by Roman Mitz, Open Spaces
Bobby Wills likes to mix it up. The first four songs on his new album, In Comes The Night, offer memorable melodies, tasteful playing and a clean and clear voice that rises above the music. The next couple of tracks are more along the lines of the up-tempo new country that seems to dominate the airwaves. Bobby likes to sample the best of both worlds.
“I really wanted to mix the sounds up but, most importantly, I just make a conscious effort to be me,” says the affable Albertan, calling from his Calgary home. “You have a lot of discussion about what is and what isn’t country music and to me, the new stuff and the old stuff fit well together. You take some of the elements of what’s happening now and what’s happened in the past and put them together, and that’s what I wanted to do with this record. It’s kind of a quiet commentary on how I feel about music. It doesn’t have to have specific boxes.
“You hear people being critical of certain sounds and certain music but if the person making the music is invested and loves what they’re doing, I say keep doing it. That’s something I’ve learned in the last few years, to ease up on those kinds of evaluations.”
Similar to his last record ‘Crazy Enough’, Bobby co-wrote all of the songs on the album, the bulk once again with writing mainstays Walt Aldridge and Michael Pyle. The lyrics are a key part of a song to Bobby and he loves to use visual phrases. Two of the more pictorial tracks on the album are the ballad ‘Ride Out The Rain’, in which he weathers a storm with his main squeeze, and ‘Out Of Your Mind’, a clever little ditty about a girl who has wiped him from her memory bank.
“I love the Rhythm & Blues feel of Ride Out The Rain,” he says. “I wanted something with that softer R & B, swaying kind of sound. I’m a sucker for a great love song and that one was certainly a fit for me. I wrote ‘Out Of Your Mind’ with Phil Barton and Patricia Conroy who are so good. I’m blessed to work with some of the best in the business. I just told Patricia the title and she said, yeah, we’re going to write this. It was one of those songs that came together pretty quickly and it’s one of my favourite co-writes.”
There are many personal moments on the album for Bobby, including ‘Before I Knew Better’ which he wrote for his teenage son, one of his three children. (“I look at my teenager and see some of the things he’s going through and what it keeps it in perspective is I did all of those things when I was his age.”) There’s also the reflective “A New Day” in which Bobby says ‘You always have to fall back on the things that always get you through’. The singer takes his own advice and slows things down from time to
time by getting together with his life-long buddies. On the other side of the coin Bobby really gets things cooking with ‘Get It While The Gettin’s Good’ a balls-to-the-wall rocker, complete with a horn section, that brings to mind The Rolling Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’.
“It’s interesting that you would bring up Brown Sugar because like that song, the horns for Get It were recorded at Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama,” Bobby says. ”I wasn’t at Muscle Shoals because I was out on the road. When they sent me the recording I had no idea they were going to put the horns on it, but it turned out really well.”
Get It While The Gettin’s Good preceded the album as a single, and the latest single is the anthemic title track which closes the record. That song sends a message that despite the daily grind and day-to-day headaches, true love conquers all when the night falls. The video for the song, however, doesn’t quite follow that storyline.
“I always try and take the song that strikes me as the most important one and put it as the closer, and that was the case for In Comes The Night,” he begins. “We were immediately gripped by that guitar lick at the beginning and thought it was so cool, so we just decided to write around that. I don’t generally write around guitar hooks or melody hooks like that, but it just sort of happened that day. I love that throwback sound, that Roy Orbison, Mavericks kind of feel.
“As far as the video goes, Joel Stewart directed that and he’s done a lot of great work over the years. We wanted to give him some creative license. The song is so cinematic in terms of its sweeping melody, so we just wanted to have some fun and make it almost a creative art piece. It’s not exactly what you visualize when you hear that song and I love it for that reason.”
Outside of his musical career, Bobby has always been a philanthropist and he continues to support a worthy project that is near and dear to his heart.
“We’re really diving into the adoption thing now. It’s been a big part of my life obviously, being an adopted kid. We’re getting behind an organization in Calgary called Adoption Options. We’re trying to create some awareness and funding to help both sides of the family equation, the biological as well as the adopting parents. It’s pretty cool and it’s nice to see the impact it’s having on the city.”
Look for Bobby on tour throughout Canada in 2018. Although no firm details have been drawn up Bobby says “They told me I was going to be busy and I believe them.”
Other Country Stuff:
Dallas Smith will be embarking on his just announced Side Effects Tour, kicking off in Halifax on October 12 and making stops in 26 cities across the country before wrapping in Abbotsford B.C. on November 18. The James Barker Band, Cold Creek County and The Cadillac Three will open for Dallas on selected dates. The tour comes on the heels of his fourth Number One Single ‘Sky Stays This Blue’, a first for a Canadian male country artist.
The Lovelocks have just released their first live album aptly titled ‘The Lovelocks Live’. Showcasing the group’s soaring vocals and infectious high-energy stage presence, the album was recorded at Calgary’s Webber Academy Performing Arts Centre earlier this Spring as part of the live music broadcast series – ‘Stampede City Sessions’. The Lovelocks recently celebrated their fourth consecutive CCMA Awards nomination for Roots Artist or Group
It’s a welcome return home for Paul Brandt to Warner Music Canada, the label on which he started his career in 1996 with his ‘Calm Before The Storm’ album. His new single and the title of his forthcoming album ‘The Journey’, is streaking up the Country Charts. “Warner maintains that rare balance of taking care of business, and loving music and musicians,” Paul says. “It’s great to be back home with them as we launch The Journey.
In closing, we’d be remiss not to wish the best of luck to all of all of the stars nominated for Canadian Country Music Association Awards. The show takes place on September 10 at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, and the nominees for the most prestigious trophy, the Apple Music Fans’ Choice Award, are Gord Bamford, Dean Brody, Chad Brownlee, High Valley and the aforementioned Dallas Smith. https://www.facebook.com/roman.mitz