Image courtesy Six Degrees

Fresh prince of folk: Wil

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"I drive 12 hours, do a sound check, play a show, go to sleep," says Wil on a cell phone just outside Banff. "Everything's coming up fast and making our head spin."

The one-man local musician has been living on the road for several months, touring with such big names as Colin James, Joel Plaskett and Hawksley Workman. He's finally headed home to play the Calgary Folk Music Festival, only to depart once again in August to finish the Matt Good tour on the west coast.

"With all the bands that we've opened for, they've all had such diverse fans," Wil comments. "They've all been pretty receptive, it's pretty cool."

His album, Both Hands, was re-released on a major label after a two-year stretch selling of CDs off the stage. It's a mixture of derelict imagery and catchy tunes, each track emanating the sense of a bigger picture behind the subtle clues and poetic lyrics. The crowds gobbled it up as if it were cheap crack, with 11 tracks of homemade addiction. Independently, he pushed over 6,000 copies.

"[The people at the label] know that I've been doing everything on my own," he says. "Right down to advertising and artwork and shirts and promoting and playing and gear. They're pretty cautious and pretty cool about not overloading me or stepping in and taking all the control."

Fans have noticed Wil's ability to continuously be fresh and original in his live performances. He explains, fondly remembering being approached by a fellow musician about the subject. "He came up to with a big smile and said: 'You guys don't practice much, do you?' I kind of stepped back, not knowing where he was going with it. What he had meant was that it was refreshing to see this sort of impromptu tightness. It's tight where it needs to be tight, but incredibly loose where it needs to be loose."

You can download almost half an album worth of music on his website (www.sixdegrees.ca/wil). In the modern music industry era where many artists and labels are wary of Internet file sharing, Wil seems unfazed and maybe a little happy about the current state of the business.

"I've always said that one thing you can't download is the experience of a live show," says an unworried Wil. "I think that should be the band's first priority, playing a tremendous live show."

Looking forward to playing this year, Wil has found himself off the stage at many of the previous Folk Fests in Calgary.

"It doesn't even necessarily have to be the headliner that I look forward to," he says. "I've seen some people with not a lot of talent play an amazing live show, because they really meant it. I'm always pleasantly surprised by names I've never heard of. I'll intentionally go see them and half the time I'm totally kicked in the ass, they just blow me away."

Sure, playing live shows is about exposure and having a good time, but Wil also has an ulterior motive to playing Folk Fest this year.

"A couple of years ago, I actually called them up, and I told them if anyone backed out at the last minute--because I live in Calgary--I could be down there with my guitar in 15 minutes," he recounts. "They kind of laughed and said, 'that's not really how it works, but we appreciate the offer."

Just because Folk Fest has the work "folk" in it, that doesn't mean it's restricted to pacifist hippies and here's the proof: According to Wil, his should be a high-octane show this year, "full of spittin' and cussin' and freakin' out."

"The last time I played Folk Fest I played reservedly because it was a folk fest. I realized it was a bit of mistake, so I'm just gonna giv'er."

It doesn't get much more Calgary than that.