Be My Habit
To singer, songwriter and producer Robert Wilson, it seemed like the ideal place to record a solo album: surrounded by nothing but forest and ocean in a borrowed cabin on Gambier Island, just a short boat ride but a world away from the bustle of his Vancouver home. And ideal it was - until he heard the crushing sound of a giant drilling rig burrowing into the rock nearby. 'The sound was bleeding into my microphones, so I couldn't do any recording. So I went down and talked to the drill master, and he said they were going to be drilling 14 hours a day until they reached 240 feet down,' says Wilson with a lighthearted laugh. 'So I lost a lot of recording time, but we made the best of it. We went swimming, we played some wickedly competitive croquet, we picked blackberries, we read books. And on the drillers' lunch breaks, we ran back inside and hit record.' But Wilson's laid-back approach isn't limited to his dealings with drill masters. Be My Habit, his much-anticipated sophomore release, is a soulful, sweetly melodic album with a distinctly chilled-out West Coast feel. Rich in rhythm, texture and emotion, the songs on Be My Habit tell simple stories that speak volumes. With whispers of gospel, the title track confronts the fear of intimacy; set to a sunny reggae rhythm, 'Soleil' tells the story of the hope a baby brings to a world where wars are waged over oil and fought on TV screens; 'Alive' pays homage to one of Canada's great pastimes - the road trip; and 'Making Love Right Now' is a playfully sexy tune about waking up in a lover's bed. 'Most of the time, I'll have a personal experience in mind, and then I'll build a little story around it. The simplest things in our lives tend to speak the loudest: self-worth, joy, fear, love,' says Wilson, whose debut album, Thin Man, won the artist a faithful fan base and nominations for The West Coast Music Awards and The Georgia Straight Music Awards. 'But my experience isn't what's important. The real power of music is when listeners claim it as their own, so I hope people find their own lives inside the songs.' Produced by Wilson and mixed at Ogre Studios, Be My Habit includes contributions from some of Vancouver's top musical talent: John Raham (Kinnie Starr, Mimosa) brought in groove-heavy percussion and also became the album's recording and mixing engineer; guitarist Marc Wild (Motion Soundtrack, Lily Frost) brought a diverse range of sounds to the album, from spacey swells to slide solos; bassist Darren Paris (Bocephus King, Kia kadiri) and pianist Simon Kendall (Cowboy Junkies, Colin James) added their own unique colours to the musical palette; and vocalists Kinnie Starr, Rebecca Shoichet and Coco Love Alcorn added soulful vocal harmonies. 'Once I opened up the process to new possibilities, great stuff happened. John or I would have an idea and one of us would run right down to the tracking room and give it a shot. We'd even make late night phone calls trying to get a keyboard player or a singer to come and lay some new idea down,' he says with a devilish smile. 'Some of my favourite moments came out of these little bursts of creativity. Robert's solo performance is just as warm and captivating as his recordings. Often using a loop pedal to sample live melodies and percussive beats on his acoustic guitar, he creates a highly textured, full band sound. And, weaving tales about everything from tour stop adventures to world politics to romantic relationships into his show, he instantly makes any venue feel like a living room filled with friends. I like music that's honest. Music that sounds like it was hatched out of reality. Music that expresses our complicated lives in simple language,' says Wilson, who has shared gigs with Jason Mraz, Grammy Award winner Shelby Lynne, Dan Bern, and The Brothers Creeggan (Barenaked Ladies). 'Music is a language that can let us know that we're not alone in the world, that someone else shares our feelings. I'm interested in songs that help bring people to that place. Robert has performed with Jason Mraz, Shelby Lynne, Glen Phillips, Dan Bern, Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters), Brothers Creeggan, Mason Jennings, Matt Nathanson, Tom Wilson (Blackie and the Rodeo kings) Erika Luckett Would sound good on a mix tape with: Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Ben Harper, Norah Jones, Jason Mraz, James Taylor, Nick Drake, Josh Rouse, Crowded House, Sheryl Crow, Ani Difranco, Otis Redding, Van Morrison, David Gray Press 'One of Vancouver's most gifted songwriters' Tom Zillich, The Westender, 'His last album was one of my Top 5 favorites of last year. I have taken people to see him play before and every one of them has purchased a CD on the way out. Anyone into the singer/songwriter genre will not be disappointed.' Chris Brandt, Universal Music / CITR Radio, Vancouver 'Probably the best pop voice I've heard since Lionel Ritchie'. Andrew Loog Oldham, Legendary Rolling Stones manager/producer 'Robert Wilson, the album is Thin Man...he's Verrrry, very good. I'm so impressed with the quality of songs on this album....' Terry David Mulligan -CKUA Radio 'Wilson represents a breed of new, rising Vancouver writers who are going to be worth watching in the coming two years' Tom Harrison, the Vancouver Province 'Robert Wilson. If the name is new to you it shouldn't be that way for long.' Padraig Collins, The Irish Times 'Robert Wilson is Hot Hot Hot&' CFCN News, Calgary.