by Michelle O’Keefe – Music Editor/Assistant Publisher
Recently, Joel and I met, backstage, with Ryan Marshall and Joe Cassady of Juno Award winner Walk Off The Earth, just prior to their concert at the Coca Cola Stage during Calgary Stampede. WOTE has been nominated 8 times for Juno Awards and in 2016 they took the award for Best Group. In 2014, they took the Canadian Radio Music Awards in four categories, including Fan’s Choice and SOCAN Song of the Year.
For the uninitiated, Joe Cassady describes their music as eclectic and both Cassady and Marshall added that they see themselves as a combination, as well as fusion, of rock, metal and folk. I would like to add that their rock music could be categorized as both alternative and indie. Ska sneaks into their repertoire regularly.
Founded in 2007, Walk Off The Earth went four years before releasing a single, Somebody That I Used To Know, a Gotye cover. This recording went viral. Thus far over 172 million hits on You Tube have been tracked. When asked why they waited so long to release a single, both shared that their first four years they were experimenting with indie rock. I asked of Marshall what impact this instant success had on their professional and personal lives. He opined that overnight success took four years to build up to. However, he did share what that success meant for the band. He stated emphatically, that it brought them from being musicians who had other jobs to support their music to being artists who now earned their livings from it. Their careers switched to being professional performers. Somebody That I Used To Know is “Certified Platinum”.
I asked of both Marshall and Cassady what the impact of this seemingly sudden success had on the dynamic of WOTE. They provided a rather poignant answer that at that stage they were seen as a band that records covers. The success provided them with the motivation to start producing original material too. They released their first original single, Red Hands, nine months later. It enjoyed considerable success being “Certified Double Platinum”.
Both Red Hands and Somebody That I Used To Know are tracks from the band’s 2012 release of the studio album R.E.V.O.. This is the first recording with newly added band member Sarah Blackwood. Prior to this, WOTE was an all male band. Sarah came from psycho-billy band The Creepshow of Hamilton. Sarah Blackwood and band member Gianni “Luminati” Nicassio are partners and have two young children together. Ryan Marshall shared that Sarah brought a high degree of diversity into the band as well as her skills as a multi-instrumentalist. In fact, the entire group is noted for the broad range of musical instruments they play and record with.
When asked about the complexities of juggling family life and their careers, four of the band members are parents of children ranging from toddlers to teenagers, Ryan Marshall shared that the success of Walk Off The Earth has allowed them the opportunity to bring nannies to care for the children so the families remain together, even while the band is touring.
The performance at the Coca Cola Stage definitely showed a band that has come of age. Well designed special effects, especially the dry ice generator, provided a stunning visual experience for the audience. Crowd engagement was excellent; Sarah Blackwood was most notable here. Those in attendance showed a high degree of enthusiasm. This was Walk Off The Earth’s second appearance at Stampede. I also attended the first concert.
The Reel Can would like to thank Daniel Kennedy of Media Relations for Calgary Stampede, Samantha Taus of Sony Music, and Joe Cacioppo of E-Mission Touring for setting up the interview for us.