David Wilcox Interview

Growing up I remember weekends spent in the basement listening to cranked up tunes while playing Lego with my brother. On those nights my dad taught our neighbours what good music sounded like. I can remember frantically dancing to every David Wilcox song imaginable and mimicked the bending guitar riffs from “Do the Bear-Cat” in footsie pajamas with my high-pitched voice. OCR is honoured to present this interview with Canadian music legend David Wilcox!

OCR: The first gig you played was at the tender age of 14 to an audience of ex-convicts. How did that gig get booked? Did the idea of playing in front of ex-convicts faze you at all? 

DW: I had a friend whose family employed a woman who volunteered at the drop-in for ex-cons. It was in a church basement. I was more frightened by the idea of performing in public than anything else (exhilarated too!). We rehearsed several songs carefully, but didn’t realize until a week before that our material, played one tune after another, only filled about fifteen minutes of time! We learned a few more Chuck Berry songs quickly. At the gig somebody slid a chair at us while we were playing. I said, “Three chairs for that man over there!” and – presto – a front person was born.

OCR: You are notorious for touring different school campuses and rocking socks off the crowd. What inspired you to tour schools? Do you get different energy and feedback from a campus crowd in comparison to a larger stadium crowd?

DW: I relate to the crowd as one large person. The colleges have a freer atmosphere at times than a stadium or festival, which tend to be more regulated. Basically, I enjoy almost any venue. Being in a trio makes us pretty adaptable.

OCR: Elvis Presley is one of your biggest music influences. What was it about his music and on-stage persona that intrigued you?

DW: I can remember when the Beatles first became famous and, of course, when Elvis did. As absurd as it sounds, the grownups seemed to think the Beatles had no talent (‘four lovable moptops’). I was (and am) a huge fan. But Elvis radiated a kind of sexual danger, plus there was the (in Canada largely unspoken) taboo of a white person singing African American music. Some grownups were very uneasy with Elvis – he frightened them. I was enormously impressed. I thought “anybody who makes grownups this angry MUST be great.” It was largely through his music that I found roots music.

OCR: Canada is known for producing some of the most innovative bands and singers in the music scene. Who are some of your favourite fellow Canadian artists? Are their any new artists that you have come across that we should look out for?

DW: As a proud Canadian, there are too many to list. I will say that one common feature I detect in the Canadians who are established artists is individuality. From Joni Mitchell to Sarah McLachlan or Neil Young to Avril Lavigne, there’s a common thread for me in that our Canadian artists aren’t followers or trendies.

OCR: Your live performances are punctuated with a great sense of humour and your lyrics reflect that attribute with comical undertones and playful rhythms. Were you a class clown in school? Who is your favourite comedian?

DW: No-one has ever asked me who my favourite comedian is. I think laughter is one of the best aspects of existence. Indeed, I was a class clown. There’s a wide variety of comic styles; how does one compare Howie Mandel’s practical jokes to Bill Maher’s incisive wit to Wanda Sykes’ brilliance? Those are three who come to mind.

OCR: Which Blues musicians do you draw influence from?

DW: The list is absolutely enormous (it’s one of my favourite styles of music) but Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, B.B King, Ike Rodgers would be a few. My main in-person teacher was Bukka White, who was very generous and kind to me. He even let me play onstage with him a couple of times – one of the great honours of my life.

OCR: Currently you are touring across Canada. Do you have any memorable or hilarious “on-tour” stories or encounters?

DW: I tend to live in the moment, so I’m not a great ‘road story’ guy. I wish I was.

OCR: What does your writing process consist of? Typically do you work alone or do you collaborate with your band mates? Do the lyrics come first or do the rhythms

DW: Generally I write alone. I try consciously not to have a process that way I repeat myself less. I will say that often the best songs seem to come quickly, as opposed to ‘overthinking’ and laboriously tinkering with an idea. Some of my strongest ones have been pretty much written in five or ten minutes. I believe that any work of art has an energy or integrity of its own; it ‘wants’ to go somewhere…the mission of the artist is to get his/her ego out of the way and let the song/painting/dance speak.

OCR: If you were to have Breakfast at the Circus, what would the meal consist of? With all the sugar and grease coursing through your veins, which midway games would you hit?

DW: These days my breakfast is a little different than it was when I wrote the song (smile). I’d probably hit all the games and go home broke but happy with a large fuzzy neon dinosaur and a great pair of cheap sunglasses (maybe a gangsta hat to boot).

OCR: Can we expect any new projects or releases in the near future?

DW: Yes, I’m working on an album of original solo acoustic tunes. Real roots stuff, but with my own twist. Thank you for interviewing me, and a huge ‘THANK YOU’ to anyone who listens to our music!

Don’t forget to check out all of David’s latest news and tour information at www.davidwilcoxrocks.com!

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