Wheeler Walker, Jr. on Honesty, Real Country & New Music: "With the Garbage That's Going on Right Now in Commercial Country Music, Standing out Isn't That Hard"
Wheeler Walker, Jr. likely isn't the first artist most people might think of when it comes to modern country music - but he should be. In a genre that has admittedly strayed further from its roots into something that tends to sound a bit like pop music with steel guitars, Wheeler Walker, Jr. (the alter-ego of comedian Ben Hoffman) is keeping it real in a way that would shock some and disgust others, but is incredibly vulgar, ridiculous and most of all, honest. Take one look at the singer's Facebook page, and that much will be clear. He doesn't take shit from anyone and isn't afraid to speak his mind.
That honesty and desire to create real country music comes to a head on Wheeler's latest full-length, Ol' Wheeler. Alongside songs titled "Finger Up My Butt" and "Drunk Sluts," these satirical tracks also find him dealing with getting older, change and of course, sex with an optimistic yet realistic outlook.
Now, Wheeler Walker, Jr. is out on the road in support of Ol' Wheeler, bringing his wild shows across the U.S. with a date tonight at The Gothic Theatre in Denver, Colorado. If you're dying to catch a live show, or are curious what Wheeler's music is all about - grab tickets here and read a little bit more from him below.
Interview by Dom Vigil
First and foremost, you just kicked off tour dates last week, with the Denver show only being the fifth of many upcoming shows. What have been some of the best or wildest moments of these nights so far? What are you looking forward to?
Colombia, MO was great. It's always the towns you least expect. I'm at the Sturgis biker rally right now and it's pretty wild. They sell ice cream with gravy in it. Or maybe I was reading it wrong.
What can fans expect from a Wheeler Walker Jr. show if they’re catching you live for the first time?
The best REAL country music out there. That's all I'm trying to do: real music and real musicians is like a novelty act these days. I want to play real country, with real country players. No backing tracks. No click tracks. Real musicians playing real music live.
For anyone who isn’t familiar, your music might shock them a bit at first because it’s not what most would expect from modern country music. What drew you to creating this entirely different brand for yourself, if you will?
Just sticking to my guts. It doesn't feel all that different to me. I grew up listening to Waylon and Ice Cube, so I didn't know you were supposed to censor yourself. But I get Music Row has a bug up its ass, so now I'm "different." With the garbage that's going on right now in commercial country music, standing out isn't that hard.
At its core, you music and new album, Ol’ Wheeler is incredibly honest. Was there anything you really wanted to say with the album when you started working on it?
Like all my albums, I just want it to be a snapshot of where I was when I was making it. I made that album during a break from the road when everything was a little crazy and I was a little tired of it all, and I think you can hear that on the record.
Now that it has been out for a little over a year and you’ve had time to play it live and let it sink in, what are some of your favorite things about Ol’ Wheeler?
I did what I set out to do: Use vulgarity to be MORE honest. Not hold anything back. I still hear myself pouring my heart out on some of those tracks. Even the nasty ones.
I know you’ve talked about it before, but “Summers in Kentucky” is definitely a heavy hitter - are there any others that really stand out to you or connect with the fans a year later?
"If My Dick Is Up, Why am I Down?" has a silly/jokey title, but it's as serious as anything I've ever written. I still remember writing that one. I was trying to do something like Buck Owens' "Let the Sad Times Roll On" or The Replacements' "All Shook Down." Turn a title around and say something with it.
I'm sure it sounds a little grandiose to say that you’re changing country music with your sound and what you have to say, but it’s definitely obvious that people are listening and they like what they hear. What do you hope first time listeners take away from the new album and your music, if anything?
Not grandiose at all! The truth ain't grandiose. I just hope people listen and go, "oh, country music ain't dead." Maybe have some fun listening to it, which is what music was supposed to be in the first place.
If you could change anything about current country music or just the music industry in general in 2018, what would it be?
If I could change anything? Does "all of it" count? It's not music. It's computer programs with auto-tuned vocals. I don't know how people listen to any of this garbage. Like I said, people playing songs they wrote is like a novelty act.
Are you currently working on any new music? Any plans after these tour dates?
Don't wanna give away any secrets... but new music will be coming sooner than you think.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add? Plugs? Final thoughts?
Buy all of my stuff. Support local music. Listen to Sturgill and Tyler Childers and Colter Wall and Jason Isbell and Ricky Skaggs. But mainly listen to me.