Canadian music mainstay Tom Wilson has seen a lot of the industry performing in multiple projects (Junkhouse, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, LeE HARVeY OsMOND) through his decades-spanning career.
The 56-year-old’s take on the music industry today: “Same circus, different clowns.”
“Artists are the only thing that defines the music industry by era, defines it by genre. I mean it is the music ‘business,’” Wilson said. “You can screw the head off of somebody doing business in 1961 and someone doing business in 2016 and you won’t even notice a difference. But you will notice a difference between Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis.”
Artists, musicians and creators define eras, not businessmen.
“Those are the things that define our world and make it a different place. Politicians, corporations, businesspeople they don’t really define the progression of the world as much as they just try to control it. Art is really the only thing that we have,” Wilson said. “Literature, film, music, visual art are the things that separate our generation from a generation 50 years ago.”
A true renaissance man, Wilson is a lyricist, author, musician and painter. He has had galleries held in multiple cities from New York to Edmonton for his oil paintings, which he started making back in the 1990s.
“It’s been an ongoing thing and it’s something I feel like I have to do, to keep myself sane, same as writing,” Wilson said.
Being an artist is his way of not being controlled by his environment. He said he made the choice to be an artist when he was young and never looked back.
“There’s days when I love it and there’s days when I don’t love it and most days I don’t even think about it,” Wilson said. “It really defines how I survive and how I choose to survive this time on this planet.”
His son, Thompson Wilson, has followed in his father’s footsteps. Both are playing at the Dream Music Festival, May 13 and 14 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. After the break-up of Thompson’s former band Harlan Pepper, he has written and recorded songs with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and worked with Dallas Green as well. The two are currently touring the U.S. with LeE HARVeY OsMOND — what Wilson describes as an “artist collective,” a band shifting members centred around Wilson.
“He was kind of born into it, you know? It’s great. I love (touring with him). We hang around on a tour bus, get on stage and play every night. It’s pretty great once you get at it, what else would you want do?” Wilson said.
He admits he is not one to get a good jam session going, but he said he’ll look for a spot to fit in with musicians he’s all too familiar with at the Dream Music Festival.
The festival has each artist perform their set, continually adding to the backing band until nearly everyone is on stage. Wilson said he’ll find a way to contribute, but it’s not his forte.
“I know it’s going to be great and I’m going to find a place to fit in, but you can even ask them, they’ve probably never jammed with me in their life. Barney (Bentall) and I have known each other for years, we’ve never done anything like that, so it should be a good experience,” Wilson said.
At this point in his career the frequency of running into friends on festival stages or at shows diminishes.
“You just, as you get older, realize you don’t see each other that much, so it’s an opportunity for everyone to get together, check in with each other,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be great.”
This is part four of a six-part series previewing the Dream Music Festival. Tickets are $69, $79 and $89 available at the South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton and Wine Country Visitor Centre and online at www.thedreammusicfestival.ca.