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  • Annette Dawm

Catching Up with Doc Walker

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

Collectively, Chris Thorsteinson (right) and Dave Wasyliw (left) have been at the helm of Canadian country band, Doc Walker for over two decades. While the band’s members may have changed over the years, Chris and Dave have been able to navigate the music industry together and maintain their friendship. As Dave explained, “I think being in a band—and I’ve heard this said by Steven Tyler from Aerosmith—it’s like being in a marriage, but it’s like being married to five people at the same time. It’s actually a lot

more difficult than a marriage!”

Chris added, “Well, and I think the thing is, we work together because we’re so different. My influences and the way I grew up listening to music and Dave’s influences and the way he grew up listening to music is so different. It kind of meets in the middle and makes a unique sound and you get Doc Walker.”

So where did the name Doc Walker come from? The band was named after one of Chris’ childhood friends—sort of. “…His nickname was J.J. Walker and my mom didn’t trust me with anything. So when I’d have a cold, she’d give J.J. all the medication. He forgot my medication one night and I said, ‘Good going, Doc Walker!’ Actually, the name of the band before that was called ‘Freedom’ and it was so bad that we decided to just call it Doc Walker and it stuck.” Chris said.

When asked what the biggest change in the music industry has been since the beginning of their career, Chris laughed and responded with, “Which one?”

Then Dave replied, “I think every five years it has changed. I think when we first started, Shania Twain was first coming onto the scene as well, and she was quite different from what was going on at the time.” He referenced Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt as staples of ‘90s Country, prior to what Twain brought to the table. Dave and Chris also discussed other phases that country music went through, such as “the redneck stuff” with artists like Gretchen Wilson and Big and Rich, along with the music known as “Bro-Country”. Now, they believe there seems to be a shift towards “Contemporary Country” once again.

As the music has evolved, so has the way people listen to, or consume it, which Chris listed as “the biggest change we’ve seen in music”. “I mean… we’ve gone through the whole thing,” he stated. "We used to sell cassettes. We had cassettes, we had CDs, we had records. Then all of a sudden it was free on Napster and LimeWire and then iTunes came along and everybody bought music. Now everybody streams it, so it seems to just be evolving more and more.”

They both agreed that keeping up with the evolution of the industry is difficult, but as Dave mentioned, “…You kind of have to go with it or you’ll get left behind. If you’re a purist and you’re only going to make vinyl records, you’re probably not going to be very successful.”

One thing that has remained constant in Doc Walker’s lives are the fans: “We love our fans!” Chris exclaimed. “That’s why we do it and it’s what keeps us on the road 35 days straight away from our family and our kids so we can spend time with our fans. That’s the one thing we care about most.”

In general, Dave suggested that all country music fans, world-wide, from Nashville to Australia were very supportive, however, the home-grown fans stood out to him the most: “The support of Canadian country music fans is unreal, you know? They’re the most dedicated fans in the world, I think.”

Earlier this year, fans came out to see Doc Walker on their “Acoustic Songs and Stories from The Heartland Tour” as well as the first leg of George Canyon’s “Hit After Hit Tour” with Charlie Major and newcomer, Manny Blu. Many fans attended both tours which Chris said kept them on their toes “because we know if there’s the same fans coming back to see a different show, we’ve got to change it up a little bit.” He also described the “Hit After Hit Tour” as “The Johnny Carson Show on steroids”.

“Well, the ‘Hit After Hit Tour’ was George’s brainchild with Jim Cressman, I believe,” Dave explained. “It looked strange on paper to us because… there [are] no openers, really. We kind of share the stage. We go up for a couple of songs and then we introduce George. Then George goes up for a couple songs and introduces Charlie…. It’s like being in a wrestling match where you tag out! It’s like, ‘Ahh! You get in there and do something!’ but this has been one of the best tours we’ve ever been on!”

Doc Walker had high praise for all of their tour-mates and have been acting as mentors for Manny Blu: According to Dave, “Manny is like, very modern country, but it actually does really well on this tour, because we have quite the gambit. We have Charlie Major who’s 65 years old, and George, who’s just a little bit older than us and then to us. Then to have Manny on the younger side of things, too, I think there’s something for everybody on this tour. Manny, from day one, has really progressed well…. We share a bus with Manny and his guys and they’re just the greatest dudes!”

“The back-up band for all three groups is just phenomenal! It’s just an honour to play with these guys!” Chris added. With a second leg of the tour just announced, they are already talking about taking the Hit After Hit Tour to the East Coast of Canada, but those dates have not been officially released.

Two of the songs that will not be heard on the tour include their earlier songs, “Whoever Made Those Rules” and “Maria” which Chris and Dave claimed they never really liked. “We just don’t play [those songs], so we don’t give the fans a chance to make them fan-favourites!” Dave laughed.

The good news is, new music is coming! Doc Walker plans to head into the studio “probably in July” which means “2020 is looking bright” for the group. They are also looking forward to this year’s summer festivals and seeing their friend, Charlie Major getting inducted into The Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame during The CCMAs in Calgary.

Looking back on their careers and with Manny Blu in mind, Dave Wasyliw and Chris Thorsteinson thought about their advice for others in the music industry: “It’s kind of great right now because we’ve had Manny on the road and Manny is a new, aspiring artist, of course. He’s been on this tour, basically kind of learning the ropes of how to [tour]….” Dave began. “We’ve given him a bunch of advice over the last month. A lot of it is what not to do.”

Chris urged people to “Keep doing what you love to do…. I think any artist that is, you know, wanting to do what we do—you can’t quit. Persistence is the thing. It doesn’t happen overnight. They say an average ‘overnight success’ is 7-10 years. So if they think it’s going to happen quick, it’s not.”

Finally, Dave concluded with, “The early reviews we got for our music weren’t always good. They were kind of bad and we never listened to them. We’ve had some other friends and peers in the same business [and] they couldn’t take that as soon as they put their baby out there. It’s like putting your child out there in a song and all of a sudden people hate it. It’s like, ‘people hate my child?’ …. I think you just get better at it. We kind of started feeling like we were progressing and getting better at it and here we are!”

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Photo by Annette Dawm.

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