Walt Wilkins has to be one of the nicest guys in the business. His smile has always made me smile. He and his beautiful wife Tina and son Luke are some of my favorite people. And his music touches so many, whether it’s his own releases or projects with The Mystiqueros or with Tina. And then there’s his producing credits! So many artists have benefited from his expertise.
When he shared his new release with me, Ramble: 20 Years, I knew it was time to sit down and spotlight him…ok, that’s just an excuse…cause honestly I love this guy!
Katie: Tell us about the new album…what made you decide to put it out?
Walt: The new record, Ramble: 20 Years, is a retrospective of some of my favorite songs from the last 20 years of writing and traveling around playing the songs. Its a mix of original recordings, alternate takes, newer recordings of old songs that I never recorded, and one new song, “Days,” that Owen Temple and I wrote late last year. I think its a good picture of who I am and the work I’ve done. Its had a cool response in its first month, and that is gratifying.
Tina and I release a duet record, Be Mine in December – that is having a nice life, too. I like Tina’s voice more now that ever, and we’re having a great time singing together these days. Our 13 years old son Luke came out of the womb a very talented drummer. He plays in the school band, and is very serious about making electronic music on his computer. He loves music.
Katie: Co-writing is an important part of your career…and you’ve had opportunities to write with some amazing artists. Talk about that.
Walt: I’m enjoying co-writing with Owen Temple these days. We generally meet once a month for 2 or 3 hours, and start a song. Then we keep working on that song via email and text til the next time. We’re a year and some change into this groove, and I think its real cool. Owen is a great writer and he’s funny as hell and a great hang.
I write with some other folks when I get a chance: Josh Grider, Drew Kennedy, Cory Morrow, Aaron Einhouse and Nick Verzosa – I enjoy my time with each of them. And Davis Raines in Nashville and Randy Sitzler in Michigan. We try to work out a day or two a year together. There are other folks I’d like to make up a song with: Susan Gibson, Wade Bowen, Roger Creager, Kevin Fowler, Pat Green. Jack Ingram and I have written some, and I suspect we’ll do that again. The challenge is finding the time. Even with Tina.
I really dig making a song up with someone whose company I enjoy, now that I don’t have to do it every day, like back in Nashville. Having said that, I play songs every night that came from my seasons of heavy co-writing in Nashville, with Liz Rose, Davis Raines, Billy Montana… many others.
Katie: Your songwriting has been described as “real”…what do you think they mean?
Walt: I hope my songs are “real.” To me, they come from a real place -my life and its challenges, fears, hopes. And we all have those, and we all have a bunch of those in common. Most of our lives are pretty similar, right? The whole idea of writing for me is to create songs that my neighbor & your neighbor can relate to. I have always felt that my calling is to make my stuff relatable to the wider world.
Katie: You’ve been recognized by so many performers as being an inspiration to their careers, how’s that make you feel? (And do not say OLD!)
Walt: Its an honor that anyone would find inspiration in my work; the songs I’ve written, the shows I’ve played. Its very meaningful, and it makes this life easier, because there’s a lot of insecurities always at work in any art life, I’ve learned.
Its also mystifying sometimes – I don’t have a big hit song on national radio. The records I’ve made have been on modest labels or self-released. I don’t belong to any larger systems, really – except for the Mystiqueros and the Red River Songwriters Group. Its been years since I had representation or promotion. I feel real grateful that I get to keep playing my own songs, and believe me, I have enough vanity to like hearing folks say good things about them. The best part is when someone says a song helped them through a challenge of some kind, or a tough season. At this point, I can see elements in my work that place me clearly in the same world as my early heroes & saints: Steve Fromholz, Michael Martin Murphey, Willis Alan Ramsey, among others. And its cool to feel connected to that particular river.
Let that river’s current take you wherever you need to go, Walt! Whatever you’re doing, it works for your fans and we love you for it!
Pick up the new CD or find out where Walt is playing here: www.waltwilkins.com.