We had a chance to catch up with Bobby Wills last week before he left to join the 26 date, cross Canada tour with Chad Brownlee’s When The Lights Go Down Tour. Here is what we had to chat about.
Sound Check: Let’s kind of start things off with the current single, “Undressed”, can you tell me how you got yourself and Patricia Conroy involved in this one? (video on bottom of article)
Bobby: Oh, well it’s a funny story. I’ve been a huge Patricia fan and in fact probably the word, “Crush” suits that, and been a big fan of hers for a long time. And so going into CCMA’s in 2013 my publisher had reached out to her and asked if she would write with us, and she said, “Yes” graciously. And so we got a chance to write together. It’s really that simple and such a great experience. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s just a joy to share it with her too, ‘cause she’s just a wonderful person. We’ve become good friends and, you know, and she’s rocking it, man. She’s got so many singles on radio and she’s just a such a great writer. It’s just a joy to get to write with her.
Sound Check: When you talk about this tour that you’re about to embark on, it’s 26 dates across Canada. That’s pretty hefty in such a short period of time. Maybe tell us what you’re looking forward to on the tour.
Bobby: I’m just excited to get to play that much. In Canada we’re so spread out. Sometimes it can be a fair bit of time between shows. So to get that many shows in that short a period of time, it’s just going to be a ball to get to play music every night. The only downside is there’s a lot of time on the bus.
Sound Check: Is that that bad, though? You get time to write, maybe, hang out?
Bobby: You know, I don’t have a ton of experience, honestly, for those types of lengths. So for me the bus is great. I always enjoy it and I actually can make it productive. But on a 30 day run this will be a first for me in terms of that long on the bus.
Sound Check: With Chad and Jess on the bill, it’s nice to see it’s not just fluff to start off the show. It’s great to see three great artists on the bill.
Bobby: Oh, yeah, it’s awesome. You know, it’s the MDM family. One things Mike, the president of the label, wanted to do many years ago was put together a tour with his acts. It’s almost like, you know the old days when Elvis – and not to compare the artists – but it’s like those old days when Elvis, and Johnny Cash, and those guys were all together and they did shows, almost sort of variety acts where they had a bunch of acts together. And so this is a little bit of a throw back to that. I think it’s wonderful. I think anytime you’re selling tickets to an event, if you can offer more for your buck I think people appreciate that and I think it’s great for the artists, because we can share expenses and share the travels together, and the camaraderie, and it’s good for the fans because they can experience more than one thing.
Sound Check: So Willing Nashville, can you touch on how this all came about and who you’re working with, and how exciting is this?
Bobby: It’s really exciting. It’s a very big project. It’s going to be a long road. It’s not unlike Canada in that you have to earn your place and it takes time, so I know we’ve got our work cut out for us. Back in the fall, my partner at Willing Entertainment in Canada was pursuing a business opportunity with Angela Borchetta. Angela was with Big Machine Records Nashville for a long time and has an affiliation there. She came to Jeff she heard the music and the two of them got talking and decided to do this venture into the Nashville scene. They wanted me to help kick things off so it’s really exciting.
Sound Check: Funny though when I am chatting with artists from South of the border they are really eager to break it in Canada and the Canadian Artists are working hard to break the big US market. That will be a new market for you.
Bobby: You’re right the US market is a big nut to crack that is for sure. So we are just trying to be very pragmatic and do it piece by piece. We don’t have illusions of grandeur that we will blow up overnight but the hope is with good music, and a consistent approach and a long term plan that we can make some strides.
Sound Check: So after the When The Lights Go Down Tour wraps up what are you plans? Summer festivals, new music?
Bobby: Oh man we got a ton of stuff happening. It’s that time of year where everything is just starting to finalize and we have some pretty exciting stuff happening. We are doing Craven out in Saskatchewan which should be cool. Jason Aldean is the headliner that night so that should be fun. We have some Calgary Stampede stuff to watch for coming up and doing a bunch of other stuff like Tweed Stampede and Boot Hill Jamboree but I think that’s all I am really allowed to say at this time.
Sound Check: So let’s touch on social media a bit. 20 years ago when the artists were trying to get noticed, it was a little different compared to what is possible today. Can you maybe touch on what you think social media has done for today’s artists?
Bobby: Well I think social media can be a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand you can defiantly access fans and they can access you. I really get a kick out of that, and like to do the twitter chats from time to time. Get out online and let people know that its really me on the other end and not a management company doing it for me. From that stand point I really enjoy it. The only downside of it is that there is a lot of competition out there so its double edged in the sense that its hard to cut through all the other stuff to reach your audience but ultimately it’s a wonderful tool. My interaction with fans through social media has been overwhelmingly positive. I have enjoyed it a lot. But thrilled that folks like yourself that are doing it and helping us find those people is really one of the big keys of social media. It’s having partners and people that care helping promote us and you can’t pay for that kind of promotion. So we appreciate that.
Sound Check: We appreciate that type of response from the artist. As someone that does this because I love the music and love to spread the word on artist that I believe in its difficult sometimes because we get asked to cover so much. But I personally only interview and cover events I am interested in. So having someone like yourself express those statements it makes us validate what we love doing. So thanks for that.
Sound Check: You’re really passionate about the music you play and it has progressed over the release of your albums. Maybe tell us how the new music is different from what you have recorded in the past.
Bobby: Well you know it’s one of those things that you go through growth and I think because music is always evolving particularly in country music because its growing so much. The lines are so blurred to what is and isn’t country and all those different discussions that go on. The nice thing about being an artist in that climate is that you can experiment and have fun. So for me when I open my mouth it sounds country. That’s what it is and it’s what I do and I am proud of that. So one of the things it allows us to do is to stretch on the music side and do some things outside the box and try and some different mediums and different production ideas and you will see that on the next record as well.
Sound Check: I find the new stuff has a bigger more full sound from let’s say the first album. Can you maybe tell me how that has changed?
Bobby: Ya, its just growth, I think you just get better (well hopefully you get better) and just trying different things is just so much easier today. Technology is moving quickly to, so some of the things you couldn’t do five years ago is easier to do today. The gap between the major label and the indie artist like myself is closing because technology is just changing the way things are done.
Sound Check: Difference between Canadian Country music and that stuff being done south of the border.
Bobby: I get that question a lot, for me the Canadian stuff holds a very special place in my heart and that’s likely because I am Canadian. For me I think the Canadian thing is very organic. I think as Canadian artists there is less pressure to do what’s cool and follow your heart a bit more. I think you have a little more latitude to do that in Canada. On the other hand, I think that the US is getting better with that and opening their minds. We’re seeing traditional artists being signed now that are pretty traditional hardcore country right up against the pop stuff and its being embraced on both sides. So I think really the Canadian model has maybe even led the way
Sound Check: So you have collaborated with Patricia as we spoke about earlier. Is there anyone that you would really like to work with or maybe are working with on the new album.
Bobby: You know I have a bunch of guys on my bucket list. I was fortunate enough to write with Bryan White this year and I am a huge Brian White fan. He is a great writer and he has written some big songs and a super sweet guy. Also got to write with Wade Kirby and I always enjoy writing with Wade. And a Canadian fella that we have had some fun with the last couple times. We wrote a song with him recently Phil O’Donnell who is really just a great Canadian songwriter, Nashville based guy but I have to say that I have really been lucky to write with some of the best people on the planet that’s for sure.
Sound Check: Well, Bobby thanks so much for this, we love catching up and we hope that the new tour is a dandy!
Don’t miss Bobby Wills and crew aka the When The Lights Go Down Tour as it travels EAST to WEST across the Great White North… Take off to the great white north, Take off it’s a beauty way to go eh!
Enjoy the tour.
Corey Kelly / @CoreyKelly76
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