We had a chance to catch up with Wes Mack last week before he kicked off the Canadian leg of the Shania Twain Lets Rock This Country Tour. The first night of the tour was June 6th in Seattle Washington and then carries across Canada for 14 dates and Wes is along for the ride. Let’s just say he might be a little excited.
Corey: Wes, buddy thanks for taking the time to chat today. Congrats on the new single and EP
Wes: Hey no I appreciate you doing this. And thank you very much.
Corey: Let’s start with the new EP released by Big Machine Label Group Canada. You have Duets on their along with 3 others maybe tell us about how these 4 songs were chosen for the EP.
Wes: Ya, Duets was kinda the thing that everyone kind of caught on to and I guess caught the industries eye with me a little bit. I had put out Duet independently with absolutely zero marketing dollars behind it. And kinda just let that fly out in the wind and people responded to it. It’s an interesting, funny first song to have your career begin off a song like that. And Heart Back Home was another song that was recorded in that same sessions as duet. Now the funny thing there is that it’s an older song for me and I had written and performed that in 2012 its right at the beginning of all this. It was originally intended to be a single two. And it would have come out right after Duet, but as we become involved with Universal and Big Machine schedules changed and it hasn’t been released till now. And it’s always kind of been near and dear to me. It marks the beginning those were the first two songs I wrote with a producer named Jeff Johnston who is playing in my band now on tour and we continue to work together.
And conversely Before You Drive Me Crazy the last single out was written and was kind of my major label debut just about a year ago in Nashville. And that ended up having me work with a guy that did a lot of producing on the back half of the album is a fella by the name of Micah Wilshire and it was a random writing session. I had never meet the guy before, he was the only writer that I was paired up with that had no last name on the contact info I was given. So he was just Micah so he was a bit of a ghost. I remember this session quite well actually, I brought in the idea for it and we were just sitting there working at it and all of a sudden a guy pops through the door. Micah then says, “Hope you don’t mind I asked my buddy Rick to join us on the session.” I was like sure, ya and then Micah says “He actually wrote Tim McGraw’s Something Like That. I was like wow, he has written a #1 hit song so ya come on in. (laughing) So, Micah and I are working away at the song and Rick says absolutely nothing and at one point kind of just puts his head down on his guitar. At this point I went ahh man, this guy is totally hung over. But after about a half hour he sits up all of a sudden and says “I have a thought” and he sings the entire chorus verbatim as it sits now. So I laugh now, Micah came up to me after and said “ya that’s how Rick does things he kinda just shuts up for a while and stares at his guitar but then he just ends up just like in there”. Subsequently I have written with those two guys again and it’s the same thing every time. So, it’s worked into a cool relationship where Micah has produced I think, 6 or 7 songs that will be on my full record when that comes out. Along with the couple that are on this EP. And then the other song is, well as I tell funny stories here (he says laughing) The Way you Let Me Down is written with Todd Clarke, Donovan Woods and Gavin Slate. The story on that one is the producer on it Todd Clarke, I walked into a writing session with him and Donovan and I sit down and there is a poster on the wall for a band called Pilot, from the early 2000’s I was a fan of theirs. So anyway there were posters on the wall and one of them had a date of April 12th or something 2002. I was like ah cool you were at the Pilot show that night. I was like, that was the first bands I was in in shows like our fist gig. You saw Pilot that night. Then the other guy in the room Donovan just burst into laughter and says “Dude, he is the lead singer of Pilot”. So ya that was a bit of a funny story. So needless to say the fella who was the lead singer of Pilot who has been a writer for years and he is the fella behind that. My point here is the EP is a big collection over a bunch of time with a bunch of writers and producers. I really like that because I feel I have been able to in a reasonably small number of songs really stretch out and have a fairly wide sound. And not that it’s too wide to be roped into one EP. But it covers a range of things. A range of things that I wanted to write about and a range of sonic styles a little bit.
Corey: How can you maybe compare your acting career into what you do musically? I know your dad was a big inspiration behind your music.
Wes: That is definitely an interesting question. Music something I was doing since I was really young. When I was 13 I was in my first band. I really didn’t get into acting until I was like 2o or something like that a number of years later. I would say I perhaps I may have enjoyed more success as an actor earlier. So if you looked at notable things that I have done it would look like I was acting first. But it’s been a nice opportunity to really return to just doing music full time. I still very much enjoy acting and directing and I am pretty certain I will get the opportunity to do those things again. But this is what I have been chasing after for years and all of a sudden to have the opportunity to really throw myself into this is has been fantastic. It’s getting to write and play fulltime and in terms of comparing them they are fairly different. There are certain similarities like being in the studio and then being on set and then comparing live shows with live theatre. The big difference I find as an actor you kind of have to accept you’re a piece within a much larger organization kind of thing. If you’re acting for like a TV show, you have your lines and ultimately there is a huge crew operating around you. The words aren’t yours, the sets not yours there is a director and a producer. There is a lot more going on and you have to accept that you just have to do a good job of your small piece of it. Where I find as an artist you end up wearing a lot more hats and maybe that’s because I am a lot more of a control freak with it and started off as an independent artists. Aside from singing the songs and that you have to figure out what is going on your album, what do you want it to look like, what do you want your videos to look like. Where do you want your tours to go? You have to plan a lot of the logistics to that so it’s wearing multiple hats and having a broader view as to what is going on as opposed to acting. I think in acting your job is to have a smaller view and really focus on your specific piece that’s all you really can do in acting. You put your work out there and someone else is going to edit it and put together into a bigger body of work.
Corey: Sure, let’s go back a bit where you talk about that creative control and your directing capabilities what you have done to date with that. You have done some really great videos that you yourself have put together. They look fantastic and however sometimes as an up and coming artist they tend to just not put out something anybody will watch. That’s not really the situation in your case that I am aware of.
Wes: Thanks, I think I am extremely lucky in that sense. I don’t know any other artists who direct, only because it’s an unlikely skill set to pick up. I was fortunate to spend 4 or 5 years doing a lot of acting on some bigger film sets and I found if you keep your eyes and ears open in situations like that you can pick up a free film education. And then fortunate enough for me the stuff that was released from Duet onward I think I have directed 11 music videos for myself and other artists so I was lucky that some of my earliest kicks of the can were not those great releases and were probably not as good. I have had the opportunity to kinda muck around with it a bit. So I really do feel lucky in that sense. I realize when it’s early on and you don’t have any particular amount of money for it. I know I certainly didn’t in the early videos. If you’re an artist that is not myself you may end up working with “less than the best” people where they are still figuring their stuff out. Where I found I was just able to “for zero dollars” use myself A lot. For the Duet video ultimately was written, directed, edited, color corrected and produced by myself. The beauty of that was that I wasn’t paying myself anything. So it wasn’t like it was costing me a fortune but it just cost me a lot of time. And a couple years ago that was a resource I had more of. So it’s not just lucky in that sense in that I also got to take some of these songs and finish them not just from a musical perspective. I got to take an idea from its very beginning to its musical completion to some sort of video component that compliments that. So for me, someone who likes to tell stories its very appealing to be able to do all of that.
Corey: So, let’s talk about transitioning from the actor side and what it can bring to your live show? Considering your about to embark on this BIG Shania Twain Canadian Tour. I recall the first time I saw you in a smaller setting where it was just you and your guitar just after signing with BMLG in Newmarket.
Wes: I often like seeing artists in those smaller shows. I get the idea behind the big arena shows where it’s all the flash and you lean on production value a little bit versus where it’s just you and a guitar you get to see the songs and maybe the little quirks come out and maybe get to see perhaps something that is maybe not as air tight and rehearsed. I remember how the Shania thing all came together it was kind of simple and can kind of answer it with two simple clichés. Her people called my people and the rest is history…(Laughs) But honestly I was over in Victoria, I woke up in the morning and I had about 30 text messages from my Agent all saying Call Me… Call Me Now. So I did that and it was something that was requested that we open all the Canadian dates and it was one of those things with many logistical questions and stuff but when Shania calls you just say yes. To this day I don’t have a better answer than that but I can say I am looking forward to asking Shania myself (laughs again)
Corey: So have you guys been rehearsing and getting ready for this one the last couple months or is it just get up and go?
Wes: Ya, we have done a lot of rehearsing for this. I haven’t done an arena style tour before so obviously there is an element of nerves that goes along with that. So we have rehearsed for I would say 50 hours already and maybe have another 20 or so left before it kicks off here in the next week which is totally insane. And it’s not that we sit and play for the entire time. We are hammering out some of the gear stuff and it’s a trouble shooting type thing to make sure you’re prepared. I realize that everyone coming out to that show has paid a fair bit of money to come see it. Obviously Shania and her crew are going to put on a great show and we just want to make sure we do the same.
Corey: Country music fans are a little different than maybe your old time rock fans in that the fans show up a lot for the opening acts. Whereas back in the day you would have 2 bands opening for Poison or Def Leppard and only show up to catch the headliner that’s really not the case anymore.
Wes: Totally, it is different I find Country Music fans are far more open. One of my favorite memories ever was my first show opening for Florida Georgia Line and we walked out on stage at the Commodore in Vancouver which holds about 1000 people venue. We were still a few months away from releasing Duet so we had nothing out at radio yet. No one had any idea who we were and we played our first song and that was the loudest crowd I had ever heard in my entire life. And I couldn’t get over that, they had no reason to cheer for me and no idea who I was. They were just happy to be there and having a good time.
Corey: Wes, thanks so much for doing this we really appreciate it. We wish you one hell of a tour with Shania and hope to catch up with you on one of your Ontario dates.
Wes: Ya, no problem my friend, thanks for having me and I appreciate it and looking forward to seeing you in Ontario.
Wes hit the road this past weekend for the first two dates of Shania’s Rock This Country Tour. If you have a chance I would suggest you grab tickets to this one. I am sure both Wes & Shania are set to put on one of the best shows this summer!
Corey Kelly / @CoreyKelly76