Through 46 years, multiple member changes, styles and genres, Canadian rock band Chilliwack is still ready to headline the Penticton Peach Festival.
A lengthy time frame for a band to remain in the public eye, singer/guitarist Bill Henderson said it’s partially due to their songs continually playing on classic rock radio in the ‘90s and early 2000s.
“I’d say that had a lot to do with it,” Henderson said.
The group reconvening in the ‘90s was a far cry from the butt-busting hustle and recording in the ‘70s.
“The songs had to score or you had to go out and find a job, a real job, as they say,” Henderson laughed. “So once this whole period with classic rock radio started, it’s not the kind of rotation you get with a hit song, but still it’s really substantial, and it’s enough that people know our music, we go out and play and people know our songs, it’s really cool.”
With four platinum and two gold albums under their belts, and multiple hit singles, Chilliwack has found a lasting power through multiple generations.
“It’s one thing to copy the style of the day, play in the style of the day and make the current sounds,” Henderson said, noting that a lot of those sounds changed during the heaviest recording years in Chilliwack’s history. “It’s one thing to be able to respond to that and make the sounds of the day, but in my opinion it doesn’t mean you have a lasting song.”
What worked for Henderson was finding a balance between making a good song and not trying too hard to make it in a specific way.
“I never knew what a great song was, and so every time I did a song, every one I did I thought was great, and the last one was the best, but I found from audience response, my wife’s response, people around me, I found when I was writing if I just kind of let things happen, instead of trying to make them a certain way,” Henderson said. “It’s a mental attitude and allowing the music to just sort of happen on its own to a certain extent.”
Chilliwack has a much more relaxed tempo when it comes to touring these days, keeping under 20 dates a year, as opposed to the hustle and bustle of their heyday. Henderson joked that the three dates surrounding Peach Festival is a “long weekend, a real stretch.”
He noted his daughter, Camille, while touring with Sarah McLachlan, would be gone for nearly a year at a time, something he’s happy to have in his rearview mirror at this stage of his life.
Henderson had his impact on Canadian music not only as a musician, but on the board of multiple musical organizations including acting as the president Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) for years, partially responsible for updating SOCAN’s to the modern day and raising the international profile.
He was the recipient of a random phone call from the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) asking for him to be a board member.
“I’d never been on a board before, so I said ‘oh, what would I do,’” Henderson said.
CARAS was looking for the “artist’s viewpoint,” and Henderson got a taste for playing that role.
“I’m an argumentative kind of guy in some ways and an emotional sort of person as well. I saw things going on that I thought the artist viewpoint wasn’t the same as the business viewpoint at all, so I tried to really articulate that. They would give me a bit of time, say thank you very much, and go on doing what they were doing,” Henderson said.
He would eventually go on international trips to lobby governments on the value of music for SOCAN.
“People think music should be free and don’t realize how much they depend on it,” Henderson said.
Catch Chilliwack as they headline the Penticton Peach Festival on Aug. 3.