Those of you who know me will know that I am a huge fan of real classic rock. There’s just something about the aggressive nature of the instrumentals combined with heartfelt lyrics that speaks to my heart directly. Wilkinson Blades has been speaking to me this past week, with their new album Home. I absolutely had to interview the songwriter, Steve Wilkinson, because I had a few questions about the significance of what seemed to be very intentional and meaningful word choices…”Home” is a very strong one-word statement – and the album is indeed a homecoming in several ways. Wilkinson shared some of his personal story with us, and described how the formation of this band is itself a homecoming. The arrival at the new sound is also “home” for now – a real down-to-earth rock record that inspires a second, third, and fourth listen. Is it deep? Yes…but, can I understand it -also, yes! For me, that’s the very essence of rock and roll – it’s both relatable and emotionally challenging at the same time.
The writing process for Steve Wilkinson is interesting. The man’s brain is very active, and observations, events, and ponderings are all gathered inside – more than he knows what to do with sometimes! The solution is to express himself in song. Wilkinson has lived his life thus far in a search for both knowledge and expression. He’s looking over the experiences he’s had from childhood to present – then opening up and sharing himself with listeners in a truly vulnerable way. The music comes from an honest desire to process and share struggles and successes. Perhaps someone can identify, and perhaps that will cause a deep and personal connection with the music. That’s every honest musician’s hope, and certainly a longing that rings true with Wilkinson Blades’ Home. Wilkinson recalls the first musical experiences with his father, now deceased. He vividly remembers riding around in his dad’s car as a kid, listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and thinking how cool it would be to make such magical sounding music. But as he pondered this he wondered why the lyrics were so dark. Now, as an adult and accomplished storyteller, he understands that sometimes music is a great way to get that stuff out in the world….kind of “community therapy of sorts.” To this day, Wilkinson still is a fan of the band, and appreciates the psychedelic stylings of Wilkinson Blades’ guitarist Grant Cumpston. Though Wilkinson has been the primary songwriter up to this point, he recognizes the expertise and combined experience of his bandmates – the sound may continue to evolve, as the band leaves themselves open to go where the music guides them.
Wilkinson, so far, remains the main songwriter, having written these songs originally for a solo recording project. When asked to play live, Wilkinson returned to what he knew would work. A band of men he has known for years – Portland natives, musicians to their core, and above all – friends and musical truth-seekers. Rock music is authentic and timeless. It makes no apologies for speaking truth – and the songs that endure are ones that cross generational boundaries. Steve Wilkinson has a firm grasp on this with the new band – for they are not actually new…
The members of Wilkinson Blades are a band who have known each other and grown alongside each other as musicians for years. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Steve Wilkinson, vocalist and guitarist Grant Cumpston, drummer Jon Beyer, and bassist Johnny Huck had all played together as the band Gravelpit starting in the 1990’s. As often happens with bands, members move, start other projects and families, and end up not being able to continue as a group. Wilkinson had to keep writing, because he kept having experiences and processing events. He recorded his songs as a solo project. When Wilkinson was asked to perform his new recorded music live, he drew on this trusted solid musical base, and added players as the music called for it. The addition of Rich Landar on keyboards completes the core group, who now are already considering their new musical endeavor. The band operates well together – letting the music speak for itself is the key. The feeling is different from the Gravelpit vibe, as the current project seems to have found their unique sound. This Wilkinson Blades sound may cross more genres in the future, but the core sound will continue to be recognizable.
The new album release will be celebrated this Saturday, June 11, at The Secret Society. Joining the band will be The Redeemed and Monica Nelson with John Alan Naylor. Tickets available online. You can find out more about the band on their website, Facebook page, and Reverbnation page. For contact information, you may reach out to Alex Steininger at In Music We Trust, In the meantime, Wilkinson and the band have given us permission to share “Highway Sign” with you in advance!