Lately we’ve had the extreme good-fortune of being able to talk to some extraordinary artists & bands all at very exciting times in their lives & careers. From Modern Day Poets stopping by the studio for a recent taping of SBS Live This Week, to recent interviews done with Ken Fox and here with Colin Arthur Wiebe…the beginning of November has been filled with the inspiration of these wonderful musicians truly finding their way. Must be some magic in the air of this month…or something in the water maybe…but music is all-around us right now and in the best of ways as we head towards the end of the year.
Check out the interview below with singer/song-writer Colin Arthur Wiebe – a completely genuine, honest man on a mission to push the past into the past and head in a new, exciting direction where he takes the helm of an entire band to the stage to bring his songs to life on his recent LIVE DVD release, An Evening Of Stories And Songs. And though the road to success for any of us isn’t paved overnight…Colin gives you a real, honest account of the distance he’s truly traveled in personal-growth in order to become the artist he is today…one that he can be proud of, one that belongs onstage to play his music. I admire Colin for overcoming a lot of obstacles in his path in pursuit of his love of music, and it was a pleasure to talk to Colin. See what he had to say to us in the interview below!
Colin Arthur Wiebe Interview
SBS: Colin! So good to have you with us my friend! As you already know through some back & forth messaging between us – I’m excited to talk to you at this particular time in your life and thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. Tell us a little history on yourself before we get into the present-day happenings of what you’re up to Colin…where did it all begin for you? What was the moment that inspired you…changed your life…that moment that you saw someone or heard something and you instantly knew that pursuing a life involved in music was what you wanted & needed to do?
Colin: Thank you and great questions. I grew up in a musical family. my dad is an opera singer and for years he directed choirs so everything I was exposed to during childhood was mostly classical in nature or music from church. It wasn’t until I saw Elvis Presley on TV that I discovered rock and roll and that had a profound impact on me. The energy in the music, his persona and the guitars and drums were so cool.
I think the biggest influence on me was the listening center we had at elementary school when I was in grade 6. It was a bank of headphones connected to a turntable which I believe was designed to be used for poetry class to play spoken word records. Someone snuck in a couple of of their older siblings rock records and we took turns listening to Paul McCartney, Elton John and The Guess Who.
It’s ironic that years later I would wind up singing and playing with almost all of the members of the The Guess Who. I toured with Randy Bachman for nearly two decades singing all the big Guess Who hit records and then actually fronted the Guess Who for a brief US tour when their singer was injured in a motorcycle accident.
SBS: When we last talked…albeit briefly to set up the time-frame for the interview…you had mentioned that this particular DVD you’ve just released, which was filmed live in concert…was about you ‘stepping out of the shadows’ – and I suppose that got me curious. Of course I want to know what brought the courage in you out to embrace your time in the spotlight…but what was it that put you in ‘the shadows’ to begin with? What kept you there & for how long? What helped you find your way out?
Colin: It’s hard to imagine being in the shadows when you are front and center in the spotlight but I suppose it’s more of a metaphor for singing someone else’s music and supporting their career as opposed to bringing your own message and music to the world. What kept me there was a love for singing those songs, which I still enjoy, and the adventure of touring all around the world sharing the stage with some of the greatest rock bands of all time. I got to meet and hang out with some of my favourite artists and it was a thrill to have that opportunity after playing bars for so many years.
Finding my way out was more like getting pushed out of the nest. I had recorded my own albums but didn’t have a record label to help me get traction at radio. I was content to keep writing and recording my own music in the background while touring with the Randy Bachman band. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t in Bachman’s best interest to help promote my music because I was his Burton Cummings voice, even though he produced my Livin On Dreams album. When he got back together with Fred Turner to do Bachman Turner, I was no longer needed so I started recording new material of my own. Getting pushed out of the nest ended up becoming a good thing for me.
SBS: If I’m catching all this correctly Colin…would you say it’s safe to say that An Evening Of Stories And Songs was as much of a personal achievement as it was a musical one? From the preview/highlight video I’ve seen on the performance – you were rock-solid up there & backed up by a terrific band; but on a personal-level…what did putting this DVD out there mean to you & affect your confidence…and potentially what could it lead to down the road in terms of your own personal growth?
Colin: I’ve gained a lot of confidence playing live shows over the years and there is a special magic that happens when you experience and share energy with an audience. I’ve always said “a life worth living is a life worth recording” so telling the stories behind some of my songs and capturing the event on video, gives people and future generations a snapshot of my personal journey. I hear from so many people how some of my songs have inspired them so it was time to share them again in a new way. In terms of my own personal growth, this DVD is simply a bookend to a certain chapters of my life and releasing it allows me to begin my next creative venture.
SBS: Definitely want to talk about the band that you’re playing with! Like…is my math correct here – that’s another SEVEN players & performers onstage with you? You had mentioned to me that they’re actually local to us here in The Lower Mainland, I believe if I’m not mistaken… So…where did An Evening Of Stories And Songs take place and how did you connect to these other talented musicians originally to set this all up?
Colin: My daughter was going on a missions trip to the Philippines and rather than put on a typical fundraiser like I’ve done in the past, I thought it might be the perfect opportunity to record a show in front of a LIVE audience and and support my little girl at the same time.
We recorded the show at BlueFrog Studios In White Rock BC. I recorded a song for a documentary with engineer Pat Glover at that studio a few years ago when it was called Rock Beach. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to record an intimate live performance in the main room because it holds about 100 people.
I’ve worked with all the musicians before in various bands. I’m the Musical Director for the Legends of Rock and Roll Band and a few years ago I took a chance and hired a young guitarist to tour with us. I’m proud to have my friend Darren Savard playing lead guitar on this show with me. He currently tours with monster country act “Dallas Smith”. You’ll want to see this young-gun guitar slinger he’s simply amazing!
On rhythm guitar we had Tyson McIlroy, son of drummer Dave McIlroy. When I first jammed with him, I knew I wanted him on the show. Pay close attention to this kid, he is the real deal!
On Bass guitar and vocals was Dave Reimer. You’ll know Dave from Barney Bentall’s Legendary Hearts, but what you don’t know is that Dave and I have been singing together and writing songs since high school!
Dave McIllroy on drums is the “Don Henley” of our local music scene. Singing drummers are hard to find and he’s become part of my touring band.
You might remember Johnny Ferriera, the blistering sax player from the Colin James Band? Johnny’s famous sax lick in “5 Long Years” still sings from rock radio and once you hear it it’s hard to get out of your head. Johnny is a showboat and a great friend and its so cool to see him trade licks with Darren and Tyson on the show.
Because I played Grand Piano on the show, I had my good friend Peter Sweetzir play organ, electric piano and the string parts. Peter is well known in the Vancouver music scene and is a monster player.
Elvis Presley used to rave about how great it was to have background singers. Well having BG vocalists on stage was a first for me! Coby Palidwar a “Mariah Carey” style lead singer in her own right and Stephanie Standerwick praised by the legendary Natalie Cole for her outstanding vocals, not only sang like angels but also brought grace and beauty to the stage.
Believe it or not, we only had one rehearsal for this show! We all had to be on our toes and I think that edge gave every song more intensity. I would have liked to rehearse for a couple of weeks prior but schedules for so many players was a serious challenge
SBS: As far as the full-band performance goes…was that an entirely new experience for you to play with that many other people? What did performing with a large group of musicians help you accomplish with bringing your vision for the music to life? Conversely…would there potentially be advantages to going the solo-route for a singer/song-writer such as yourself?
Colin: I’m used to touring with a large band when I play with Legends of Rock and Roll in theatres. The difference is, with my music I’m letting the musicians learn my songs and bring their own interpretations.
Effectively you could say I am already going the solo route as I do a lot of up-close and alone shows as well. I recently did a living room fundraiser for the Haiti Babies Project and Compassion Canada which raised over 20K! I also played a Classic Rock festival as a solo artist.
That was a bit nerve racking playing solo in front of my peers.
SBS: You also mentioned in the video-preview that one of your main goals is to inspire others to ‘consider their own journey’ – can you go into that a bit more for us? Hopefully we’re not giving away too much from the DVD…but just in case you didn’t explain the entire meaning behind what you had meant with that statement, if you could & wouldn’t mind putting a few more details into that…I’d love to know what your full-thoughts on this are. What made this important for you to include in your goals?
Colin: My music just amplifies what I’ve experienced in my life and most of us will encounter similar life lessons. Music is a universal way of sharing stories and I seek to inspire others to reflect on those special moments we all share, and are often too busy to notice.
SBS: As far as I’ve read and learned, An Evening Of Stories And Songs was actually a full two-hour concert! I’m assuming as well that there’s a few chops and edits on either end at the very least, so in fact…it was probably even longer than that! So tell us honestly Colin…how difficult is it to fill two hours in one night? Is there a point where you begin to feel the burn of exhaustion, or does the adrenaline of playing LIVE last a full-two hours? Did you pick up a Gatorade sponsorship in the process? Okay…you don’t have to answer that last question…but I am interested in the rest! How do you map it out for success going into it…and overall, even though we know you love it…did it all come out how you expected it would or were there unique elements that the live-show brought into the music that night?
Colin: I’m used to doing full shows. As the musical director of the Legends of Rock and Roll we routinely do a two hour sound check and then follow with a two hour show. I think the show came out better than I expected considering we had only one rehearsal. I was surprised that night to hear Johnny playing accordion. I had no idea that was going to happen so I guess you call that a unique element. The guitar solos by Darren Savard gave me goosebumps and of course singing harmonies with such great singers felt so powerful.
SBS: As far as the final production, edits & cuts of An Evening Of Stories And Songs – was that all something you had put together? How did the video-end of the night all come about…I’m assuming a couple people filming or more…but then how did final editing process take place and who assisted you along the way in putting it all together for us fine consumers of musical-entertainment out here?
Colin: It was originally a 3-camera shoot package offered by Bluefrog Studios but it changed along the way when the house tech ventured out on his own. The video was directed by Victor Gudierra and edited by Kyle ? I worked with Victor when he was an audio engineer at Rock Beach. He’s a very talented guy and has since branched off into video production as well as audio. I should point out that the live sound engineer was my friend Pat Glover. Pat engineered the song that won the American Song Festival for bass player Dave Reimer and myself back in the early 80’s at the infamous Little Mountain Studios. I also worked with Pat while he was Randy Bachman’s engineer in the 90’s. Pat is amazing and he produced the final mix of the show.
SBS: When you’re writing your songs Colin, do they all start based around the piano? What other instruments do you play? When writing the music & lyrics…what are the most important things you consider along the way that lead you to the style & sound you’re looking for?
Colin: Song ideas often come to me while I’m walking or driving. I sing phrases into my iPhone and later find the chords to support the melody either on piano or guitar. Bryan Adams does this a lot too. Sometimes I find chord progressions or licks that I will use as a foundation for a song. The song Big Kid for example, was an electric piano riff that I enjoyed grooving on. The lyrics came later. I learned a songwriting technique from Jimmy Webb that starts with writing multiple pages of lyrics and describing the intention of the message. For example I used this approach for the song Ride of Your Life. I probably wrote 7 or 8 pages of lyrics, thoughts and intentions on a yellow legal pad. When I sat down to the piano, I pulled phrases from those pages and built the song around the intention of the message.
SBS: Assess the accessibility for us my friend – when it comes to An Evening Of Stories And Songs, is there a universal-appeal to the music, or would you say it will resonate more strongly with a certain demographic, age-group or personality-type…you get what I mean I’m sure. In my honest & humble opinion, from the preview…it looks like a fantastic performance of timeless material, presented in a very professional way that really endears the look to the music…but of course, not all music is for everyone and we all know that. Where do you see the connection is that people will make to the music & performance from your perspective…and based on that, really…would there actually be any kind of limitations as to who could potentially enjoy it? Or could everyone find something on it to like or love?
Colin: I believe songs are timeless and can be interpreted in many different ways. I grew up listening to Elton John, Billy Joel, Burton Cummings, and mainstream rock radio in the 70’s and 80’s so I’m sure my music will appeal to that same generation. That said, I had twenty and thirty year olds at the show who really enjoyed it. In Nashville, songwriters play clubs like the Bluebird and showcase their songs for artists and labels. The songwriter tells the story behind the song and then plays it raw. I have been on many of these showcases and I love how sharing the story draws in the audience. So in answer to your question, the connection for the listener will probably come from the preceding story. Because my music hasn’t had large amounts of radio play, (yet) the songs will be unfamiliar to most, so I trust that the story will build a relationship with the listener regardless of demographic.
SBS: Compare the ability to perform through the vocals and through the music for us Colin…do both come just as easily to you onstage when you’re up there? Do you find it’s more difficult to express emotion through one or the other when playing, or even writing the music? From what I’ve seen & heard from you…the melody, the writing, the authenticity…it’s all clearly important in your music…so I suppose what I want to know is, how much of ‘you’ are you putting in there? Is there any kind of separation between the man we see playing & performing live onstage as opposed to the one we might meet on the street? How are they different, or how did they become one & the same?
Colin: I fought back the tears when I sang These Old Bones and my voice went a bit warbly. That’s the emotion that the audience perceives and I could see them from the stage wiping their eyes. When a song is rockin I look out and see them clapping and smiling. So you asked how much of myself am I putting out there? That’s a bit tricky because i’m also a reflection of you. Like any artist, we take what we experience in our world and display our version of it for your world. In terms of Colin the performer, I’ve always considered my stage persona to be a character role. I even have a nickname for the guy on stage which my wife often calls me when we’re in social settings. The man you meet on the street and the man on stage have the same purpose, they just know their respective places.
SBS: Colin my man…if you’ve gotten this far then you sir, are a person of fantastic patience…thank you for putting up with all my questioning! But! That being said…gotta ask one very obvious one of you…not just for me mind you – but for the people…this is a selfless act on both of our parts, I assure you… Where can the music-fans out there find the DVD of An Evening Of Stories And Songs to purchase for themselves and where else can they find you online?
Colin: All my music, including the Live In Concert DVD are available on iTunes. You can find more in-depth information and see video clips on my website http://www.colinwiebe.com (remember i before e) I’m easily found the usual social media sites too. I host a podcast called Let’s Talk Rock with Colin and Marty which is very entertaining show where we interview rock stars and you can find that on iTunes as well.
SBS: And lastly…I’d simply like to say thank you once more for your time and answers Colin, I truly do appreciate it. Take this last space to say anything else at all that you could have possibly wanted to talk about through the interview today…by all means, fill in any gaps I might have missed! Or feel free to say anything else at all – the is the SBS ‘Open Floor’ for you to do just that. Thank you my friend – all the best to you & the band and congrats on the success of An Evening Of Stories And Songs!
Colin: In an era where few people buy music anymore, where songs are made with machines and manufactured for pop culture and musicians make less than they did 20 years ago, I still believe in the magic of live performance. To have the ability to sit around the campfire and share a story through song is almost a lost art. When the power goes out, the guy who can draw with a pencil is the star again. I feel blessed to be able to write and sing songs and to actually have people show up to listen is a bonus. A life worth living is a life worth recording!
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