Exclusive Interview: Walk Off The Earth
February 4, 2012
by Chuck Norton
Chances are, you’ve seen the video.
If not, you must be living under a rock. Because as I am typing this, the video has been viewed 46,660,336 times on YouTube.
Yes, I’m talking about Walk Off The Earth’s cover of Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”.
The success of the video on YouTube – due in part to the gimmick that all five band-members performed the song on one guitar – has catapulted this little-known, unsigned Canadian band to the International mainstream in a few, short months.
Their video was the most-watched video on YouTube in January 2012. Not just in Canada or the US, but globally.
The band’s success wasn’t limited to video as their cover of “Somebody That I Used To Know” debuted at number 14 on the Billboard charts in January 2012, the highest charting debut in almost a year. And most recently, the band performed the song on ‘Ellen’, one of the largest syndicated television shows in North America.
Formed in 2006, the band from Burlington, Ontario, is comprised of Gianni Luminati, Ryan Marshall, Sarah Blackwood, Mike Taylor and Joel Cassady. But for all that has been seen and heard of Walk Off The Earth, not much is widely know about the band outside of Cananda.
Originally the band made a name for themselves by covering songs by The Gregory Brothers. They’ve released two albums (their debut was released in 2008) and most recently covered other chart-topping pop songs, including Adele’s “Someone Like You”. But it was “Somebody That I Used To Know” that propelled them into one of the most talked about bands of 2012.
I had a chance to catch up with Blackwood, who is also a member of the garage/horror-punk band The Creepshow – and performs with Luminati as the duo Gianni and Sarah – earlier this week for an insightful and engaging interview.
DeadJournalist.com brings you this exclusive interview with Sarah Blackwood of Walk Off The Earth.
With millions of people aware of the band through your YouTube videos and network performances, how overwhelming of a thought is it to know that you have reach so many people worldwide?
SB: We are all very excited and happy. It has been a goal of ours to make a video that went viral. Working so hard for the past three years to really put a lot of efforts in to the videos and songs. It feels great!
What has been the highlight of this whirlwind of popularity?
SB: The fact that we got to this point doing what we love. Not many people get to say that.
What led you to chose the Goyte song for your video? Where video did the idea come from?
SB: Gianni heard the song on the radio on day and said to me “Sar, this song is amazing! It has rejuvenated my faith in music on the radio!” And from that moment we started working on ideas for a video to cover it. Gianni found three peeps on one guitar on youtube, so we upped it to five. The rest is history.
Do you, as a band, have any concern that your career may be prematurely defined by your cover songs and not for your original music?
SB: No. Because we have such an immense amount of back log when it comes to the band and all of us as musicians. People see that when they research us after the video and that is why we are still in the press. It has been a month since the video went viral, and people are very, very, very interested in what we are up to. That means a lot.
At the time this is written, the band is still unsigned. I would imagine the interaction with labels has now gone from chasing to being chased. How has this situation impacted what you are looking for in a label – and conversely – what labels are now asking of you?
SB: We just want to make sure no matter who we bring in to our family they are there for our best interest. They will be behind our decisions and work as a part of our team. We have no interest in signing away our rights and our creative freedom. It turns out we have a lot of upper hand in this right now and that feels goooood!
I’m sure a lot of people are curious as to what Walk Off The Earth sounds like when not covering a song. How would you describe the band’s sound?
SB: I really don’t know. That’s a good question …
With three vocalists with distinctive sounds, how do you blend those vocals on your songs? Do each of the vocalist tend to have a dominate role per song or do you try to blend them on each track?
SB: We are all very professional. We all know that it’s not about ego and it’s not about being in the spotlight for any one of us individually. We coordinate the songs directly based on how it sounds. So who veers voice sound the best in that one part, that’s where it goes. It’s actually a very easy process.
When performing live, do you try to maintain consistency from show-to-show or does the mood of the band and the energy of the crowd effect an individual show?
SB: Live shows are very, very important to us. We always want to have the best every. It is key that we all stay positive and try and get the crowd involved as best as we can. Being on stage is like jumping around in a candy field for us. It’s what we love to do.
Who inspires you most as artists? Do you look for external sources for motivation/inspiration, or do you try to extract it all from personal experience?
SB: All of the above. Creativeness and ideas come from life experience. That includes other artists being an inspiration, other people’s music. Ideas we have, thoughts, moments and experiences. We live through music …so everything we do, we put in to the music.
As a band, you’ve obviously learned how to manipulate social media to your advantage. Other than your videos success, what other benefits or detriments from the intimacy your fans have to the band because of Twitter, Facebook, etc.?
SB: We love social media. I don’t care what anyone says. In our day in age it is so hard to get through all the bands and music and artists. With Social Media we have bridged that gap from 2000-2012 where music changed completely. The industry has become this merging river to oceans of labels, companies and artists.
The power of social media is great. It allows artists to rely on their own hark work instead of the half assed work of someone else. It gives us the chance to get our music out there with out having to trust some asshole who doesn’t know what he’s doing sitting at the top of the music industry.
We will forever be all about social media because it helped us get to where we are at today.
Is there an artist that you’ve encountered recently that you’ve been recommending to your friends?
SB: Bon Iver. They are amazing.
What were you listening to in 2002?
SB: Um, probably something sad.
Which do you prefer: MP3, CD, Tape or Vinyl?
Web site(s) you read regularly?
SB: I don’t read websites … I watch them. Youtube, Facebook, hotmail.
One Drink. One Movie. One Album.
SB: Fizzy water. ‘Natural Born Killers’. One Man Army – Last Words Spoken
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