For Nikki English, Keith Robertson and Matt Williams, music has been a driving force in their lives for as long as they can remember. Together since 2007, they are the members of Western Avenue, a contemporary country music band from central Ontario. The trio is heading out on a journey following their dreams. Western Avenue is winning over audiences with its new original music, including the catchy first single “Highway Headin’ Out of Town”, which has been picked up by Canadian country radio.
Now the focus for Western Avenue is kicking into a higher gear. Lyrics for Highway Headin’ Out of Town couldn’t be more perfectly suited for the band. The chorus goes: Like that highway headin’ out of town/ Never looking back, never slowing down/ Bigger and better things on the way/ Mile by mile, day by day/ It’s all about the journey and not about where we’re bound/ Like that highway headin’ out of town. English describes the song as ‘fun, upbeat and about following your dreams’. Growing up, English fondly remembers her father Frank always playing guitar and singing around their house. He died in 2001 after a battle with cancer. While her father always encouraged her to perform, English says she was always too shy.
Her father’s passing was motivation to at least try; “That’s what he always wanted me to do, and I wanted to, but I was a wimp,” she says. “It gave me confidence to do it in his memory. It’s been a challenge because I’ve always been shy. I guess I’ve been developing that over the years, breaking out of my shell. It’s been a lot easier with the band, having people beside you.” English and Robertson have been married now for two years. “It’s great because we get to spend a lot of time together,” English says.
There was always music around Robertson’s household. The Colborne native began playing instruments at an early age and has been playing in bands since he was 12. He couldn’t imagine having another job. “The only thing I can do is play guitar,” he quips. Robertson taught guitar for 16 years, and still does occasionally. He also plays fiddle and “pretty much anything with a string on it.” Keith has played professionally with country musicians Tara Lyn Hart and John Landry. Williams remembers when he knew music was a path for him. He was 10 years old and received tickets from his parents to see Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in concert.
“As soon as the lights went down, that was it,” Williams said. Years earlier, he participated in a YMCA music program in Cobourg. He began playing piano at age six. Two weeks after the Tom Petty show, he took up the guitar. It wasn’t easy, but he’s still playing. “I had to work really hard at it, but it’s something I persisted at.” That’s what Western Avenue will continue to do.
Another line from Highway goes: I wanna feel those wheels under our dreams keep rolling. Western Avenue’s journey is just getting started…Western Avenue are a contemporary country music band from central Ontario. Known for winning over audiences with original material, Nikki English, Keith Robertson and Matt Williams showcase their exceptional three-part harmonies to great effect. Their new single “Wherever You Are” was released to radio on June 17th (http://www.westernavenue.ca). Pittsburgh Music Magazine caught up with the band recently to try to get more insight into their background;Nikki English answers our questions…
Can you give us some background on how you came about the name Western Avenue?
It was a street we used to jam on. I was laying in bed one night and was thinking about how it would be a cool name for us. And then the next night when we had a practice, Matt was turning down the street and thought the exact same thing, and told us when he arrived! So since we both thought the same thing without mentioning it to the other prior, we thought it was meant to be!
Now that you are delving more into songwriting, is there a particular process or technique that you employ?
We all have our own ways. Me personally (Nikki) I like to co write. I’m more into making the melody to the song, so I have an amazing lyricist I work with named Dave Woods. I usually sit in front of my piano and read through the lyrics, find the right feel for the song, and play it out! When Keith and I are writing together with Dave’s lyrics, Keith will come up with these great riffs and chord progressions, and I will work out a melody to go with them! We have a lot of fun writing together like that.
When you were more of as cover band, what were some of your favorite cover songs to play nightly?
Ever since day one we have always played “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey! It’s my all time favourite song! Whenever I hear those opening piano chords I am instantly in a great mood! We also love playing “Animal” by Def Leppard. That’s a great song for harmonies! As you can see we have a huge 80’s influence!
Can you tell us some of your best road experiences and some of the people you have had the opportunity to play with?
Well just this past summer we played at the Havelock Jamboree, which is Canada’s largest outdoor camping festival! We opened up for great acts like Josh Thompson, Jayda Dreyer, Trace Adkins and REBA! It is definitely one of the big highlights for us so far!
What types of goals does the band have for the next few years?
Well we would like to snag a supporting act on a major artists tour. I think that would be pretty amazing! And also to just be able to keep releasing new music for everyone!
Finish this sentence: If I’m not playing music I’m…Just hanging out with my dogs! I’m a huge animal lover. 🙂