A&E » Music

Make an album, build a band

Whistler Music Search winner Will Ross introduces his group to Whistler



Will Ross is known locally as the acoustic guitarist and beatbox man who won this year's Whistler Music Search at the Crystal Lounge at the end of October.

But listening to his album Freeloader, which was released in August, the sound is more rounded in that indie folk-rock way, with his now-signature harmonica and big vocals backed by a full band.

Ross pulled together regional musicians to record it and when the job was done he decided it was too good a sound to dismantle. The Will Ross Band was born.

"Once we finished doing the record we realized we had something good going, so they decided to stay on and tour around with me a bunch. We've been doing shows together for the last five months," he says.

"I play songs similar to my solo set but there's a lot more music behind it, that's for sure. Depending on who can make it out to the shows, there's about seven or eight of us all together. It's big and a big sound, it's good."

Ross is bringing everyone up to Whistler for their first gig. They play at Dusty's in Creekside on Friday, Dec. 19 at 9 p.m. The Bowen Island band Walk-On Dead performs alongside.

"Should be a good night of jam music," he says.

Most bands are already together when they record an album, they tend not to do it the opposite way. As an open mic night emcee in Squamish, Ross met his band: John David (drums), current Nylons member Garth Mosbaugh (piano and sax), Marco Roach (bass guitar) and Jason McNeil (percussion).

"(The album) was my project. I had written out most of the musical parts that I wanted in it and just got these guys to come in and help me with different parts. I don't play the organ; I don't play the saxophone or the bass guitar. You can't do that all on your own. It's better to get people who are really good at the instrument," he says.

He very deliberately went for a big beat sound.

"I started out as a drummer originally. When I was 10, drums were my first instrument. Percussion is really important to me and it's nice to have two. I like being in a band where there are two, for sure, it can add a lot. It makes people dance more when you've got more stuff shaking around in the background," he says.

Singer Emily Malloy joins the band for the Dusty's gig. She, too, was a finalist for the Whistler Talent Search.

Freeloader was recorded over nine months in Squamish and at Gems Records in Britannia Beach. It can be heard at www.willross.bandcamp.com/releases.

"It was a labour of love for me, bringing everyone in and doing it. Some of the songs I had written a long time ago. I wrote one song, 'R and R', when I was 20 and I turned 27 in August," Ross says.

"But a lot of them were newer, from when I first moved to the Vancouver area (from Hamilton, ON). It was inspiration from travelling across Canada and touring to make my way out here. They're about personal stuff, one's about a relationship that went sour on the way here. There are political undertones, too. The song 'Freeloader' was written about a conversation between Mother Earth and human beings. When you look at what is happening in places like Burnaby Mountain (the clash between protestors, RCMP and Kinder Morgan) and I think you can figure out who the freeloader is in that equation.

"Other songs look at the rat race we are living in now. There are other options, without the need and the greed to have everything. People can be just as happy having little."

In the six weeks since winning the talent search, Ross says he is being noticed more.

"Especially in Whistler, which is kind of cool. I went for a hike with a friend and we were in Pemberton and stopped off to get food in Whistler on the way home. There was a copy of the paper on the table and I found myself looking at my face. It was surreal," he says.

"I was on Whistler FM two weeks ago promoting a show of mine at the Crystal Lounge. It's been really good. I've gotten more opportunities which is really excellent and why I wanted to do it. Winning has helped me get my name out there more."

He adds: "We wouldn't be doing this interview if I hadn't have won it. I don't know if I would have gotten the Dusty's interview. Things are starting to progress on a positive level. I feel really fortunate and thankful. The search really does help out musicians.

"There is so much talent here and the competition was so good. I felt blown away and fortunate to win. For the finals, I feel it could have been anybody, so I was stoked to win."

The Will Ross Band will be backed by Grateful Dead tribute band, Walk-On Dead.

Singer and guitar player Sean Schonfeld says they are working on new tunes and bringing in new players.

"The shows are always a fun time. We're all spread out from Vancouver to Roberts Creek to Bowen Island, so it's a great time to get together and play," he says.

"Everybody takes to it really well, it's great bar and party music. We also play Tom Petty, Neil Young and Wilco."