With over two million visitors from around the globe each year, one perk of being a musician in Whistler is you never know who might be in the crowd.
Last year, that type of chance encounter led to Will Ross earning a temporary work visa to the U.S. where he played regular gigs in Seattle and Portland.
"I was playing an après gig at Merlin's and the owner of these (Pineapple Hospitality) hotels was there on ski vacation and she saw me play and said, 'I want you to come play my hotels too,'" Ross says. "They sponsored me to get a working visa down there ... That was a wicked experience, but by the end of it, it got a little taxing travelling back and forth so much."
That's just one of Ross' accomplishments since first earning local attention for winning the Whistler Music Search with his unique brand of acoustic live-looping back in 2014.
Another major milestone? Three years ago, he was able to ditch his day job to pursue music—and teach guitar—full time. "It was tough; you want to make sure you have a lot of gigs ready and plans ahead of time, but it's amazing—when you step away and put it out there—the opportunities that arise that wouldn't have if you were busy doing other things."
To that end, Ross has been busy performing around Whistler—where you can catch him regularly at Brickworks and the Crystal Lounge—and Squamish. Lately, he's also been recording those performances with plans to release a live album in the near future, and a studio album to follow.
"I find a lot of times, especially when it comes to the looping, no two songs are ever the same," he says. "They're always slightly different. Sometimes I'll finish one and it's like, 'Oh my God, that's the last time I'll ever do that.' Now I have a recording of it."
But that approach comes with challenges too. For one, it means "hours and hours of listening," to performances, Ross says with a laugh.
"It's interesting and neat to hear the different types and versions of songs that I play because a lot of them can be substantially different," he adds. "The bones are the same, but the way everything comes together is different. It's nice to be able to listen in on that and find ones (with the best) energy."
Thanks to the rise of musicians who use live looping—a technique that records layers of sound in real-time—like Ed Sheeran and Tash Sultana, crowds have also been more receptive to his live show.
For one, when he performs in the village gazebo for the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) on Thursday, July 26, he anticipates passersby will have a better understanding of what, exactly, he's doing.
"Three or four years ago, so many people would say, 'Why are you playing to background tracks?' and you had to explain to them, 'I'm creating this live right now.' Through (the rise of other artists), I found it really fascinates people when they're walking by and they understand it better."
Catch Will Ross on the Village Stroll on July 26 from 12 to 3 p.m. You can also see him at Squamish's Blessed Coast festival on Friday, July 27. For more, follow him on Facebook at Will Ross Music.