Interview: Canadian Country Artist Bobby Wills Is ‘Crazy Enough’ to Expand His Career Into the U.S.
If you follow Canada's country music scene, you may have heard Bobby Wills' name before: The Calgary, Alberta, native was the 2013 winner of both the Canadian Country Music Awards Rising Star trophy and the Alberta Country Music Association's Male Artist of the Year award, and his third album, Crazy Enough, dropped in Canada in January. In the United States, Wills is still relatively unknown, but like Terri Clark, Hank Snow and Carolyn Dawn Johnson before him, the singer-songwriter is now looking to expand his career south of the (Canadian) border.
On July 17, Wills will release his debut U.S. project, an EP version of Crazy Enough, featuring five songs from the full-length record of the same name.
"I love this project, and I'm very proud of the songs," Wills tells The Boot, "so getting a chance to put it out [in the U.S.] and continue that growth with the music is really exciting."
As it was in Canada, Crazy Enough's title track is Wills' lead U.S. single from the project.
"It's a universal thing, I think," Wills says of the tune. "... I have a life experience of doing some pretty silly, goofy things, as a lot of people do. I was in a writing appointment ... [and] I was kind of complaining about trying to understand why my child wanted to jump off the garage ... And so somebody said, 'Well, you've just got to be crazy enough to do it.' And we had a good laugh about it and just decided to chase it."
Indeed, Wills' music career began with a "crazy enough" sort of moment: As a child, Wills sang in his church choir, "but I never did any solo stuff because I was simply too shy to do it," he explains. But, while on a trip to Australia, a friend bet Wills $20 that he wouldn't get up and sing at an open mic night. He took the bet -- "there were a couple beers involved," Wills admits -- and sang Garth Brooks' "The Dance."
"The reaction involved kind of made me go, 'Oh. Maybe this isn't crazy,'" Wills recalls.
Though he didn't know it at the time of his Australian performance, Wills comes from a musical family. He was adopted as a baby, and while his adoptive family is "a wonderful family," they aren't "a musical family," Wills explains. However, his biological family -- whom Wills met for the first time shortly after his time Down Under -- has a long history of musical talent, including Wills' grandmother, who was a professional piano player, and a cousin who is a Juno Award-winning jazz drummer.
"Everybody's accomplished in a sense that they could all sit in front of you, play an instrument and have you readily impressed. That's a family trait," Wills says, adding that "that's really what finalized that push [toward a music career] for me."
Wills' biological parents are both now deceased, but he is still "as close as I think most siblings are" with his biological siblings.
"I think any adopted kid would tell you -- and I have a wonderful [adoptive] family, but -- that there's sometimes a disconnect a little bit in terms of the things that are in your soul or that matter to you," Wills explains. "... The first night I met [my dad], we stayed up all night listening to records, and we didn't talk about anything but the lyrics and the content. And that was something that told me we were the same person, and it gave me the courage to pursue this with all of my heart. Because it wasn't silly or crazy; it was something that was real and existed for me."
Although the Crazy Enough EP is Wills' debut U.S. project, he has three albums' worth of music in his repertoire and is always writing more. His work's uniting thread, Wills says, is each song's personal impact and meaning.
"Songs that matter, in the sense of whether they make you laugh or cry, have the ability to get through. That's the thing that inspires me and makes me want to work harder and harder and write great songs -- the idea I can have a positive impact on someone's day and be a positive influence," he muses. "It's a wonderful feeling, and it is very motivating."
Among Wills' frequent collaborators are tunesmiths Walt Aldridge and Mike Pyle -- "a legend" whose No. 1 hits include "(There's) No Getting Over Me" by Ronnie Milsap and Travis Tritt's "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde" and "one of the best melody men in the business," respectively, as Wills describes the two men. He first met Pyle in a Nashville writing session, and Pyle then introduced him to Aldridge.
"I write with a lot of people, but there's a special relationship between the three of us. We're like-minded people, we like a lot of the same things, and we also understand the goal together," Wills explains. "If it weren't for Walt and Mike, I don't know I would be as far along as I am, and that partnership and relationship has been a really wonderful thing for us. I'm very fortunate. A lot of guys never get a shot to work with guys like that."
Although Wills will now have to focus on his U.S. country career as well as his Canadian one, he says that his followers in the Great White North shouldn't be worried. He has no plans to neglect the fans who have gotten him to this point.
"Canada's been so good to me, and I'm very proud of and happy with that. I certainly don't want that to change," he says. "... I know, generally speaking, it's a positive thing."
The Crazy Enough EP is available for download on iTunes.
Christina Vinson also contributed to this story.
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