A&E » Arts

Breakin' strings and making' music

Wil Mimnaugh returns with material from two latest albums to road test on the Whistler crowd

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"Doing shows with someone like Corb Lund, I'll probably be with my drummer, which I've done and be a lot more aggressive and blow through some more strings. Then, doing a theatre date with Feist, I played mostly with a thumb and it was very dynamic, and I didn't break a single string!"

The room, he explains, often dictates the number of strings that will snap beneath the flurry of finger and fretwork.

"I think back in the day, when you play kind of half-drunk and full of piss and vinegar and a lot of tequila, I'd probably go through between five and eight individual strings in one evening," he said.

All this snapping meant that Wil learned the fine art of restringing and tuning a guitar on the fly, in front of the crowd, without losing them. (Legend has it he can perfectly tune a guitar to any configuration in less than 10 seconds. But according to Wil, that's a bit of an exaggeration: "Yeah, that's kinda bullshit").

"Having done it for a lot of years, you just get good enough to keep it going and the key thing about entertaining people when you're up in front of them is that you never stop.," he laughed.

"You never slow a song down and you never stop, because you did something wrong."

He released his debut album, "Both Hands," back in 2007, and though it was entirely an indie affair, that project actually brought Wil to the attention of EMI, a major label, which worked with him to release another new album, "By December."

"It was great because they picked up that record with me and allowed me some time to write another one that I recorded with them, so it was something that I'm glad I did.," he said.

"It's something that everybody has to experience if they're going to be professional at one point - small or big label - essentially as an artist, you're going to be a part of some sort of governing body where there's actual commerce at interest."

Wil stayed with EMI for five years, making a solid record in the process. Hell, he even had the opportunity to work with Ron Sexsmith.

"You don't get that just because you run up and ask him," Wil laughed, "There's a little more credibility when you've got a label behind you."

Now, Wil has broken off on his own again, going the independent route with the help of some talented friends and family members, who help him keep things running behind the scenes. With their assistance, Wil released a third full-length album, "In This Together," last spring. He worked with a good friend, producer Bruce Leitl, and started out writing in a log cabin. They eventually moved into Calgary's Audities Studios to refine the tracks and then moved onto Quad Studios in Nashville, Tennessee to add in accompaniments from some top-notch studio players.

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