Print Edition: March 5, 2014
Musician Brett Wildeman has grown up surrounded by folk music and forests. Hailing from the small Sunshine Coast town of Roberts Creek, his free-spirited acoustic guitar and charmingly rough-around-the-edges vocals are inspired by B.C.’s rugged coastal wilderness. His one-week tour, A Rocky Road, is kicking off in Langley at the Watershed Arts Cafe on March 7, and from there will wend its way through the Kootenays, Fernie, Field, and Kamloops. Tickets will be available at the door for each performance.
His latest album, Mother Earth, was released in July 2013 and is available on Bandcamp or on his website, www.brettwildeman.com.
The Cascade asked Wildeman about the upcoming tour, his unique sound, and the earthy roots of his inspiration.
How would you describe your music for someone who’s never heard it before?
I call it “raw coastal folk.” I don’t want to just say “folk,” because whenever someone sits down with a guitar and starts singing, they call it folk, but that doesn’t really describe it. I can definitely say that I’ve been really influenced by the Sunshine Coast where I grew up, especially the Celtic music. I’m also influenced by the environment around the small town I grew up in, Roberts Creek. I’m definitely not a city person, I know that.
What instruments do you play?
Guitar mostly, sometimes ukulele, and once in a while I play harmonica. I started playing music in third grade, but it’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve gotten serious about it. I usually perform solo, but sometimes I’ll have friends backing me up on other instruments or drums.
What is it you like so much about that folky, acoustic sound?
It’s hard to say. For one thing, with acoustic music, you can tell right away what all the instruments are. You can listen to it and say, “That’s a piano,” or “That’s a trumpet.” With electric music, you sometimes get these weird sounds that don’t really sound like anything. I’ve been listening to lots of hip-hop recently, but even then, I tend to like the stuff that samples a lot of piano or old jazz tracks.
But you know, I’m warming up to electric. If I had an electric bass player with me, I would love that. I wouldn’t mind getting into a more electric sound. It depends on what equipment I have, who’s around, what I feel like. We’ll see what comes along.
What themes do you see recurring in your work?
It’s hard to say. My friends say my music is very political. When I look at it, I guess political and environmentalist themes do come up a lot, but it’s just what I felt like writing at the time. The content of my songs really depends on the kind of people I’m hanging around, too. I’ve travelled around the province and I’ve also spent some time in Wales, and everywhere I go, I meet different people who affect me in different ways. My songs reflect those places and those people.
Who’s coming with you on this tour?
There’s a girl with an amazing voice from Langley named Krystle [Aspenlind]. And there’s another lady called Goodnightmare from the Kootenays who’ll be joining me for some of the tour.
How has your style evolved over the last couple of years?
It’s definitely more melodic. That’s what I’m hearing from people. I think I would agree with them, especially because it’s easier for other people to notice a difference than it is for me.
What advice would you have for an aspiring musician?
Stop talking about it and do it! I don’t just want people to talk about how much they want to do something, I would like to see them get up and do it. That’s where I was a couple of years ago. You have to take that first step.
There’s also this great podcast I listen to called “DIY Daily,” and the guy behind it, Brian Thompson, he said something that stuck with me. He said, “Remember why you started.” When I was organizing this tour, there were a bunch of things that weren’t going right. Remembering what he said helped me keep going. You have to remember why you started, and why whatever it is you do makes you happy.
What else do you do in your spare time besides making music?
I love taking pictures. I’ve also done some freelance writing for a mountain bike magazine. You know, when you love something you find a way to work it into your writing — music, food, you name it. For me, it’s riding my bike, snowboarding, just being outdoors.
What has your biggest struggle been in your development as a musician?
My voice. Definitely my voice, and developing my ability as a singer.
Are you happy?
Happy making music? Definitely. I’m doing what I was dreaming of. I got up and I’m doing it.
Do you have anything else you’d like to tell the world?
Ride your bike and make music!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.