Eight records into their storied career, Canadian country music duo Doc Walker is not taking anything for granted.
With more than 30 hit singles and a dozen Canadian Country Music Association Awards spread over the last two decades, Doc Walker has headlined both national and international stages.
Given their success, it would be all too easy for the Manitoba duo – Chris Thorsteinson and Dave Wasyliw – to have fallen into a certain degree of complacency when it comes to their careers.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The band sounds as vital and essential as ever on their recently released eighth studio record, the appropriately titled The 8th.
The album has already sent a pair of singles racing up the charts, including the Top 10 hit “Put It Into Drive” and “Shake It Like It’s Saturday Night,” a radio favourite from this past summer.
Produced by Gavin Brown (Barenaked Ladies, The Tragically Hip) and Justin Niebank (Vince Gill, Eli Young Band), The 8th is a 10-track song collection that gives fans a first-hand look at the lives of Thorsteison and Wasyliw.
“When we set out to make this record, we wanted to be sure that we took the time to make sure the record was great,” Wasyliw says.
“In a lot of ways, the band still feels brand new because we are constantly trying to challenge ourselves. I think a lot of artists tend to phone it in and stick with a proven formula when it comes to making records. We have never made the same record twice and are rather proud of that fact.”
With three and a half years lapsing between The 8th and 2011’s 16 & 1, Wasyliw says the group never once assumed they would simply reclaim their spot at top of the charts. They very much went back to basics, taking the time to re-introduce themselves to radio programmers across the country in the time leading up to the album’s release.
“It definitely felt like we had to win radio back in some respects but it was a good kind of feeling, as though we needed to push ourselves,” Wasyliew says. “We didn’t feel we could just coast off our past success. We really had to step up the songwriting game this time around and feel completely humbled by the response our new music has been given.”
An especially exciting feat for Wasyliw is the fact that The 8th will be released on vinyl, a first for the group. Saying that when he and Thorsteinson started the group, they had always wanted to have a release on vinyl, and that long-running dream has finally been realized with their newest album.
“Chris and I were kids and always wanted to have our music pressed onto a record. I think it’s encouraging to see the format making a resurgence over the last few years. I think people are largely over the fact they can fit 10,000 songs on their phone. Music fans are looking for something more these days.”
With a vinyl release of The 8th imminent, the last few years have also been ones of change for the group. Guitarist Murray Pulver amicably departed the band, effectively retiring from performing with the band live. His creative and songwriting partnership with the band continued on The 8th, however.
Wasyliw says that while the group was sad to lose Pulvern in respect to the band’s live show, both he and Thorsteinson completely understood Pulver’s decision to retire from the road.
“Murray played on every record of ours and was actually the one that taught both Chris and I how to play guitar. We wrote a few songs together for The 8th but further than that, Murray played all over the record. He couldn’t let go that easily,” Wasyliw laughs.
“When Murray graduated high school, he landed a gig with the Crash Test Dummies, touring the world with them and then basically went from that group to Doc Walker with little in the way of a break in between. He has been on the road in one form or another for the last 25 years already and simply decided that was enough for him for now, which Chris and I completely understood and appreciated. Murray will always have a huge presence in our music, no matter what.”
Asked what he is most looking forward to with Doc Walker’s upcoming participation on the Bands On The Run Tour alongside fellow Canadians The Road Hammers and Nashville act Blackjack Billy, Wasyliw says he believes that each of the acts involved bring something unique to the tour.
By the time the Bands On The Run tour wraps up in Vancouver in mid-December, Wasyliw expects to have shared a lot of laughs and perhaps collaborated on a song idea or two with The Road Hammers and Blackjack Billy alike.
“I feel the great thing about the tour is that every group brings something a little different to the stage. We aren’t all singing about the same stuff in our songs. But looking at the tour itself and the number of shows we are playing across the country, I think it is pretty ambitious and should prove to be a great time.”
What: Doc Walker with The Road Hammers and Blackjack Billy
When: Saturday, Nov. 22, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr, Moncton
Tickets are $47.45 (plus taxes and service fee). Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca