Rising country trio Western Avenue is making their mark on the music industry. With the release of their debut EP Western Avenue, the band's original music is winning fans everywhere they go. Currently out on tour, Western Avenue's fresh sound is one I would suggest listening to. Click here to find out when Western Avenue will be performing in a city near you and here to purchase their debut EP.
1. Who or what inspired you to become singers? For Keith and myself (Nikki) we grew up in musical families. Our dads both played guitar and sang. I think that planted the musical bug in us. I always loved to sing ever since the Little Mermaid was released. I would be up in my room pretending I was "Ariel" and singing all the songs from the movie. My dad always encouraged me to sing as well. He'd be on the piano or the guitar playing songs and getting me to sing. I was pretty shy back then so it was a rare occasion that I would do it. I spent most of my time singing in my room with the door closed. Back in 2001 my dad lost his battle to cancer, which I took pretty hard as he was my best friend. But due to his encouragement over the years, I finally got the courage to sing in front of people.
For Matt it was when he went to a Tom Petty concert when he was 10 years old. Two weeks after the show he started playing the guitar!
2. In your career, whom to do hope to get the opportunity to work with? Well we are all huge fans of Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, & Taylor Swift. So any of those would be amazing!
3. You met through country artist Tara Lyn. What do you remember about that first meeting? Was there instant chemistry in thinking you could be your own band or did that develop over time? There was instant chemistry! Our first jam together was magic! We just loved how we all sounded together. It was kind of neat as we all had different tastes in music and we kind of all moulded them together to what is our sound today.
4. How did you come up with the band name? We used to hold all of our rehearsals on Western Avenue. I was lying in bed one night, instead of sleeping, my mind was wondering as usual. And I was thinking that Western Avenue would make a great band name, as we play country music, but more contemporary, so maybe with a more urban feel, hence Avenue being a street name, which you don't find in the country. And then the next day we had a rehearsal and Matt said he was thinking the same thing when he turned on to the street!
5. What has been the best part about working together? Well we have this chemistry that works! Matt is an optimist, Keith is more of a pessimist, and I am the realist. So in having that balance it's really helped us get to where we are today. Matt keeps us pumped up and motivated, Keith keeps our guard up, and I try to find the level playing ground.
6. You've released your debut EP, Western Avenue. What is it like to have your own music out there? What was the most exciting part about putting this EP together? Well it was a big turning point for us as it's something we all dreamed of doing for as long as we can remember! We loved the reaction of the fans. We loved hearing stories of how our songs affected them. We played at a celebration for a woman who had finished her cancer treatments and was cancer free, and she had asked us to play our song "What My Heart Had In Mind" because that song had meant a lot to her and her husband. So right before we played it she made a beautiful speech and then dedicated the song to her husband for being there for her. Then when we started the song they danced. Soon after the other members of the party came around them in sort of a big group hug, and they all danced together. It was so beautiful, and was so hard to get through the song with out crying. It was a great moment.
I don't think i can pin point a most exciting part of putting the EP together, as the whole experience was amazing. It's really something hearing your songs come to life. I think my favorite part was being able to put in my production ideas and hear the result. We worked with an amazing producer/engineer Adam Newcomb of Newcomb Studios. He really knows how to make a song come to life. And he's great to work with as he will let you bring your own ideas to the table to mold out a specific sound you are looking for.
7. What has the fan reaction been like? What do you like about meeting your fans out on the road? The fan reaction has been great so far. They have been super supportive. For example, when we had our CD release party, it sold out in 3 days! And the day of the show fans were lined up around the block! It was pretty exciting for us!
Meeting fans on the road is great. It's still strange for me that people want my autograph! What's going on in the back of my mind is: Are you sure you want me to mess up your CD with my scribble? haha! But it's such a great feeling to connect with people that appreciate and support your music.
8. How do you feel social media has helped get your name and music out to the public? It's helped because it's so accessible. So many people are connected to it. It's almost like a chain reaction. For example if someone finds us through one social media, they can easily connect to us through another social media, and if they like us they can share us, etc. And it's such an easy way to connect with the fans as well, and keep them updated with what's happening. It makes it much easier for us underdogs who don't have the support for mass marketing!
9. What is the best part about living through the rise of your popularity? Is the reality the same as what you had envisioned in your mind? Well we aren't living in fancy condos by the ocean yet. But it's still been great! It's funny, sometimes I'll be out shopping and someone will say "Hi Nikki!" and I will have no idea who it is, realizing after that they knew me from the band. It's an awkward moment as I feel bad thinking I had met the person before and just forgot.
The reality of it all is a lot of work. It's almost like having a second full time job! haha! But it's good because it's what we love to do, so it doesn't feel as much like work!
10. What have you learned about yourselves from being singers? Well out of all my abilities, I think that's the best one I got, so hopefully it doesn't fail me. HAHA! I learned that singing is a great emotional outlet. If I'm upset about something, I put that energy into my performance. It seems to help me de-stress, and hopefully put out a more emotive performance!
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? That you create your own future. If you do nothing, nothing will happen. If you really focus on what you want, you will get it!
12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? To fly at the speed of sound, so I get go anywhere I want, and not have to wait in traffic! HAHA!
For Nikki English, Keith Robertson and Matt Williams, music has been a driving force in their lives for as long as they can remember. Together since 2007, they are the members of Western Avenue, a contemporary country music band from central Ontario. The trio is heading out on a journey following their dreams. Western Avenue is winning over audiences with its new original music, including the catchy first single Highway Headin’ Out of Town, which has been picked up by Canadian country radio. The song hit the airwaves on July 2, 2012 and is also available worldwide on iTunes. An EP album, which the band is currently recording, will be released in January 2013.
English and Robertson, who are now married, live in Peterborough while Williams is from Cobourg. The three musicians met through Canadian country artist Tara Lyn Hart, who lived in Port Hope at the time and had a music program in Cobourg. Robertson and Williams were hired as back-up musicians for English for one of her performances.
"As soon as we started jamming, it was evident we should keep doing it," Williams recalls. "The way that our voices blended together when we started singing, just the three-part harmony, we could tell we were on to something special." For most of the time the trio had been together, Western Avenue was strictly a cover band. There was a slight detour in 2008 when the members recorded a three-song demo. Essentially the purpose of the demo was to enter a battle of the bands-type competition. A rock one at that; but Western Avenue stuck to its acoustic country. That was a good learning experience for the band, even if it didn’t return to the studio for several years. In that time, though, the members have matured in developing their music style and songwriting. Their chemistry has remained intact.
"I think it has all come from playing together for so long," English says. "We get along so well and I couldn’t ask for better band mates. We click. We’re always open to suggestions from each other." Writing the original music has been exciting for the band.
"We’re enjoying including originals into the set list," Robertson says. "It’s a lot more meaningful. When you sing the same cover song every night in a pub and you can include your own songs, it’s very exciting." "We have all been playing in some band or another through the years, but always kept this together," Robertson added. "We always came back to this because this is the music we love to do."
Now the focus for Western Avenue is kicking into a higher gear. Lyrics for Highway Headin’ Out of Town couldn’t be more perfectly suited for the band. The chorus goes: Like that highway headin’ out of town/ Never looking back, never slowing down/ Bigger and better things on the way/ Mile by mile, day by day/ It’s all about the journey and not about where we’re bound/ Like that highway headin’ out of town. English describes the song as 'fun, upbeat and about following your dreams'. Growing up, English fondly remembers her father Frank always playing guitar and singing around their house. He died in 2001 after a battle with cancer. While her father always encouraged her to perform, English says she was always too shy.
Her father’s passing was motivation to at least try; "That’s what he always wanted me to do, and I wanted to, but I was a wimp," she says. "It gave me confidence to do it in his memory. It’s been a challenge because I’ve always been shy. I guess I’ve been developing that over the years, breaking out of my shell. It’s been a lot easier with the band, having people beside you." English and Robertson have been married now for two years. "It’s great because we get to spend a lot of time together," English says.
There was always music around Robertson’s household. The Colborne native began playing instruments at an early age and has been playing in bands since he was 12. He couldn’t imagine having another job. “The only thing I can do is play guitar,” he quips. Robertson taught guitar for 16 years, and still does occasionally. He also plays fiddle and “pretty much anything with a string on it." Keith has played professionally with country musicians Tara Lyn Hart and John Landry. Williams remembers when he knew music was a path for him. He was 10 years old and received tickets from his parents to see Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in concert.
"As soon as the lights went down, that was it," Williams said. Years earlier, he participated in a YMCA music program in Cobourg. He began playing piano at age six. Two weeks after the Tom Petty show, he took up the guitar. It wasn’t easy, but he’s still playing. "I had to work really hard at it, but it’s something I persisted at." That’s what Western Avenue will continue to do.