Over the past two decades, Canadian country music act Doc Walker has written and recorded more than 20 Top 10 singles, and this month, the duo from Portage La Prairie, Man., is sharing the stories behind many of those songs in an Acoustic Songs and Stories from the Heartland cross-Canada tour.
Doc Walker’s acoustic tour comes to Quesnel Feb. 21, and lead singer Chris Thorsteinson insists this won’t be your typical songwriter-in-the-round show, and it definitely won’t be boring.
“The show sure is a lot of fun with just Dave and I doing the acoustic show,” he said. “It’s pretty funny. I’ve said in the past that in a way, it kind of reminds me a little bit of an old Bob and Doug McKenzie from SCTV TV show rather than a songwriters in the round. There are a lot of funny stories that people probably haven’t heard, just stories behind the songs. It’s a blast.”
Thorsteinson says this acoustic tour is one he and Dave Wasyliw have wanted to do for a long time.
“Dave and I, we grew up playing acoustics around bush fires and parties that we used to have,” he said. “We’ve been playing together since we were 13 years old, so we’re really kind of getting back to the roots, and there are a lot of really cool and interesting stories, and we really hope everybody can come out and enjoy it.”
Thorsteinson says he and Wasyliw were inspired to go do a tour like this when they started looking back over older songs while making a “best of” album, Echo Road, which was released in 2016.
“We’ve always sort of looked ahead; we were always more the ‘you can smell the roses when you’re running with them in your hands’ kind of guys rather than reflecting, but that three or four months picking the songs for that record really made us reflect on the last 20 years and the songs that we’ve written,” he said. “Throughout the years, it’s always been a conscious effort for us to write or record songs that we knew would connect with people and lyrically were good songs. It made sense to go on the road and, after taking the risk all those years of recording unique and different songs, to go out and tell the stories behind them.”
Thorsteinson particularly enjoys talking about how and why certain songs were written.
“People are really interested in why that song because when you hear a song that relates to you or connects with you, it’s really interesting hearing how it started or why it connected with us,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun to be able to give that information.”
Throughout their career, Doc Walker have written and recorded a lot of songs that don’t necessarily fit with the “bro country” music that gets so much airplay. Thorsteinson says it has been tough to stick to who they are and what they believe in at times, but it’s always been worth it.
“It is very tough, and it’s getting harder nowadays with social media and I would say just sort of people’s attention span in general — people want stuff right now,” he said. “Even in songwriting, I notice a lot of songs now are getting to the chorus within 30 seconds rather than a minute. So, you know, you do have to change your approach to writing because that’s the way the general public is. Throughout the years, it was hard, but I do think the payoff is there if you take the risk … There’s a place for every song, but if you have a whole bunch of kind of cookie-cutter songs and you have 18, 20 of those in your repertoire, your show will be kind of stale, really, I think by the end of it. You need some depth, and you need some meat on the bones, I guess you could say.”
After performing together for so long, Thorsteinson says he and Wasyliw keep things fresh because they keep seeing new things they want to write about.
“Dave and I are very creative people, so we’re always creating, which does keep it new,” he said. “And our lives change along with everybody else’s, with our fan base and new fans. We’re fathers and husbands now. When you get older, it’s like doors open and you get to see so many different things that you can write about. I’m writing about stuff now that I never imagined I’d be writing about at 22, 23 years old, so I think we always feel like we have something we want to say, which keeps it fresh.”
Doc Walker released its newest album, Weathervane, in 2017, and the Acoustic Songs and Stories from the Heartland Tour is named after one of its singles, “Heart of the Heartland.”
“With Doc Walker, we’ve always tried to keep things new and fresh, and with this Weathervane record, it was one of those albums where we got to sit down as a band in Saskatoon at a pretty cool little recording studio with Bart MacKay, a friend we’ve known for years, and it was a little more of an organic-style record, not a lot of big sounds,” said Thorsteinson. “I don’t want to be a band that records those all the time, but I think with the songs we had and the approach we took to that record, it was definitely a record we needed to make and that we really wanted to make.”
Doc Walker recently released the music video for “Get Back on my Horse” from this album. Directed by Mike Latschislaw, the video shows a slideshow of fellow Canadians demonstrating their resilience, with some paying homage to loved ones they’ve lost along the way. Featured in the video is an RCMP officer holding a photo of a colleague lost on duty, a daughter honouring her father, and Thorsteinson with a group of friends paying homage to one they lost.
Doc Walker performs Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Quesnel and District Seniors Centre. Tickets are available at Circle ‘S’ Western Wear. Right now, our readers can win tickets to the show by filling in a ballot found in the Observer newspaper. Drop off your entry at the Observer office at 188 Carson Ave. before Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. for your chance to win. Draw participants must be at least 19 years old.