Hard-working blues man
For Brad Wilson, the blues is a labor of love
Wingfield Park300 W. First St.
Reno, NV 89501
Brad Wilson isn’t singing the blues over coming to Reno, although he’s coming here to do just that on July 23 at Wingfield Park. Wilson is excited to return to his roots in Northern Nevada. He spent the first part of his youth growing up in Fernley, and he still has family there and in Sparks. The singer, songwriter and producer has released 15 recordings, and when he performs at Rollin’ on the River, Wilson will be promoting the band’s newest record, Hard Working Blues Men, which was recorded live in Eureka, Calif., last September.
Wilson packs a double punch in his performances with two very special guitars.
“The Fender Stratocaster, designed by a guy named Leo Fender,” he says. “It’s what Jimi Hendrix played.” The other is a Gibson Les Paul. “I play both of those guitars during the show.”
Wilson is looking forward to bringing the Brad Wilson Band to Reno.
“We contacted [event organizers Reno News & Review] to be a part of this event because I’ve heard about it before,” he says. “It just worked out that this year was the year.”
It will be a family event not only for those who come to enjoy live music on the Truckee River, but also for some of Wilson’s family members who live in the area and are coming to listen to the band perform. A few relatives have even volunteered to work at the band’s merchandise table selling CDs. “I’m excited to be outdoors at this kind of event, it’s summertime, it’s all ages … this is going to be a fun event.”
Wilson began his musical career in his early 20s. He was in a “red-hot” band in San Francisco, and when the band traveled to Los Angeles, they got a contract with RCA records. Wilson started out as a lead guitarist and over the years honed his skills as a singer. Eventually he became the frontman for Brad Wilson Band. His long-reaching career has won the musician some accolades, such as the Saturn Award, an annual honor from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Wilson won the Saturn Award for his work with film director John Carpenter on the soundtrack for the hit series Vampires. Voted “Best Blues Band” three times at L.A.’s Rock City Music Awards, Wilson has also won All Access Music Awards Best Blues Group/Artist and Best Songwriter.
Wilson worked for six years in Los Angeles making music for daytime TV. While he concedes that L.A. is the place for musicians to go to work in television, movies and recording, these days, Wilson most enjoys touring and performing live.
“I am focused on building up my reputation as a live performer.”
Performing 125-150 shows a year in Arizona, California, Nevada and Oregon, the Brad Wilson Band has developed a loyal fan base that has grown steadily through a combination of raw talent and the do-it-yourself work ethic he learned at the beginning of his career.
The trick is to know every aspect of the business.
“I learned quite a bit about the music industry, specialize in what they do. I like the idea of being able to keep the quality and have a more one-on-one with the audience … One of the things I learned in Hollywood: Own everything I produce. I enjoy every aspect of the music business: publishing, marketing, performance, writing, recording and travel. It really is a labor of love.” For that reason, he started his own music label, Cali Bee Music, Inc, which he calls “my vehicle and umbrella for everything that I do.”
Blues musicians sing songs of loss, disappointment and heartache, and to really understand the blues, they have to live them or at least spend enough time between gigs sitting in dimly-lit bars listening to others recount their past regrets. When he’s not onstage, Wilson is an engaging speaker with a rhythmic, storytelling quality to his speech. He doesn’t miss a beat. Yet when asked about his biggest musical accomplishment, he pauses and thinks. He modestly mentions a few of his many awards and then pauses again.
“The thing I’m most proud about is that I’ve been able to play music my whole life, just by being able to have my health. I’m hoping to play it for my whole life … It’s my proudest accomplishment. All along the way I just love it.”