourite bands standing six feet away from you playing to a thousand people.”
He also had the opportunity to join Canada’s Leslie Feist on tour at a couple venues in Seattle and San Francisco.
“To be able to be on the side stage for one of her shows because I’m such a fan of her and then my trumpet player and friend Bryden who played with her at the time invited me to play a tambourine on Sealion and you’re part of this little tight knit family of amazing accomplished people. All those little experiences, they’re unforgettable,” Wil says.
Wil would rather spend his time out on the road playing live instead of recording albums. As a musician he’s looking to capture the spontaneity.
“I think to be honest I approach making an album like I want to get it done. I don’t like recording,” he says. “I love being live and organic and making mistakes and then pulling it off. I love the spontaneity of it all, like the improvisation of a stand up guy. I love that in the moment thing and to record something and try to capture it is really really difficult.”
Wil’s latest album Heart of Mine was recorded with his friend Jason Cook and even though he feels it comes close to capturing the live experience he said the next will be even more raw.
“I think the next record that I’m going to make I’m going to make completely and entirely on my own in my little studio at home,”he says. “I think I’ll literally be taking stuff of the floor and not to fix it or iron it out or dub much to try and make it better. I’ll just grab what I grab and it will be what it’s going to be. That’s my favourite thing about performing live the what ever is going to happen right now is going to happen and when it’s done it’s an experience for people to take something from.”
Wil’s music has been described as roots rock but he said that his sound just came from being a fan of music.
“I didn’t pick and choose a genre only to be proud of and everything else sucks. I listened to everything openly and my parents taught me to do that a long time ago,” he says.
Wil plays at The Royal with CR Avery on Friday night. For more information check out Page 11 of Wednesday’s Nelson Star.