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Wilshire - 2000 Interview with Micah and Lori Wilshire

INTERVIEW: Wilshire (Nov 2000)
Exploring the Wilshire world, with Micah and Lori Wilshire.

In The Spotlight - Wilshire
Interview with Micah and Lori Wilshire
Written by: Andrew Ellis (Nov 2000)

This is the 'In The Spotlight' page, this time focused on the partnership called Wilshire. 'Second Story' is one of the strongest modern pop/rock releases of 2000. Recorded in the band's front room, self written and self financed, it is an inspiration to independent bands everywhere. Heart of the Rock's Andrew Ellis catches up with the husband and wife team of Micah and Lori Wilshire, to get the low-down on Wilshire's past, present and future (Nov 2000).

Firstly guys, congratulations on 'Second Story'. It's a terrific album and one you must be very proud of, especially because of the way it was recorded. I guess there's more to your front room than just watching television!
Thank you! We are proud of 'Second Story' for many reasons. Really, our entire home doubles as a studio - we set up anywhere.

Usually the process of recording an album appears gruelling and laced with creative and financial tensions which contribute to the end result being a compromise of what the artist wants and what the label demands. Do you think 'Second Story' benefits from being free of such tensions and do you think it improves on your first effort?
Absolutely.. The process of recording this record was enjoyable. It was so much fun and we loved the freedom from worrying about a ticking studio clock. We think that those feelings came across in the end result - people have commented about how personal and warm the record feels.

The album is also very diverse, especially with the range of eclectic instruments and sounds on it. Does that show through in your musical influences?
We listen to a huge range of music, from jazz to rock and classical to soul music. We decided not to be afraid to experiment when it came to instrumentation and production. Some of our influences include classics like the Beatles and Rolling Stones, as well as Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow and Tom Petty.

One of the most striking things about 'Second Story' is the interaction between you, and the fact that both of you are not confined to being just a singer or a guitarist. What led you to you both deciding to have flexible and varied roles within the band?
Before we met, we were both pursuing solo careers. Once we sang together, we realised that we had stumbled upon something very special. It was a case of synergy, where the whole became greater than the sum of it's parts. It was no longer about one or the other. It was about how much better it became once we joined together.

I'm curious to know how you guys got together and found a mutual love for music. I know you were married in 1995, but before that were you in bands separately or as a pair?
We were both doing music separately when we met in a studio session in 1994. We started playing clubs together about a month later. Shortly after that we began dating, got married, and hit the road.

You were 'discovered' by pop veteran Michael W Smith when singing back up vocals in his touring band, and the relationship between you seemed pretty solid. He helped produce your first album and it got good reviews, so what led to the split with his label, Rocketown Records in the end?
We did tour with Michael for three and a half years, as backup musicians/singers in his band. It was definitely a good learning experience for us. We released our first record on his label Rocketown Records in 1998 and left in the summer of 1999. We were trying to find ourselves as artists in the short time we were at the label. As it turned out, the artists we found ourselves to be didn't belong at that particular label. Just a difference in direction. People who have heard our first record tell us how much more they love our new CD. We know that has to do with the freedom we had in writing and recording this record.

Despite the experience gained during your record contract, it must have been a great personal struggle for you both to decide to branch out by yourselves. Did you have a grand plan or just a faith that you would continue to make music whatever the environment?
We had been thinking of leaving for a while and when we did, we had no plan - we just knew we needed to leave. It was one of the best decisions we have ever made. This new record just fell into place, like it was mean't to happen.

I think the subject of making an album free from the constraints of a recording contract like you have done is a very interesting one. I read a great quote from USA Today reporter Bruce Herring, which basically says that a record deal is not the promised land for a band or an artist: 'Essentially the record deal amounts to a few dollars advanced by the company store. In return, the workers of the industry - the musicians - are giving up any chance of making a living. Instead, they get the slim chance of making a killing. In the real world, that's simply called gambling'. Do you think the climate is more favourable for independent artists to successfully take control of their own direction and what would you do if a label approached you in the future?
Right now, it's a crazy time in the music industry with labels getting bought and sold every day. The goal seems to be much more about marketing the 'flash in the pan' acts that make quick money than about real music and artistry. It's probably a better time to be independent now than ever. We think the USA Today quote you mentioned earlier is pretty accurate. If a label approached us, it would have to be the right deal. We aren't looking for just a 'record deal'. We would want someone who believes in us and is willing to make an investment for the long haul. But one thing this experience has shown us is that we don't need a stamp of approval from a record label in order to make a great record.

Micah, you recently produced an album for Christian artist Sammy Ward. There are subtle references to your faith in 'Second Story', but do you see yourselves as Christians making mainstream music or Christians making Christian music?
Personally I feel your songs are intelligent and broad enough to appeal to both camps. We feel that we are musicians and artists who happen to be Christians. We just let our music speak for itself.

While we are on the subject of writing, are any of your songs autobiographical?
'Fall', 'Brave', 'The Prayer,' and 'Ordinary' are all somewhat autobiographical. It's great to be able to pull from our own lives and let people in on what we think and feel. On the other hand, it's part of being a writer to look at life happening around you and write about it.

As a duo, how do you normally approach songwriting? I notice you wrote a number of songs on 'Second Story' with Jess Cates. He seems very much on your wavelength.
He is a great writer. We work really well with him. There is no tried and true method for us.. it just happens. Sometimes one will come up with a musical or lyrical idea and then the other will help complete the idea. Sometimes we sit down with the intent of writing a song and we just begin throwing around ideas. It's better for us not to have a set way of doing things - keeps it fresh..

What are your immediate plans for Second Story? I think songs like 'Brave' and 'Not Alone' in particular are very fresh and Y2K and could be really successful. For example, my girlfriend is a chart music junkie and loved your album so much I had to prise it out of her CD player so I could review it!
Hearing things like that makes us want to work even harder. We're trying to asemble a team around us to help market, book, and promote this record. We recently found out that MTV will be using 'Second story' in a new show called 'Spyder Games'. Our songs will be played in different scenes throughout many episodes. We are working to fill up our spring with gigs - would love to come to Europe to play!

Finally, do you think your front room will be required for duty in the near future? Do you have material written for the follow up to 'Second Story'?
We are writing for it now. Slowly recording, once again, in the living room. We want to put as much music down as we can so there's plenty of material from which to choose.

Thanks a lot for your time guys. Best of luck with 'Second Story'.

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