1. Where are you from? Does the location have any influence on your music?
Janice is from the East Coast of Canada so she does have some roots in Celtic and the East Coast folk music traditions. The show up in songs like Love is Gone, and The PEI Song; both songs have a Celtic feel.
2. How would you describe your music? What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?
Our music is a combination of acoustic based folk music, but acoustic piano plays a large element in our sound, then there’s the influence of electronic pads, and a small influence of progressive jazz, i.e. steely Dan. So we call it progressive folk. There is not of finality to this description; as sounds constantly change. What is consistent is our three part harmonies.
Jan: is influenced by John Denver, Emmylou Harris, James Taylor. Julian is influenced by
Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, particularly the piano playing of Roy Bittan. Marks influences would include Paul Mccartney, Mark Knopfler
3. What's your/the band's history? (how many albums, when they were released, how long you've been in the industry, etc.)
Mark: I’ve been in the music business for a while; I was signed to Capitol Records/ EMI as a member of the band Photograph in the late 80s and we had pretty good success in Canada with hits The Last Dance, and Blow Away. We had several albums released, and toured with the popular artists of the day, The Monks, April Wine, Blue Rodeo, etc. The band broke up in the nineties, and that’s when Jan and I began writing and performing together. Jan had been in many choirs and folk groups from across Canada before teaming up with Mark. Julian played piano with us on and off.
As Wilkins, we released an independent CD called Seasons in 2000 that was more country folk based.
Our latest CD No Expiry Date was released in the fall of 2008.
4. What's the story behind your band's name? (if applicable) Have you changed the band's name before?
The name Wilkins is our last name so it seems to fit; we’re stuck with it!
5. Who are the band members and how did you come together? (if applicable)When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?
Since we are family members we’ve known each other for a while. We have played on and off over the years, but in the fall of 2007, we were doing a showcase in Toronto at the Cameron House, and our guitarist at the time became unavailable. So, on a whim, I called up Julian, who lived in Toronto at the time, and asked him if he was interested in playing with us again. He was ready to be asked, two practices later we did the showcase, we went over very well and from that point on we’ve been back together. New Year’s Eve 2007 was a the next watershed moment; friend of ours Mike Rose dropped by and we ended having a fantastic jam session, became re acquainted, and Mike now plays bass for us. Our lead guitarist Jeff Hales, an excellent jazz influenced soloist, was a friend of Julian’s and was playing with Julian in another band. Our drummer, when we play gigs large enough, is Duncan Holt, an accomplished percussionist, who also produced and engineered our latest CD
6. Who writes your songs?
At this point Mark has written a majority of songs, but that is changing. Julian is writing more and more, and collaborations with other people is also paying off. Janice is more involved in arranging, but does provide words to several songs.
What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs?
Themes for some of our songs are drawn from everyday life. Songs like The PEI Song attempt to capture the many times we’ve spent in PEI in the late summertime. Just a memory deals with personal loss. You can tell me deals with progressive aphasia. Find my way deals with the coming of winter, again! Songs where we have collaborated such as couldn’t do better, deal with a relationship breakdown that just didn’t work even though love is still on the equation. So they run the gamut.
Do you think these topics will change over time?
Since these songs are reflective of our own lives, sure. The songs are changing based on our lives, our experiences, growing older, hopefully wiser.
7. Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
The music making process is completely unpredictable. It could be a word or phrase, or a melody that starts a song. Julian – music then words….Mark words or music…additional collaborations….
But once we have a fragment of words or music; if it’s music, then words previously written down will be tried to match up against the melody. The words may generate a new melody to be tried. Sometimes songs arrive very quickly out of the ether. A friend of ours Deb Campbell gave me a poem that she had written for her 90 year old grandmother, within 10 to 15 minutes, it was a song aboat a broken relationship. Some of those words in the poem triggered other words and thoughts quickly.
Once we have a basic outline of the song, we will record it. Then listening back will point out a lot of potential problems that have to be reworked. So the process repeats itself. Eventually we will play the song live, and depending on the response from the band, and the audience, it might make it into the set list.
8. Which songs do you perform most frequently? We’re pretty well do the whole CD, and another 10 to 15 songs that are originals as well, that are auditioning to be included on the second CD we have 2 - 45 minutes of original material
Do you ever play any covers? We do a few, Tom Petty, Springsteen, Leonard Cohen….
Do you have a set play list?
The set list changes per venue, and if it’s a listening crowd, and also the depending on how many sets we are playing, if we are the opening act, or to showcase.
9. What can you tell me about your instruments? (i.e., Are you subject to brand loyalty or will you play with whatever's available? What made you choose the instruments you have now? Was it cost or was it a style/model/brand/color preference?
As far as acoustic guitars I have a Taylor guitar that has amazing tone. That’s my main instrument. Julian uses a really good sounding Yamaha piano and combines that with pads generated from a software program called Reason. So the piano, and a MIDI keyboard are always there. Jan is partial to her Yamaha Acoustic. Mark also plays fretless bass on occasion, and is experimenting with a Fender Telcaster. Jeff uses his PRS Paul Reed Smith exclusively, he wouldn’t play anything else, for Jeff it’s all about tone.
10. Who and/or what serves as your inspiration?
We love to play live and to get that feedback from the audience. We hope to touch someone in the audience with our music and lyrics connecting the dots in the ether….
11. What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous
At least every week we run through the songs and focus on the singing…laid back. Writing sessions sometimes become more spontaneous when fresh ideas have emerged.
12. How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
It was acoustic guitars at first and then acoustic guitars and piano…to electronic and more complex harmonies…working with other musicians, and becoming better players has helped greatly
13. What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
One of the biggest challenges is to play as a single entity. Everyone in the band creates the chord, so everybody has to listen, and put in their part, just enough. This is always a challenge, for every band, Once you start recording your music, and changing and arranging the songs, any new song, is filtered with that experience. Because ultimately you have to go into the studio to record your material, and only after recording know what it really sounds like. focus less is more…keeping our sound consistent
Our other big challenges is staging, and not becoming so focused on presenting the music that we forget that we are also performing as well for an audiences their staging
So it’s an ongoing challenge, but a fun one.
14. What's your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
The goal is to play as much as possible, and become fulltime musicians. Fame and fortune would be great, but it’s not the focus.
15. What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?
Work hard, be honest, talk about your goals together as a band.
16. How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?
They can listen to our music on our web site www.thewilkins.ca, or on myspace at www.myspace\musicwilkins, or on CBC’c Radio 3 New Music web site http://radio3.cbc.ca/bands/wilkins Or though ITunes.
17. What training, if any, do you/members of the band have?
Julain has Grade 8 piano training from the royal conservatory, Jan has Grade 8 voice and theory. Mark uses his ears!
18. Who is the primary song writer? (if applicable)
19. Do you have a record label? Are you a member of any music organizations?
Not as of yet. We are exploring options, but nothing at this point. We are members of SOCAN and BMI as far as publishing. We run our own boutique publishing company WilkinsSongs Publishing Inc.
20. Where did you record your latest album, and why?
Our latest album was recorded and mixed at Concept Audio; it’s felt right, and Duncan (Holt) was easy to work with and a perfectionist on sounds and recording. So, it was a great experience, great training.
21. What's a live show like for you/the band?
Performances are exciting, we lock into the show once it begins. If the monitors are setup properly, then the communication and performance is much easier…… we usually don’t want it to end
Generally, we are impatient before the show starts.
22. Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
Free Times Café – Toronto, Pumpkin Pie Folk Festival 2007, Gananoque Rib Festival 2007, 2008
McNeils Landing, Gananoque, CUIT Live – Toronto University, Bookstore Café – Camden East
Mitzies Sister – Toronto, Cameron House – Toronto, Toronto Roots Festival 2007
Royal Oak – New York City , Omwonno Ono Benefit – 2007, 2008
Slacks – Toronto, Rancho Relaxo – Toronto
Upcoming shows: the Acoustic Grill, Picton Ont. Raxx, Kingston Ontario, Slacks Toronto
23. What's life on road like for you/the band? Any band necessities that are creatures of comfort etc?
Well….most of our road work has been one or two nights, so just getting a bed is a bonus.
24. What notable bands and artists have you worked/played with?
Mark has worked with Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, and Daniel Lanios the U2 producer, and Cliff Edwards of the Bells
25. What's the best thing about being in the industry? What's the worst?
Best: The creativity buzz Worst: plastic quality of a lot of music, image first before music.
26. What do you hope to accomplish through your music?
To touch people with our songs
27. How are you adapting to the changes in the music industry?
A lot of work has to be done by the band, web presence, gigs, promotion. So you just have to do it.
28. What awards or recognition have you received from the industry (i.e. songwriting awards, best new artist, airplay, or press etc)
Nominated by Ontario Independent Music Awards for Best Folk Artist 2008
Love is Gone is featured on the Busta Compilation CD released in Italy by Midfinger Records October 2008.
Love is Gone is featured on the GOA Chillout Zone Compilation CD released in India December 2008 by W.O.A. International Records.
Couldn’t Do Better is featured on the Compilation CD Sounds Like Café Volume 23 released in Australia, September 2008 by Foghorn Records.
Semi-finalist awarded from the UK Songwriting Contest to Mark Wilkins and Debra Campbell for Apologies Unspoken….6 out of 7
College radio stations across Canada
29. What is your day job (if applicable)?
Self employed; this allows us to also pursue music
30. What other interests do you have outside of music?
skiing, fitness, eating
31. Who are your favorite authors/books?
Julian would say Tom Clancy…Mark would say mostly non-fiction Jan would say Jean M. Auel and Kathleen O’Neil Gear
32. Is there anything unique about where you live (i.e neighborhood, building, items in a specific room etc)
33. Is there anyone you'd like to acknowledge for offering financial or emotional support?
We would like to thanks the academy