Many people express themselves creatively as a way to momentarily escape the stresses of their everyday lives.
But when your job is working as a recording artist, sometimes you have to think outside the box to find your escape. Take Canadian roots rocker WiL, né Will Mimnaugh, who spent a few recent summers working as a tree faller and part-time bike mechanic near his Vancouver Island home.
“It was something that allowed me to get away from music and do something really physical and demanding on my body,” he said. “I was so creative because of that. On any given day, seven days a week, I was either falling a tree, working on a bike or writing in the studio.”
WiL is no stranger to working with his hands, evidenced by the rate at which he pulverizes guitar strings, which his wife Caroline then fashions into jewelry to sell at shows. But it’s that desire to get back to basics, to simplify, that has given the 43-year-old songwriter his current outlook on life. WiL is constantly striving to stay true to himself, whether it be in his personal life or his evolution as an artist.
“I’ve never been more comfortable in my skin and I’ve never known myself as well as I do now,” he said. “There’s a huge amount of vulnerability being honest with yourself, making hard decisions, going with what works and being so brutally honest at times that it can be a disadvantage or a bit offside, but at least people know where you’re coming from.”
That refreshing honesty is prevalent throughout WiL’s latest record, Live at the Ironwood, recorded in his native Calgary. The Cordova Bay Records release gives listeners a small taste of the emotional intensity of WiL’s live performances, but he admits there are always challenges in translating the visceral experience of the concert hall to record in today’s digital era.
“Everything these days is filmed, so it’s such a visual age. It’s a remarkable thing that’s happened with YouTube, the inception of social media and the Internet, period, everything single thing that people want to experience they can from a photograph or video,” he said. “It’s always going to be a tough thing to grasp all those sensory loads, including the energy of the room, from just an audible piece, but I think we’re getting closer every time we try to do it.”
Part of the pride WiL feels for his live album is the fact that his wife selected every single song to record, plus the venue and the producer. The couple has been together for 25 years, just as long as Caroline has been managing WiL’s career. Keeping their work and personal lives separate is key to maintaining the relationship, WiL said.
“It’s funny because you have to get really good at wearing hats. Like when we’re on the road, we can’t hold hands and call each other sweetpea, and say ‘Hey honey, sorry but you didn’t put my f—ing towel on the stage,’” WiL quipped. “We’ve been together 25 years and we basically know how to be with each other through all the thick and thin. We argue and take the best of the moments and love them. It’s a constant evolution, we’re still figuring it out after all these years.”
WiL is now hard at work on his fifth studio album, recording each song individually at a rural Vancouver Island studio before moving onto the next, a departure in process from his past releases.
“When you’re paying for one song on a time and working on one song at a time, your focus can only be that one song,” he said. “The disadvantage is that you may not end up with a record with a long common thread of soundscape where everything sounds like it belongs on the record. The funny thing is that’s not what I want anymore. I want to release a record that has a whole bunch of singles on it. I recorded a dubstep track with a couple DJ friends of mine for fun and it’s f—ing cool. We’re thinking of throwing it on the record.
“There are no rules or regulations, now more than ever.”
WiL plays the GLC Saturday (Dec. 14) at 9:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $15 and are available at the venue or online at www.ticketzone.com.