When the Student Becomes the Master

By Christine Séguin — Wed, 10/06/2015 - 15:46

We are all students of this life. We are the sum of the people we meet, the art we consume, experiences we brave and heroes we revere. We must soak these things in so that they teach us something about ourselves, informing the things we then expel out into the vast well of content, art and expression. Go ahead kids, be a super fan! Gush over the things you love and let them wash over you and shake you up like a torrential thunderstorm. You never know what you yourself can make of it.

Colter Wall of Saskatoon has released his debut EP Imaginary Appalachia on June 2nd and will be performing at the Daily Grind on Thursday, June 11th. At 19 years old, Colter has produced an album that is haunted by the ghosts of Delta Blues singers and Traditional Americana performers while simultaneously remaining personal and refreshing. He is clearly a student of the esthetic and sound of these genres and the perfect example of the beautiful art that can be created when you combine talent, personal experience and discerning fandom. Colter was recently lauded by CBC Sask’s as one of the “Top 15 to Watch in 2015” and damn, ya’ll better start watching.

I emailed Colter a few questions which he graciously answered while driving up from the States. This method of interviewing was probably for the best in this case as a conversation with Colter would have resulted in a full on nerd out which would have probably taken up too much of the poor fella’s time.

Christine Séguin: What is it about the Delta Blues resonates with you? What about your contemporary influences? Tell me about the music you love and why?

Colter Wall: I reckon the rawness and simplicity of the blues has a great deal to do with why I'm drawn to it. It's just unconcentrated, unadulterated emotion. Anything that's stripped down to that extent is always appealing to me. My contemporary influences vary from a lot of different genres but the common denominator is usually a rawness and honesty that's shared by different types of music. For example, Folk traditionals followed by Punk tunes is not an uncommon sequence in my listening pattern. Right now I've been listening to a lot of Steve Earle, The Dead Weather, Blind Willie McTell, it's currently summertime so I've had The Band's brown album on pretty frequently, Guy Clark, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, some Stanley Brothers. Of course there are certain staple artists who I never really stop listening to: Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Hank Williams, and Jack White to name a few.

CS: How old were you when you starting playing/writing music? What was your first instrument? How has your voice (both as a writer and singer) developed over the years?

CW: I picked up the guitar when I was around 13 I believe, but before that I took some piano lessons. My voice as a writer has developed as I've grown and experienced life as anyone's would but I'm a firm believer that one’s voice as a writer is also strongly dependant on what they consume as a songwriter whether it's songs, books, anything really. My singing voice is something that took some time to hone and get to a comfortable place with. I've never been a trained singer in any way but I've been attempting to sing songs for a long time. It's really just within this last year that I've found my voice as a singer.

CS: What in your life has informed your writing/storytelling?

CW: So many things... But to make a long answer short, personal experiences and emotions combined with the art I've consumed myself.

CS: Do you run into any challenges or criticism because of your age?

CW: Not too many at this point. Usually I think people are mostly surprised to hear the music I make and find out that I'm 19. I don't mind that though.

CS: What has been your greatest accomplishment so far as a musician?

CW: I guess making and releasing this EP. It's my first ever record and I'm pretty proud of it.

CS: On this first major tour, what are you going to do to keep sane? Have you received any good advice from fellow musicians about touring/ performing?

CW: Luckily I'm in the company of Danny Olliver who's done this kind of tour before so I'm learning a lot from him. I'm also lucky to come from a music community that's pretty tight knit so I've had plenty of support and advice from other more seasoned artists.

CS: What is your dream gig? Is it playing a certain venue or festival? Opening for a certain artist?

CW: There's a lot of legendary venues and festivals that I'd really love to play. I think the Old Quarter in Houston might take the cake though. I have the live album that Townes recorded there on vinyl.

Here’s hoping you check this very talented storyteller and musician as he carries on the torch of the very best of our time.

The Prairie Gentleman Tour ft. Danny Olliver and Colter Wall
Thursday, June 11 @ 8pm
The Daily Grind

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