Wills rides into Wild Bills
With a new album out and a Canada-wide tour planned for spring, Bobby Wills is saddling up for a couple of gigs close to home at Wild Bill’s.
Country singer Wills (vocals, guitar) and his Calgary band – Rick LeClair (percussion), Nick Degama Blanchet (bass) and Iggy Kessel (guitar) – play Bill’s, Aug. 24-25.
Wills, who spends much of his time travelling between Calgary and Nashville, and touring the country, comes by his love of music naturally.
In fact, since he was a youngster, music has been a big part of his family life; and he has two families.
Wills was adopted as a baby and raised in Calgary by a family who enjoyed music immensely; his dad loved country music.
When he was 18, he was contacted by the adoption agency which asked if he’d be interested in making contact with his biological mother. He didn’t hesitate and discovered, at age 20, that the biological side of his family also had a musical bent.
Not long before, on a trip to Australia, a friend had bet him $20 he wouldn’t get up and sing with a band they were seeing. He took the bet, sang Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” and was surprised at the positive reaction from the crowd.
It was the first time he’d put any real effort into music and after winning the bet, he took up the guitar.
He returned to Canada, got to know his biological family and started to view music as a possible career path. He’s now a couple of albums into that career. He’s moved from open mic nights to touring the country in a bar band to recording demos in Toronto with Juno-nominated Thomas Wade.
While working with Wade, his mother called to say she’d found his dad, coincidentally in Toronto. The two got together with Wade and spent an evening listening to records.
At that moment, said Wills, “I realized this is real, this is in my blood. This isn’t just a crazy dream, this is part of who I am.”
These days, Wills is a busy man as he balances a family with three kids, touring, recording and writing music.
“It’s a busy house,” he said while spending the afternoon with one of his youngsters at Calgary’s Millennium Skateboard Park, Sunday (Aug. 19). “As a band, we haven’t been out much of late, but we’re looking at having a long run next spring. Playing Wild Bill’s is kind of a warmup for what’s going to be a tour.
“Bill’s is a great place because the crowd is different every night, so you get a different reaction to your music every night.”
Now in his mid-30s, different reactions are what Wills is looking for right now. He’s playing music from his debut album, Man With No Past (2010), throwing in new material from his latest project If It Was That Easy (Oct. 2012) and trying out still newer material that will appear on future albums.
“Plus, Wild Bill’s is close to home and you get to see the mountains while you’re there. Plus it’s good people there in Banff.”
Songs on If It Was That Easy were written in the two years between albums. Wills is a full-time songwriter who sets aside blocks of time to concentrate (understandable with a 14, 12 and three-year-old around the house) on his craft. “There have been a couple of thunderbolts, where you have to stop the car and write something down, but I usually need to set aside time to work.”
His debut album and single “A Little More Time” charted on the Billboard Country Top 40 list.
The single released from his latest album, “Show Some Respect”, was at 17 on the Billboard chart on Sunday, while its accompanying video is at 20 in CMT’s rotation (the video includes a cameo by his three-year-old daughter).
In his songwriting, Wills writes from first-hand experience, of which he’s obviously had plenty. With families adopted and biological, his own young family, career and touring, he has plenty of fodder for inspiration.
“I write about what I’ve experienced,” he said, “and “If It Was That Easy” is the story of the last two years of my life. There has to be a connection for me.”
Wills also works out songs with his fellow band members. “Sometimes it just depends on who has the best idea or who’s on a roll. We have a team-based working relationship.”
Last year, Wills and the band played only 50 or so gigs while songwriting was taking place in preparation for the new album. This year, he said, with festivals and a spring tour, he’ll be on the road much more. Touring means a lot of driving and a lot of flying, as he tries not to be away from home for too many long stretches.
“And by flying, you get away from being in a van full of smelly musicians,” he kidded. “And I don’t want to do too much driving and touring, I like to be home with my kids.”
Through the winter months, he said, which will be a bit of a down time before spring touring, he’ll continue songwriting.
“I think I’ve been very blessed. Music is a hard way to make a living, but I really believe this is what I was meant to be doing. Things are going really, really well; I can’t complain.”
In order to post comments on our web site, you must validate your email address. An email was sent to you when you registered that included an activation link. If you have not yet done so, please click on the link to activate your account.
If you did not receive your activation email, please click here to have it resent.