Artist Spotlight: Big Time For The Small Town Pistols
Amanda & Tyler Wilkinson – with years of success in country music as The Wilkinsons, along with their dad Steve – have managed to keep the magic going with the country duo they formed called Small Town Pistols. Radio, CMT & Country fans have fallen in love with their new songs: Living On The Outside, Colour Blind, Blame It On The Radio, Anthem Of A Runaway, and their new single, I Only Smoke When I Drink. Small Town Pistols won Album of the Year at the CMAO awards in May 2014. They have been nominated for best group or duo at the CCMAs in September.
You transitioned from The Wilkinsons to Small Town Pistols – the former is a now legendary Country act and the latter is a hot new duo. What would you say are the biggest differences between the two acts?
Tyler: Well obviously, Small Town Pistols are without Dad so I would say the music itself sounds different. A lot more two-part harmony and focus on both voices.
Amanda: I also think with branding (visually) and song content there is a bit of a departure. For instance, there is certain subject matter we can write and sing about now, being the respective ages we are today.
What have you learned the most about music, songwriting and performing from your Dad?
Amanda: You can make a great record… but selling who you are live is equally important. You need to give it your all on stage. It’s called the entertainment business for a reason. Plus, he’s a pretty insane writer. I can’t even tell you all the lessons we’ve learned from him about crafting songs.
Tyler: Never settle. Always give 200% because the listeners deserve nothing less. They spend hard-earned money to come see you play live or buy your music. You owe it to them to give them your best.
How special is it these days to sing “26 Cents” on stage with your Dad?
Amanda: He wrote that song. It’s still amazing to see the impact it has on people. I’m so proud he is a part of that song and experience. So it’s just pure magic, all these year later, to share that magic with him on stage.
Tyler: I don’t believe it has never not been special, but these days it just feels sooo amazing getting him on stage with us.
You write with a lot of great songwriters, but let’s pick one – Patricia Conroy – and tell me about writing with her on the creative side and the fun side.
Amanda: She’s a kindred spirit. Her energy is infectious. I love her.
Tyler: It’s important to always feel comfortable writing with someone. Patricia is one of our favourites, because she feels like family. She really gets us and none of us are afraid to speak our minds. There is never a dull moment writing with Patricia, which makes the time just fly by.
When was the last time you felt starstruck meeting an artist? And, who is the person from the music world you would like to meet in the near future?
Amanda: Dolly Parton. What a brilliant light she is in the world. I would love to meet Paul McCartney.
Tyler: Meeting Garth Brooks was definitely a moment that I will never forget. As far as meeting someone in the future, I would love to meet John Mayer. I really think his songwriting is so intelligent and refreshing.
There’s a video online of both of you performing a cover of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song with a country flavour. What are some other “unexpected” covers you like to perform?
Tyler: We are covering Bruce Springsteen and The Cranberries this summer and they are so much fun to play live!
Take us back to your earliest musical influences. Who were they?
Amanda: Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstat, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James, 90’s country 100% – and harmony groups like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles.
Tyler: Brooks and Dunn, Bryan White, Hank Williams Sr., Garth Brooks… but we honestly listened to everything.
CMT Crossroads calls and gives you the chance to share the stage with an act from another genre to sing each other’s songs. Who would you choose?
Amanda: Fleetwood Mac!!! 100%.
Tyler: Fleetwood Mac.
You wrote your latest single together “I Only Smoke When I Drink.” Great song! It has a very traditional feel and you’ve called it a “wild card” on today’s country music scene. How important is it for you to release a song that might not match the current trend, but one that you are nonetheless passionate about?
Amanda: After all these years, we’re not here to chase trends. We do what feels right for us. What stirs us up and speaks volumes of honesty to us. We don’t mind being a horse of a different colour 🙂
Tyler: If you go chasing after a current music trend, you will never stand out, and you, by the definition of “chase”, will always be behind someone else. It’s always important to do what your heart tells you, and have faith that good music always speaks the loudest.
Aside from the nominations and awards from the CCMAs over the years, what do you enjoy most about Country Music Week & the CCMAs?
Tyler: I think the fact that there is constant music and we get to reconnect with all of our friends in the industry.
How great is it that the CMAO has become such a strong organization supporting Ontario Country artists and having two very successful awards shows to its credit?
Amanda: I love that it celebrates established artists that have had Canadian success – but, it’s also an unbelievable opportunity to have up and coming talent get discovered and embraced in our own province. I’m excited to see the organization grow.
Tyler: It’s an amazing way for Country artists from Ontario to connect with one another and support the great talent we have in this province. We have needed it for a while and we are so glad that we are now a part of it.
When someone visits Nashville, what is the one restaurant you would say they have to go to and why?
Amanda: Still the Pancake Pantry. Lines are insanely long. But to try the French toast there is still worth it!!!!
Tyler: That’s way too hard – I have too many faves. Las Palmas!
Who would play you on the big screen if The Wilkinsons’ life story was ever filmed, and what would you suggest they name the movie?
Tyler: Hmmm Daniel Radcliffe? “The Wilkinsons: Big Dreams in a Small Town”.
Amanda: LOL – love Ty’s title. Not sure of who resembles me… but I would love Natalie Portman.
Finally, Amanda – you’re expecting a child and so is Tyler’s wife. Congratulations! What advice would you give them if they choose to pursue music at some point?
Amanda: Surround yourself with people who kick you in the pants now and again. Get used to rejection at times, but never listen to people who say you can’t do something if your gut is strongly telling you that you can. Don’t settle for anything less than 100% and work hard!!!
Tyler: Follow your heart and if music flows through you and speaks to your soul, never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.
To hear past episodes of In The Country with Dave Woods, please visit www.inthecountryinterviews.com