Where there’s a WiL…

THE ROLLING STONES SANG that you can’t always get what you want, but that if you try, sometimes … you know how the song goes … you get what you need. A couple of years ago, WiL Mimnaugh wanted to record a new album. He wasn’t exactly sure where the money would come from – he’d already sold his dirt bike and camper to help. And when his wife (and manager) decided they should try crowdfunding the endeavour, he was skeptical. There are people out there that are in real trouble who need the world’s attention, so don’t take it personally if we don’t meet our goal, he told her. But meet their goal, they did.
$10,000 in a few short weeks.

“I was still going to do a record with or without it, and figure it out and no matter what, you’re still always rolling the dice - you don’t know what it’s going to take to keep you in this business. Ever. It’s so unsure, and there’s so much uncertainty, honestly,” he says. “It came at a time when I will say that the wind in the sails had been taken out. We’re just, like, what happened? It puts a little more faith in you. It puts fire under your butt and it’s good for your ego. It’s good for a whole bunch of things – and it’s not even to do with the money.”

The resultant album, El Paseo, released last September is a real accumulation of his life as a roots rocker so far. Some of the songs on the album began as short compositions for ad campaigns (he has been doing commercial compositions for about ten years and wrote the theme song for the 100th Calgary Stampede), and he recorded the entire album song by song. At first this was because of the money issue: record a song, pay for it, scrounge up the money for another. But when the money came, he forged on in this way.

“There’s a lot of advantages to laying down all of the drums for 11 songs on the record from your drummer, because it’s all ready to go,” he says. “But I really wanted these songs to not have a super-duper common theme, let alone how things were miked. I just wanted to release a bunch of tunes on a record and call it an album, and hopefully the common denominator was the guy singing it.”

WiL started out as a bar musician, belting out cover tunes in noisy, smoky venues during the ‘90s. His talent to capture an audience’s attention was honed here, and during the 2000s, his musician ship rode the ups and downs of the industry’s waning waves. He was signed to EMI
in 2004, but was dropped a few years later when the traditional music industry imploded and headed for a paradigm shift.

These haven’t been the easiest waters to navigate, but they have certainly shaped WiL into the artist he’s become. All of it has had a take away lesson.

“I had a great relationship with that label and I really educated myself on how the industry works,” he explains, “and I knew exactly where I belonged and I was very self aware – I wasn’t trying for something that was unattainable. I didn’t pretend that I was something that I wasn’t, and I knew where I belonged. My wife and I both kept our focus that way and forged forward. I think we just figured out who we were by having great lengthy conversations about everybody we weren’t.”

On stage, his presence is powerful (his website is called “ibreakstrings.com” to give you an indication), and, I want to say, unapologetic. But it isn’t that, exactly. He definitely strives – and succeeds – for audience connection. That said, he is unapologetic about who he is and what he does, and this truly is one of his endearing qualities.

WiL kicks off this season’s concert series at The Arts Station. Check out the band September 13 at 8pm.