Doc Walker is one of the most recognized Canadian country acts of the past two decades, with 21 Top 10 singles and 26 top 20 singles in total, and eight #1 videos on CMT. They have won 14 Canadian Country Music Awards with over 40 nominees, were nominated for the 2017 WCMA Country Artist of the Year, the 2017 CCMA Recording Package of the Year (Echo Road), and 2018, 2019, and 2021 Manitoba Country Music Awards. The duo has also been nominated for seven JUNO Awards for Country Album of the Year, including a win for their album Beautiful Life in 2009.
Their latest single, “She Wants What She Wants” is a catchy tune about a woman leaving her man behind to find what she wants after feeling tired of being treated like an afterthought.
Growing up in your hometown of Portage la Prairie, you may not have garnered the radio play of a big city, but it proved just as worthwhile. In what way have your roots offered you a greater appreciation for the work you’ve done and continue to do, as well as the fans you’ve made along the way?
Chris Thorsteinson (CT): “Growing up in Portage la Prairie, MB, gave Dave and I a greater appreciation of the work it takes to make it in the big city. We didn’t grow up in Winnipeg, Vancouver, or Toronto and it seemed like it was a harder feat to break into those bigger cities. We always figured we had to work harder, write better songs and have better harmonies. I also think creating a small fan base in Portage la Prairie and then slowly growing to the surrounding towns and into Winnipeg has created a strong foundation of fans that have supported the band for over 25 years. I think the general sense of small-town values and knowing it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get to where you want to go is something Dave and I have always appreciated and respected.”
Doc Walker has grown to be one of Canada’s most popular country bands over the last 25+ years, winning multiple CCMA’s and a Juno for Country Recording of the Year. When you look back on the last couple of decades, what have you found to be the key to your success and sustainability? How have you seen yourselves evolve as musicians, as well as individuals?
CT: “Looking back over the years, I would say that our success came from Dave and I playing country bars across Canada, seven nights a week, trying to hone our craft writing songs, growing up in small towns, and never giving up. I think that’s the secret to anyone’s success, no matter what you are doing, there are going to be good times and bad times and you can never give up. You must keep going, 24/7, we love music enough that that’s what we did, we kept playing and writing. Playing those bars and community halls across the prairies really helped us connect with an audience and build a fan base before we started releasing music. I think it was persistence, really. The only thing you can do is get up every morning and try to write songs and play guitar better and get out there and play for the fans, it’s definitely persistence.”
In 2016, the band released Echo Road (The Best of Doc Walker) in celebration of your 25+ year career, most notably featuring your biggest song to date and one fundamental to Canadian Country Music; “Rocket Girl.” Why do you think this tune, in particular, has found such a home amongst listeners?
CT: “I think the reason Rocket Girl has connected with so many people over the years on so many different levels is because it’s such an open-ended song. People hear so many different things, it inspires them in different ways. That’s what you are always looking for when you are trying to create music; songs that connect with as many people as possible and this is one of them. To this day, I still really don’t know what this song is about. Ha. The first time I heard it, when Jason McCoy sent it to us, to me it just seemed like a real lonely-sounding, beautiful song, that for some reason connected with me and I hoped it would connect with other people. We didn’t really think this song would be a major single until it was recorded, we took a chance and released and I’m glad we did. I think it ingrained Doc Walker as having songs that connect with a lot of people, that’s really what we have been trying to do over the last 25 years.”
As the band matured, so too, has your songwriting, giving light to the honesty that can be found amongst yourselves and your craft. Becoming more confident in your writing process has made it easier to say what’s on your mind and increasingly comfortable when it comes to writing about personal matters. Explain the story behind your latest single, “She Wants What She Wants.” How might the above reflect what can be understood throughout the song?
CT: “After years of writing and trying to figure out a way to get our feelings and what we are trying to say across to the listener, it has become easier to do that, which is nice. It seemed like it was always a chore before, now it just seems to come a little bit easier. With the new single, ‘She Wants What She Wants,’ I was having a very ’80s Friday. I woke up and I was playing around with the guitar and some cool old 80s sounds because I am such a huge fan of ’80s and early ’90s country, and came up with some melodies. I was thinking of heartbreak songs, which country is usually based around, ha. It dawned on me that my daughter, who was 9 at the time, someday was going to have a broken heart. As a father I really felt helpless, like it’s going to happen, there is nothing I can do about it so what do you do? I came to the conclusion that I just have to raise my kids to be strong-minded, respect themselves, and just be good people, and hopefully, it turns out. I’m no parenting guru by any means, ha. It just struck me as something that might be cool to write about. So, I came up with the idea of this girl who finally finds out that she needs to go find what she wants and make herself happy. I came up with part of the chorus and sent it to the songwriting wizard, David Wasyliw, and he crafted it into an amazing song with an amazing story. It’s nice to have a writing partner you can depend on to take these wacky ideas I have that are scrambled thoughts, and turn them into great stories.”
What have you done to make the most out of the last year and a half given the pandemic? How have you used this time as an opportunity to better yourselves creatively, emotionally, etc.?
CT: “Dave and I took a lot of time to reflect on the past, what we have done up until now, and really tried to get a handle on what the future holds. There are so many ways people access music or listen to music, we have seen everything from cassettes, LPs, CDs, downloads, and streaming. I think the common thread throughout all of that is you do have to have great music. So, the last year and a half, Dave and I really sat down and said let’s try to write more songs, and let’s keep doing what we’ve been doing, try to write songs that will connect to our fans. It was a nice break in a way, financially it’s been tough for us musicians, but with Dave and I both having families it was nice to sit back and take care of our families and focus on what the future holds. Now that it’s opening up a bit, we are playing a few shows and we have a single out, there is a brand-new excitement in the air. We’ve talked to a few artists across Canada that we’ve played with, and everyone is excited to get back in the saddle and make some great music.”
What’s next for Doc Walker following the release of your most recent single?
CT: “Now that we have a single out and we have been playing a few more shows, I think it comes back to business as usual. We just really need to get back to work, writing more and more songs and getting out and playing as much as we can. We are kind of like a bunch of caged thoroughbred horses, we’ve been held back for a year and a half and now we are ready to go. We have a lot of songs we’ve been writing, and we are excited to get back in the studio and get these songs out there – really just try to get back to normal. We do have a couple of cover songs we’ve been looking at because Doc Walker, over the years, has had some interesting cover songs. We’ve done ‘That’s All’ by Genesis and ‘Driving With the Brakes On’ which is a Del Amitri song. I can’t let the cat out of the bag, but we do have some ideas we have been working on for some ’80s and ’90s country we are going to redo, and we are really excited about that. Just a lot on the plate and we are ready and excited to get to work.”
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