Tom Wilson may look exactly what you would think a rock star would look like. His personality, though, is blue collar and down to earth. I found Wilson early Sunday afternoon lounging on a metal seat at Union Station as he waited to catch a GO Bus back to Hamilton. We were meeting to discuss his travels for an upcoming article for the “On the Road” series in the Star.
He impressed me for a number of reasons, not least of which was his genuine interest in Julia and me. He asked where we were from and had great things to say — and terrific, albeit unmentionable stories to share — about her hometown (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) and mine (Kitchener). Once he was on his bus, he emailed to thank us for making him feel comfortable.
Musicians don’t do that. Actually, few people in any walk of life do that.
As well as being gracious, Wilson also spoke thoughtfully about a variety of issues and shared photos of a trip he took to Versailles with his kids on his 50th birthday a couple of years ago, where he had a bit of fun with narcotics at Marie Antoinette’s estate. (He’d just come back from Amsterdam – what do you expect?)
Most importantly, though, is the excitement building toward the release of the seventh Blackie & the Rodeo Kings album, “Kings and Queens,” due out Tuesday, June 14. You may not have heard a lot of music from the band, but I think they’re going to get plenty of critical praise in coming months. Tom teams with Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing in BARK and “Kings and Queens” features vocals from a host of big names: Roseanne Cash, Patti Scialfa, Holy Cole, Emmylou Harris, Sam Phillips, Serena Ryder and Lucinda Williams among them.
“You had to write for those voices and hopefully they would like those songs,” Wilson says about the challenge of penning tunes for the album’s stellar roster of guest vocalists. “We had to jump through fiery hoops to write those songs and Colin Linden had to jump through fiery hoops to knit all together.”
As for the highlight of the process, Wilson singled out the finished product.
“What was a kick was getting some of the mixes back. Getting a track with my voice and Lucinda Williams singing together is pretty cool, you know,” he says of the album’s first song “If I Can’t Have You.”