"To me, music is all about creating an emotion between the performer and the listener. Being able to perform live consistently allows me to really work on that. So from a spiritual standpoint, being able to connect with a lot of different people every night - they could be regular customers of people who just come in to see me just once - that's great. It's really uplifting for me and anytime that I can put a smile on someone's face from playing music I feel like I've done my bit of service to humanity."
I'm so excited and I feel blessed to bring to you my guest today. I've been looking for my rocker to feature on Soulspeak and it took months to hunt one down. I've always been a fan of classic rock, the blues , 70s rock bands and I always thought that it takes a very spirited person, someone really in tune with who they are and what their true gift is to be able to sing and write songs like this that touch the hearts of many people and engage them in the vibe they're in. I'm glad I came across his profile on Twitter one day, and listened to one of his songs. He's amazing. His energy is very uplifting. Will is a dynamic Canadian singer who has this effect on his listeners. Imagine Bon Jovi vs. Aerosmith with a shot of Springsteen, and don't forget John Cougar Mellencamp and you have Will Black. But even with all these influences he still puts out a vibe that only he has. No one else has it. Take a listen to some of his songs to experience his love energy. My personal favorites , Senorita Ballerina and Beautiful Losers. Allow Will Black to dazzle you with his charm, his wisdom, and love for music and life.
WHO IS WILL BLACK?
My original name is William Black. That's my given name. But I've been going by 'Will' ever since I performed professionally and it's been sort of a nickname of mine for a long time even before I was playing music.I started singing since I was 12 or 13. I don't come from a really musical family. My mom always sung a little bit. She always had a guitar kickin' around the house growing up. I was an army brat growing up so I moved around a lot. I lived on army bases. It wasn't until about Grade 8 that I started singing in the choir at school. To be honest it was more an opportunity for me to hang out with the girls than to sing music, and it kinda stayed that way through most of high school. I was one of normally two or three dudes in a choir of 30 chicks and that was always fine with me.
I did a bit of music theater in school - a couple of productions - when I realized that my career as a professional football player wasn't gonna happen because I was not very big and not very talented at playing football. I mean, I still watch the game. It's my favorite sport. I love it. Then I kinda got into music more in High School. I actually went to 3 different high schools in my last few years . The last two I went to (one was in Winnipeg and other in Victoria) both had very strong jazz programs and the music directors were really great guys - Orvin Anderson in Fort Richmond Winnipeg who is retired now and Dave Flello in Esquimalt HighSchool , where I grated in Victoria. I really got thrust into doing more into the Jazz end of things when I first started wanting playing music on a regular basis. I kind of came of from more of a blues style because at that time I was listening to a lot of BB King and Albert King , Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Buddy Guy...I kinda have this Blues vibe too.I was playing a lot of guitar, not doing so much of singing. I did that all in High School.
Grade 12 was really cool because we had 4 to 5 different combos in this program , all composed of Grade 11 and 12 High School kids. Every combo would host a jam on a Wednesday night at this bar called Herman's in Victoria, and it was a really great environment for us to sort of get our chops down as performers,- get experience performing live. When you're a 17 year old kid there's not a lot of opportunity to perform live in a venue - any venue for that matter 'cause most venues are licensed and if you're underage it's a pain in the ass to really get that going. That was a great experience being able to play every week at this bar and of course with the Jazz program we did 2 or 3 major school trips in the States.
We were in Moscow, Idaho for one year. We did a great conference there. Met some real jazz legends. When they do these Jazz conferences they normally invite these bunch of speakers, big named people to do a couple of things. One of the things a lot of them do is they will hire themselves out to do sort of a one on one session for half an hour and I remember I went up to this one famous Jazz Blues singer Lou Rawls and said : 'Would you mind if we do a session together?'. It's funny because the time I asked him was the time he just did a performance and there were some media standing around. I just kind of budged my way to the front of the pack . He's a big guy and he kind of turns around and puts his arm around my shoulder and faced by the throng of reporters he says: "Son, let me tell you about the Blues -- The Blues isn't something that you teach... It's something that comes from the HEART...It's DEEP."
After High School I graduated in Victoria BC, Vancouver Island, on the West Coast of Canada. I was there probably 3 or 4 years after high school just sort of doing what a lot of guys in their late teens do - just sort of floating around, forgetting what I'd want to do in my life. I went to a University for a bit but that ended quite quickly when my car blew up, and then I could no longer go to the classes, sitting right next to the cute girl that I wanted to sit right next to. So that was the end of the University. But I did a lot of busking, I was part of the street performer community in Victoria for a couple of summers. I still have some good friends there that do that for a living - performing year round. Then I kind of took off and floated around quite a bit. I winded up in Vancouver in and around 2000 for a couple of years I did the pub circle there. I had a day job and I was just playing pubs. That's where everything took off.
From Vancouver I managed to line up a gig in a classical rock guitar duo in Carnival Cruise Ships. That was a big step for me because I went from sort of a weekend warrior just kind of playing when I could and making my living (I worked in I.T. at the time for a courier company) to actually performing full time. Believe it or not I performed in Carnival for 7 nights a week. We played every night First couple of months were a bit tough vocally but we got through it and I stayed on Carnival for almost two years. Then I took a break I met my wife on Carnival Cruise line and we came back to Canada. We got married. I tried a couple other job things at that time. I attempted to become a police officer and that didn't happen, for all the right reasons. Then I went back on the ship for a year. That was actually a great experience. I went on as a solo artist doing some kind of Acoustic - Leto deck - Jimmy Buffet type thing. That was really cool. I was on celebrity cruise for that. One of the runs we did was Norfolk Virginia to Bermuda. And that's where I kinda made my connections here and landed the gig which I still have now which is Hog Penny Pub. I've been here 8 years. It's my 7th season performing in this pub. That's me in a nutshell musically.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING?
One of the great things about my job is that for a living I get paid to do something I love, and I can honestly say I've never had a night that I've gone to work performing and said Jesus I really don't want to be here. And I've had jobs... we all had jobs where we said that - "F** I just wanna get out of here',..It's done I'm punching the clock I'm gone!" - being a performer is something I've always wanted to do and as I've grown older your opinion on things and what you love in life sometimes can change and shift but mine has always really stuck with music. I never resolved myself to just doing it as a hobby. I can make a living as a music performer - I make most of my income from that.
On the side I am gradually growing my own independent music business. It's my own independent music business as an original singer/songwriter which we're talking about the beginning of the interview "Beautiful Losers" and "Senorita Ballerina" . To be honest, like many original artists it's a big love of mine but it's not my primary source of income, and that's something that is gradually coming into fruition but at the moment if I had to survive off my own music I couldn't do it. I have to perform. Most musicians have to be out either on the road - or doing something like what I'm doing - like a house gig. Other places in the world where you'll find a gig like mine would be in Atlantic City or Las Vegas, or any resort where you could go four of 5 gigs in the same venue.
To me, music is all about creating an emotion between the performer and the listener. Being able to perform live consistently allows me to really work on that. So from a spiritual standpoint, being able to connect with a lot of different people every night - they could be regular customers of people who come in to see me just once - that's great. It's really uplifting for me and anytime that I can put a smile on someone's face from playing music I feel like I've done my bit of service to humanity. We all do what we can do make the world go round and make it a better place and you try to do that through your strengths and mine at this point in my life I would have to say, is certainly performing music.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM YOURSELF FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?
It's definitely an ongoing process. In everyone's career they learn different things at different points in their life. But to be specific I guess I could say that being honest with yourself as a performer is critical. When I'm onstage and I'm jumping around and I'm rockin' out it is a show, and I'm putting on a performance but its pretty natural and it's not as put on as people might think. I'm a pretty flamboyant person when I want to be, and the stage really is just an outlet for that aspect of my personality. I don't act like that all the time. (I would be a pain in the a** to live around, although if you talk to my wife she might argue otherwise!). I think one of the things I've learned is the more honest I am with myself that comes through in my music and that in turn, transfers into my performance. It allows me to connect more with my crowd.
One of the things about my venue is it's not a real big bar. We're at capacity at about 80-100 people. So basically anywhere in the room I can pick you out and look you in the eye. I do that all the time. One of the things I've got better and more comfortable with as I've grown a more mature singer is being able to look someone in the eye and try and try to convey with them what I'm feeling. This emotion I'm creating onstage - I feel great. I'm having a great time singing the song whether the song may be sad, or exciting, or angry... it might be about sex and lust - The whole point of the fact is that I'm having fun singing about that particular emotion at that time and trying to CONNECT with people. That's an ongoing challenge. A lot of people normally shy away and turn their head away. But I'm there trying to create a connection with people. I mean, instead of me being just a guy out there just playing music, or being a DJ spinning tracks, or being the jukebox, the XM Radio on this station in a bar, why not see if we can take it to the next level and actually create a connection person to person via music, because music really is a universal language.That will always be something to work on. You'll never as an individual conveying emotion through music - I don't think you can ever develop that ability to any top limit. It's always growing and getting better.
It's an empathy thing too. Trying to connect with a person. As a person, empathy is a trait that I have grown towards a lot. more in my adult years than I was a kid. I was a pretty selfish prick when I was younger. Just very self absorbed. Empathy was a word I didn't really learn until I was a teenager and I remember the person who taught me it. I'm I appreciate it more these days , especially over the past ten years.
AND WHAT HAVE YOU UNLEARNED?
That's an interesting question I haven't thought about that before. From a performer's perspective one of the things I definitely unlearned (that I would recommend to any performer doing the sort of gig I do which is a regular Tuesday to Saturday type thing) is that at Hog Penny I used to have this mentality that I was the show. I was responsible for putting on the show. My talent was what drove the show, my song selection,, and the way I ran the show. I was very particular at how I set it all up, particular in a way that everything works great. There was a certain level or standard that I was trying to maintain. So for the first couple of years I was very much against having anyone on stage singing with me unless they were a proven performer like myself. If I knew beforehand they were or they came up to me and convinced me 'Oh you know, I play too.' I'd be like 'Oh okay jump up.' I would do sort of begrudgingly.
In my show I play straight through. From 10 o'clock to 1. I don't take breaks. It's a format that the owner insisted upon and it works for our venue, and I actually like it. No one could really talk to me in between songs.
Before the economic crisis in 2008 I was still fairly strong and I didn't have to market myself so much. There was a crowd coming out to the show, so I could be a little more stand-offish and I could say 'No' more often and say it like 'Hey it's not up for debate'. It sounds a bit dickish, and it WAS but it was a lesson I had unlearned.
I took a year off at 2010. It was a mutual agreement between myself and one of the owners and managing director of the pub. I went back to Toronto. I was there for 6 months. Dealt with some personal stuff I had to get sorted out and professional things I was looking into as well but I ended up coming back to Hog Penny. It was a good year off because it put some things in perspective.
When I came back in 2011 that was the best year I had and one of the things I changed was that I encouraged anyone and everyone to get up and sing with me and to share their energy with me on stage. Even if they couldn't sing. Even if they got up and just do 'talk singing' or just laughed and danced along. Now when I do the show I normally always have a second microphone next to me on stage. I always get on it and tell 'em "This is the PEOPLE'S MIC! You can get on here anytime and sing along. You don't have to ask. Just jump up! " and people do it. The people who have been there a few times get it - and everyone else gets it once they've had a few drinks.
That's a really good question to be honest, because that's a personal thing too. For me one of the challenges was being a prick and in that regard when I was younger. When you're so committed to your craft and you think you got it all nailed - and of course you never got it all nailed down, you're always working on stuff - but when you're young you think you got the world by the horns. Getting over that and realizing that when people come to the show they're they're to see a performance but they're there to see the performance but they wanna share in the emotion that you have. Even if they don't really know it. They just wanna feel good. Getting people on stage doesn't really make them feel good but their friends and everyone else who comes to see it with them and it makes everyone else who's not even involved with that group or who might not even know know them - they start having fun too because all of a sudden it breaks down this wall - this barrier which I have to break down every night. When I come up on stage there is actually that unseen barrier that I have to tear down brick by brick to connect with the crowd. On some nights it's easier than others. But one thing I found is that as soon as you get people up on stage that barrier comes down a lot quicker. That's the big thing it's getting people involved, and getting them involved in a way that they have a great time.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR MOST MEMORABLE FAN MOMENT.
I think it was the first or second seasons of Hog Penny - About 5 years ago, we used to have this lady that would come in. And she would come out on a Friday night and she must have been about 90 years old and she would come in with an old 50s style pink dress and she would hop up on stage and sing with me. And we used to do "Wild Thing" if you could believe it. She would grab a mic and sing this song with me. There's one picture of her and I. I don't know if she's passed away. It's possible. I haven't seen her in a number of years. I was 27 and there was this 90ish year old lady on- stage rocking out with me. Her singing was so bad but her energy was off the hook and the crowd was going bananas! That was really cool.
Another one going back even further which was kinda cool - I remember in 1998 I was living on a naval base in Victoria Canada and they brought migrants in as part of the slave trade. They were headed to New York. These Chinese migrant workers were coming in from whole cargo holds from these ships illegally and so the Navy had picked up one of these ships and brought in the ship and they were holding all these migrants in a large gymnasium in a base while they're waiting to transfer them in the immigration in Canada or wherever, I'm not sure how they were gonna do it. So while they were getting processed they were in this gymnasium and my dad was one of the guys who were involved with this project at the time that he was working the armed forces . Not a lot of people knew the migrants were there it was kind of hush hush. Media were not allowed to come anywhere near the facility. My dad , over dinner said one night "Man , these guys - they're getting restless 'cause they're so bored!" And just on the top of my head I said "I think they need some rock 'n roll. I should go out there and play for them" and he said "You know what why don't I get you there and I'll talk to the head of the unit and I'll see if we can sneak you in. I bet they would love it." So I remember going in as this 20 year old kid and it's funny because I took my guitar and my case in the hallway and then I walked in the gymnasium. It had been sectioned off into where the children and the women are and where the men are and they were all in different colored jumpsuits or whatever. As soon as they saw me they started cheering. And no one had said that I was coming in. All of a sudden this guy walks in with a guitar and they're all "Woohoo!!!" and I'm looking at them - seeing malnourished faces and all these bored faces and all of a sudden there were light in these faces and they also jumped out - I was like "Wow!" I did a 45 minute set. I was literally standing in the middle of the gymnasium - right at center core and I'm like moving around back and forth turning around trying to sing to both sides of the gymnasium. I could tell they didn't know what I was singing but they were getting off on it. It was a great experience. I really wish I played "Refugee" by Tom Petty but I don't think I knew it at that time. That was a really neat gig. It's kind of a once in a lifetime thing.
IF YOU WEREN'T SINGING WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I'd probably in the Canadian Armed Forces. I say it because when I was 16 before I left high school I applied to go to Royal Military College in Kingston, our main officer college training program. I was gonna sort of follow on the footsteps of my dad. I was gonna be an Armour Officer which means you deal with tanks and cavalry etc. and I didn't get accepted I missed the cut. I've done cadet when I was a kid for a number of years and then after High School I joined the militia in Victoria - the Canadian Scottish regiment That didn't last very long. All this sort of happened at the time when I discovered that music was really what worked for me. At this point in my life no I wouldn't join the forces. I'm a lil old and it's not my calling anymore.
But if I had decided not to pursue music younger I think I would have gone into the forces. Some good friends of mine as a kid are there now and I talk to them - I wanna see what their life is like and I think yeah that would have been something I'd be keen on. Either that or I might have joined the Police Force and become a police officer. Right now though if I find out that I couldn't make a living out of music I'd probably be out in the I.T. world doing website/online oriented work just because one of the skills I had to learn and teach myself for the past couple of years was how to market myself online which is just starting to go in fruition. I'm building my website from scratch, using wordpress and I had a lot of people comment 'Oh wow you're doing a great job would you be able to do this for me?" But to be honest I don't have enough hours over the week to actually keep up with all the musical stuff I'd like to do. Between performing and promoting myself online, doing wonderful interviews with people like this with you, getting my own POD CAST (The Blinding Heights) up and running .
WHAT'S KEEPING YOU BUSY NOW & WHAT'S IN THE PIPELINE?
I spend a lot of time marketing online and because I make my day job as an independent artist as performing which not a lot of independent artists have the luxury of claiming , it's nice because it does keep my days free and it gives me the time to focus on building up my fan base. And one of the things that's happening now is I actually got a growing subscription to my mailing list. It's a great way to connect with people. Facebook and Twitter is great, but an email in your inbox is actually a solid proven way to keep in touch with people. That's sort of an ongoing thing that keeps me busy, and because my fan base is growing now it allows me to look into some projects that previously I wasn't concerned about because I didn't have the fan base support and one of them is on 2013 on my winter break I would like to get back into the studio at Metalworks in Toronto where I have done most of my recordings and do a follow up album to my first record "Dancing with the Dead" and the reason why I haven't done a second record yet because I'm still trying to make up sales to cover the costs of the first record. It's actually getting there but what I'm gonna do this time - at least 'til the plan currently stands - is that I'm gonna do a fan funded album meaning I'll have a bunch of different pledge levels that people can basically give support and I'll do a campaign to raise a certain amount of funds o basically cover the costs of making this album together with all other costs that go with that. I haven't done this before but I met two people who have had success in doing these fan pledge records. So I'm gonna follow some of their lead and try and do that.
WHAT IS LOVE?
There's this quote that I saw in Facebook and reposted and basically it says "Love is like a fart - if you have to force it , it's probably shit." It is true. To me that's a lot of what love is about. Love is something that doesn't need to be forced and if you have to force it then it probably isn't love. It's a funny quote and for me, and the way I look at things and my sense of humor I thought it was a funny quote so there you go.
I've had some but nothing that I can talk to the media about. I think everyone's got regrets to a certain degree. It's just part of growing and learning. I certainly don't claim to be one but I think a wise individual is someone who can look back on their regrets and take the best from them and learn from them. Everyone says 'If you learn from your mistakes you're not gonna repeat them'. In a perfect world that would be true - but we tend to all repeat things. It's very easy to repeat a bad habit and repeat something you've done in the past that's very common of you to do. I guess what I'm saying is that I would regret if I had made the same mistakes I've done before again. Especially after the lessons I feel I've kind of learned. If you're going through life and you're picking up the juicy bits and go along you're gonna learn how to sort of navigate the waters of life a bit better and go on.
I want to point out one regret that I don't have that some people might ask about - which is "Do you ever regret the fact that you're 34 years old and you've never had a record deal? or "Do you ever regret that you've never been as famous as Jon Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen.?" (two guys that I have looked up to through my career.) And I would honestly say no, I don't have regrets about that because I feel like everyone gets to their path in their own way. They walk their path in their own way and Bruce and Jon are completely different individuals than me and yourself and they've walked their path and they've learned their lessons as well. And a lot of people may not realize it that just getting a record and being famous doesn't provide the answers to all the questions and problems in life that you think they will. There's a whole new set of challenges that come up with somebody who's thrown into the spotlight and has to deal with it.
The great thing about being a musician is that you can do it until you die. You can be 80 years old and you can still be cutting records. I mean Johnny Lee Hooker was cutting records until he passed away. he was in his late 70s or early 80s when he passed away. And look at the Rolling Stones, they're all grandfathers in their late 60s. Bruce Springsteen is 62 going on 63 and he rocks out like a madman.
IF YOU COULD BE A SONG, WHAT SONG WOULD YOU BE?
Probably BORN TO RUN by Bruce Springsteen. It's one of my favorites and I just feel that's sort of the vibe I'm in.I've got a lot of pieces of my musical puzzle sort of working now and just really kind of going for it and just putting the work in, and Bruce is just one of the most hard working guys in the business so I can relate to that. And the song was always about kinda breaking out, escaping and following your dreams and that's the point I'm at in my journey. I'm actually livin' the dream and enjoying it. I'm trying to enjoy the ride and at this point the best time to create more momentum is when you've already got some momentum.
SO WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND THE "FLASH" T-SHIRT?
It was originally worn by Freddie Mercury (lead singer from Queen) in the early '80s. The band wrote and recorded the soundtrack to the 1980 "Flash Gordon" soundtrack and in the movie, Flash Gordon wears the exact same shirt... except he looks all buff like he works out!
IF YOU WERE FACE TO FACE WITH YOURSELF AS A 10 YEAR OLD CHILD, WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF?
Be humble, be here now and never give a girl a ring unless you plan to marry her. 3 things I wish I had known about earlier in life
YOUR ONE MESSAGE TO THE WORLD.
Well it's not an original message. The Beatles actually beat me to it. It was actually the last song they wrote and recorded on Abbey Road - It's the last lyrics and they say "THE LOVE THAT YOU TAKE IS EQUAL TO THE LOVE THAT YOU MAKE."
FOR MORE ON WILL VISIT HIS
WEBSITE : http://www.willblack.com/
FACEBOOK PAGE: http://www.facebook.com/willblack
TWITTER PAGE: http://www.twitter.com/willblackrockz
CATCH HIM ON "THE BLINDING HEIGHTS PODCAST"
A podcast featuring the best new pop & rock songs this side of the Milky Way!
Over 90 minutes of new music carefully selected for you every episode.
Discover amazing independent recording artists from across our world.
Listen to this interview on Youtube
READ MORE STORIES
Who's On and Who's Next?
THANK YOU FOR STOPPING BY!
IF YOU'D LIKE TO MAKE A DONATION , CLICK HERE
- JUNO -
All articles written within the period of Oct 2011 through present. © Juno Cristi 2011-2012, All Rights Reserved
IF YOU'D LIKE TO MAKE A DONATION , CLICK HERE
- JUNO -
All articles written within the period of Oct 2011 through present. © Juno Cristi 2011-2012, All Rights Reserved