Wildeman paints Portraits on new EP

Victoria folkster, Brett Wildeman, writes “troubadour style” — with his guitar and loose leaf paper.

By Vivian Pencz

Brett Wildeman always makes a point to look away from the camera as if soulfully pondering the name of his next album. (Nelson Fraser)

Folk balladeer Brett Wildeman has always lived and breathed poetry. And on his latest single, “1 Year Pass,” off of his second EP, Portraits, he seems to condense every image and moment that inspires him into one song: flickering flames, birthday balloons, drained gas tanks and a feeling that “grows like a cancer,” just to name a few.

This is, after all, simply what he does. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve written books upon books of poetry about things I was going through or stories people have shared,” he says. “And music has been part of my life for a long time. My main musical influence is life, and the experiences and encounters I’ve had.”

Growing up in Roberts Creek along the Sunshine Coast, on a “quiet dead end road” encircled by woodland, Wildeman integrated himself into his small town’s rich musical community early. He started classical guitar lessons in the fourth grade while developing a deep relationship with his natural surroundings.

“Exploring the forest and the beach as a kid, playing with crabs, getting muddy,” he recalls. “I wouldn’t really change anything about my childhood.”

Then, during the last couple years of high school, Wildeman played in a non-profit, youth-focused Celtic group, The Coast String Fiddlers, where his love of the violin and cello, instruments featured prominently on Portraits, was kindled.

Despite the accompaniment of other instruments on the new EP, Wildeman’s music is largely minimalist, his acoustic guitar and narrative lyrics composing the heart beating at the centre of his songs.

“Folk music is roots music to me: stripped down, raw,” he says. “I wouldn’t say that I’m not drawn to other styles of music, but when I sit down and write a song with just my guitar and a loose leaf of paper, I do it troubadour style.”

At the same time, Wildeman has always been self-reliant when it comes to songwriting. His first EP, One Man One Voice Two Hands, released in 2010, was “just me with an $80 microphone recorded in my bedroom,” he says, being equal parts personal exploration and creative output.

And after spending the past year floating between Victoria, the Lower Mainland and the Sunshine Coast for day job opportunities, establishing a band line-up has been problematic.

Nevertheless, Wildeman believes the fuller and more mature sound achieved on Portraits, much of which was recorded creatively in makeshift blanketed forts, was helped profoundly by the influx of collaborators and ideas that accompanied it.

Even the album title was inspired by a comment violinist Tegan Ceshi-Smith made one day: “all of your songs kind of remind me of portraits, because they paint a picture.”

With a tour and a bike trip down the coast of California and Oregon in the works, it looks like North America is Wildeman’s canvas right now. And although the future is uncertain, his aspiration is not.

“I just have to keep doing what I’m doing. Progression will happen naturally.”


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