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The Wilkinsons: A Damn Lucky Family Band

Posted by: Petr Mecir

photo: CountryZone.net
Interviews 02/13/2008

A couple of years ago the popular country trio, the Wilkinsons, made a big decision and after many successful years in Nashville moved back home to Ontario, Canada. Their big career step was well documented in a special family reality show, which received such a big response on Canadian TV, that a second season about recording their new album "Home" soon followed and a third season is in the works. Amanda, Tyler and Steve are all incredibly creative and apart from the family they many other activities on the side including launching Amanda's solo career in 2005, when she released a debut album. Despite all the fame the Wilkinsons remain very humble, friendly and down-to-earth people, which I was able to witness when I met them in Berlin, Germany.

You moved in Nashville in 1997 and got your record deal in just three weeks, right?

Steve:
"Yeah, we had four offers after three weeks."

How would you explain such success?


Steve:
"Just damn luck! There's no way you can make sense of it. We lived in Nashville for ten years and we saw a lot of talented people that didn't get any record offers. But for some reason it made sense to the record labels what they heard from us. It was just damn luck!"

Amanda:
"And a blessing in many ways. Actually we performed for many years in Canada as the three of us and did lots of shows, worked very hard and we were expecting to work equally as much, because we didn't expect to be signed as quickly as we were and in a lot of ways we were able to have this career for about ten years now, professionally."

Steve:
"I used to make a joke, before we went to Nashville I used to say: 'Oh sure, they have record contracts on the street!'"

Amanda:
"Easy! Yeah, but we didn't expect that to be that easy and it really has been amazing."

Well, I guess you've heard this question a billion times but I'm gonna ask you anyway. After having such a big time in Nashville, what moved you to pack up and go back to Ontario?
Steve Wilkinson

Steve:
"It was home, we missed home. We were homesick. That's the best way of saying it. We still go to Nashville. They were just in Nashville before we came here to Germany and at the end of this month they'll go back to Nashville and I'll be there the next month or so writing. So we still go to Nashville, but home is always home."

Amanda:
"And it used to be that you, as an artist, you kind of had to be in Nashville or if you were in pop or rock music you'd be in L.A. or New York. I think in some ways it was because the record label wanted to have a handle on you. And now it seems to me that a lot of artists live in other areas of North America and they just fly in. It's a good thing about the transit that we have now, you can fly anywhere. It's good for us 'cause when we're off the road and we're not dealing with the music business, we can come home and relax and be with the family and sort of recharge our batteries."

How would you describe today's Canadian country music scene? What kind of music do people appreciate on the radio?

Steve:
"It's kind of a mixbag, ok? In Canada they really love a style of country music that has kind of a Celtic and Irish edge to it and there's straight ahead mainstream Nashville country and then there's some stuff that's maybe a little more folky..."

Amanda:
"Like Ian Tyson."

Steve:
"Yeah."

Is there any balance in the portion of Canadian country artists and country which comes from Nashville on the radio?


Steve:
"Oh yes, there's definitely balance. In fact I think if a Canadian artist could figure out what makes a successful Nashville song, that's what they'd like to grab rather than just go: 'you know what, I'm gonna make music that's good for my soul and maybe somebody will like it'. I think they're striving to be successful and they'd love to be successful in a Nashville sense."

When you are in the USA do people recognize you in public as much as they do in Canada?


Steve:
"No, in Canada more so because we also have a TV series for two years. We get recognized quite a bit because of that TV show."Tyler Wilkinson

Amanda:
"Even people who don't necessarily listen to our music, maybe they haven't heard of before, the show was a huge outlet for us. Not only for them to see who we are as people and a family, even though the show was heavily scripted, it wasn't 'reality', but it exposed our music in a different way to people who wouldn't listen to country music. I mean we're not country in a sense of very traditional sounding country music, we have more comtemporary edge to our sound which is why in Germany, in Europe our music has been successful because it sounds a little bit more like pop. It can be considered as pop music."

Steve:
"I'll give you a great for instance how the TV show helped out what we do. My son has a rock band on the side called Motion Picture Ending. Somebody who is a program director for a big rock station in Ontario, Canada which is big stuff for us, he saw the TV show, he was flipping channels, saw Tyler and the band singing on our TV show and called these guys up and asked if they would come in and sing on his station because he loved the music. So the TV show helps with recognizion."

"Nobody Died". A big song, a powerfull video, but this song was written a couple of years ago. Why did you decide to cut it now?


Steve:
"That insanity is still going on. Young people are still going to school with a gun and settling their issues with the gun. That's wrong, it has to stop. No violence."

Amanda:
"There was a time in the world when it wasn't like that. We didn't have to worry about sending your kids to school and now the world is different. This song is very innocent in a lot of ways, maybe it gives people something to reflect on that there was a time that we didn't have to live in that insanity that we have today and maybe we can get back to that place where we don't have to worry about those things."

Steve:
"I was just telling my son he has to talk more. He hardly ever talks."

Tyler:
"It's because they talk so much!" (laughs)

Is the video based on any true story?


Tyler:
"Oh, I think it's more inspired more than anything. I don't think it's based on any one particular story, it's more inspired by some very incredibly insane things that have happened especially in America but also in Canada."

Steve:
"And around the world, too."

What responses do you get for this song? Do you receive letters from people telling you their stories?


Steve:
"We've received emails and we've received letters. When we signed autographs at the end of the show, people would come up to us with tears and they'd go: 'that song means so much, we need to stop that!'"

Amanda:
"There was actually an 11-year old girl that came up to us in an autograph line and she was very quiet about it, but she came to me when I had a free moment and she started crying and said: 'you know I get beat up at school all the time and I get so frustrated and I feel like I have no one to talk to' and to me it's like if one kid like that comes up to us and says that they're thinking of something other that trying to retaliate when something like that happens to them, that's all that matters. There wasn't some grand scheme to put in that song but we felt this way from our heart and hopefully other people have seen this and been affected the way this young girl was, so it's very cool."

There's another song on the new album called "Under The Rainbow" with an obvious inspiration in the Wizard of Oz.
Amanda Wilkinson

Steve:
"Yeah, you know it's kind of like at least in North America and I'm sure in Europe, when you grow up in a small town, you can't wait to get out and go to where your destiny is calling. And that's what that song is about. The person is going to find their destiny down the yellow brick road."

Amanda:
"And it doesn't mean that they don't love the people that they grew up with. And there are sort of melancholic feelings that they feel about that town. Maybe that's not where their head and their heart is at."

Why do you think that this book and this movie is still so popular and still having so much influence?


Steve:
"Ha, it was actually her favorite movie as a kid."

Amanda:
"Yeah, I think even when you talk to a younger, we have a little cousin, four, and we have been playing her music from musicals that Tyler and I grew up listening to. The Wizard of Oz was one of those movies that even if you just listen to the songs, you don't have to see the visuals to know to where it is going. That's the power of those kind of musicals, they tell a story and it doesn't matter what age you are. Those movies are timeless, they really are."

Amanda went solo in 2005 and I wonder whether you find it difficult to match the Wilkinsons schedule and Amanda's dates.


Amanda:
"I think it was a conscious effort on all our part we knew, it wasn't some kind of sprung up. We discussed it amongst the three of us and and I don't think I would have done undertaking this if I didn't feel like I had the support of the people closest to me and their advice. So, we kind of knew it was coming down the pipe, so we took time to sort of schedule things out appropriately, if there were the certain shows or arrangements that we had with the Wilkinsons that were very important, then obviously I would side step them and vice versa. And Tyler, you know him having his project with his band now, we are obviously very respectful one another and everything has its appropriate place and equally as important and as long as communication stays open it's been working very very well and we are excited about everything that's going on."

Steve:
"When she has her solo show, most of the times, almost all the time Tyler and I are standing backstage watching her. When he does his rock shows with the guys in his band, we're there at the rock shows. That's what a family does. We suport each other."

How about Tyler and your music. So, what type of music do you play?


Tyler:
"Oh, it's different from what I do with my family. It's rock music, rock pop, very singable, very melodic. Pretty much it doesn't really separate anybody. It appeals to the masses."

Do you plan a solo album or anything like that?


Tyler:
"Definitely. That's what's in the works right now."

And how about Steve and you going solo? No plans so far?
Steve Wilkinson

Steve:
"No no no. I'm really happy to work and manage what we do and I'm happy to produce and be a songwriter. I love doing that. And I work in a support capacity like a parent should."

How about your career as a producer? Would you like to produce any other artists besides your family?


Steve:
"I would love to. You gotta be very creative in a studio and it's like hanging a picture when you work on a project. And obviously, I can't draw very well. I'm a terrible artist but I love working in a studio. That's the way I make my art.

You already mentioned your TV show. Do you think that your European fans will get a chance to enjoy it as well someday?


Amanda:
"I hope so, I mean in Australia there's the second season now..."

Steve:
"They already air it in Australia."

Amanda:
"..and we love it. It definitely reflects our sense of humor. We know shows in North America like The Office, which was in the UK, that's very kind of dry humor and we work very hard on the show and we work with some incredible traders and incredible actors that were in this through the whole process so we're hoping that it does make its way over here and people will enjoy it."

How about your show in Canada. Is the third season in the running?


Amanda:
"The second season has been completed and we're taking a much needed break because it takes a lot of work."

Steve:
"But the first and second seasons are currently in reruns. It's on the air right now."

Is this your first trip to Europe?


Steve:
"Yes. Actually we had one little brief visit to Zagreb, Croatia."

As visitors?


Steve:
"Yes. We kind of just stopped over on the way to the Far East."

Do you have any experience in observing the European audience? Are there any differences in their reactions?
Amanda Wilkinson

Amanda:
"I think they are very passionate about music. I think in North America we get kind of jaded because we get so much music, I mean in Canada it's a little different because we are heavily influenced by European music, by music from the UK. We almost get that music before the United States get that, which we feel as a privilege and an honor. We are very passionate about music in Canada. You don't know what to expect when you come to another country. When you see them reacting, keeping back that energy, this is cool and you relate instantly. It doesn't matter the language barriers there. You feel that coming back from everyone, so it's been amazing so far."

Do you know anything about the Czech Republic?


Steve:
"No, I know where it is but we've never been there, need to go."

Amanda:
"Absolutely."

Do you know any famous Czech people?


Steve:
"No."

There are many Czechs in the NHL...


Steve:
"Oh, yes!"

Amanda:
"Yeah, the hockey players! You know we lived in Nashville for 10 years, so they forced us to love American football and then we came home and we felt so out of the loop because obviously in Canada hockey is huge. So now my family and my boyfriend's going to watch games and now we're learning slowly but surely a little bit more about hockey. That's really terrible 'cause we're from Canada."

Steve:
"And there's a lot of Czechs in the NHL."

So you know Jaromir Jagr?


Tyler:
"Jaromir Jagr, of course!"

Steve:
"I know the name, I didn't realize he was from the Czech Republic. That's great! Keep them coming, great players!"

OK, that's all, thank you very much.

 

The Wilkinsons & Petr Mecir

(The Wilkinsons & Petr Mecir - Berlin, Germany, 02/13/2008)

 

 

 

The Wilkinsons - Nobody Died

 



(C) Petr Mecir 2008. All rights reserved.