How long have you been in the music industry?
Since 2002 but I was in bands with friends before meeting Keri and starting Bristol Kids. For instance, I was in an International Band in Hollywood CA with friends called the Posh Slags. We gigged and partied at the student hotel on Melrose and almost signed a deal. There was label interest. But then everyone’s visas expired so the band was no more – except me, and the Scottish guitarist, Steve, whose dad was a US Navy Admiral. I carried on by moving to back the beach and learning new skills like computers, and did storyboards for filmmakers and had fun in general. Life was pretty good. Then I met Keri and I gave up the idea of being an animation designer. The guitar was it and Keri insisted upon it. (Laughs).
How long have you been performing under your present name?
Well, since getting married really – by 2003 we performed and began to write songs more often, and take more time to work survival jobs while becoming better musicians. But we played backyard parties and beach get-togethers and occasionally played 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA. And we had fun at the beach during high season. Who wouldn’t? By 2006 we had something gel to make our own sound strong enough and we began to talk more seriously about recording. We auditioned for a major Record Producer in L. A., and he sent us for more training. That took up another 2 years of study.
Bristol Kids Interview: July 17th, 2017
Where did you grow up?
I grew up In Scarborough, Ontario – the suburbs of Toronto and Keri Grew up in Syracuse, NY. That’s about an hour away from each other on each side of the Canada/US border. We’re Great Lakes babies. We both share a common musical heritage in North America, and also this is very natural -going back “across the pond” to the British Isles and Ireland. We understand each other. We’re like two sides of the same coin.
What in that era shaped your musical development?
The Era that had Oasis and U2 at the top of the tours listed on up to today including John Mayer, and many others, And other Music held the strongest interest should be included. I was playing a lot of guitar by then. I used Youtube to explore the blues and it’s heroes, visiting the public library - and every decade once the internet got better bandwidth and so on. Through music documentaries we learned a lot about the musical past we share in North America and in the UK. We even learned about Elvis and Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. But I also was really getting into Beatles because Liam Gallagher of Oasis said that is all he listened to. This intrigued me- the idea that you could learn from anywhere. After a time Keri discovered Celine Dion and Katy Perry and other musicians like the Smiths, Nora Jones, Alanis, Mary J Blige, and Tori Amos and Debbie Harry, and Joni Mitchell. Eventually, we discovered every kind of genre on the car radio while traveling up and down the west coast; and we got into iTunes Radio on the Mac and iPod playlist by then. We also paid attention to films and TV to see what was going.
Who are your major influences?
James: For me, it was the Living Legends. Legendary musicians of Canada like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and Murray McGlaughlin, and Rush, and April Wine, and later of course Drake. But I also loved Throwing Copper and Nirvana, and even upon occasion, listened to the American band, Van Halen. Some of them were of interest because Canada is a small pond compared to the USA. You hear mostly Canadian artists up north- it is mandatory(Laughs).
For Keri it is U2, she really likes U2 a lot and eclectic Brit-pop. But she also likes Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and jazz musicians like Miles Davis. Her taste is a little more varied than mine. She listened to Folk, Pop, Rock, Alternative Rock, you name it.
How old were you when you started following a musician’s path?
James: I knew what I wanted to do when I was 5 years old. I love music. Obviously, I wasn’t going to play hockey. I was already an artist who specialized in grade 9. I started on drums at age 12. Keri has been singing since age 10. In fact, she was a latchkey kid who sang every song on the radio in her room after school.
Keri: “I danced to and sang the songs I liked. I had my own pretend radio station and made up songs of my own, and Cold Pizza was a #1 Hit.” Music is in our blood. We even dream of it sometimes.
Who are the members of your band and what are their musical backgrounds? (Please fill this out completely)
Well, It’s really just the two of us - James Wash and Keri Walsh.
James: For the longest time I wanted a guitar but I was told by my parents only drums or accordion, of all things, were acceptable. Piano cost a lot more and so did lessons come to think of it. lol. Yet somehow my mother paid for a few lessons and got me the drum kit. The logic was the “bad kids”- the troublemakers- they played guitar and therefore it was not a suitable instrument. Welcome to British Parental Logic… who knew? (laughs) Seems daft now. I got my Ovation GCA top of the line guitar slightly used by age 21 but I had cheap Japanese guitars before that. With the money I earned selling my drawings and paintings I did in Art School and jewelry I made during my summer vacation I sold during the Mariposa Music Festival I was able to put the Ovation on layaway. After 6 months it was mine. But I was in bands at age 13 playing drums. I love art school and although it was short-lived I had a good time. And I jammed around with friends of course. And by age 17 I had an electric guitar. A mutual friend in 12thgrade introduced me to another pal and I ended up learning all I could about guitars and equipment. Then at age 21, I attended music school in Sausalito, and then I attended Berkeley doing a study of Jungian psychology. And much to my surprise senior staff at Berkeley encouraged guitar playing! Later I went to M.I. in Hollywood and the rest is history. That’s when the real learning took place. By the time Keri showed up at the Beach in Santa Monica I was ready. I had played in bands, learned theory, written tons of song lyrics and poetry, painted murals and oils on canvas, learned about film and knew what I loved to do.
Keri: My musical background is in piano and voice where I’ve taken private lessons, and learned through books and self-study. Anyone who goes on YouTube knows that there is a ton of information out there, but in the beginning, it’s about finding the tools and techniques that work for you and what you want to accomplish with your instrument. I started composing on bass because we needed bass parts for the demos for our first record. James told me that Paul McCartney plays melodic bass, which means that Paul plays some melodies within his bass lines and that instantly made the connection for me from voice to bass. When James & I write together, I usually use the piano as a reference, and I’ve started learning some improvisational piano to accompany what we are doing with the songs. For me, the voice is the top of the mountain. I love it. Singing is enough for me to be really happy with music. But James has been encouraging me to learn new skills and develop on multiple instruments. Music is such a profound collection of mysteries that it is always familiar yet new.
Tell me a funny story that has happened to you like you.
James: Before meeting Keri I was in a band in Hollywood, as I mentioned before. I was in the heart of Hollywood right on Melrose Ave – this is in the year 2001. By this time I was also done with schoolwork. This was the summer before 9/11 happened. I was happy - with friends from all over the world enjoying our lunchtime sets in the courtyard. One day a very nice “manager guy” came into the lunchroom of the hotel we were staying in. We had no idea who he was. He announced to me his wish to manage us. Since I was the oldest I was sort of in charge. He saw us as a Back Street Boyz kind of band. The lead singer was big-time into Guns and Roses(GNR) and there was an immediate objection forthcoming! Everyone else didn’t like the idea, either. So here was this cool guy from Montreal and he works for Seagrams of Canada and they own NBC-Universal and 5 record labels including MCA. Well, I understood marketing a little by then and image, but, I knew it would be a hilarious meeting in record label offices when it came time to discuss an image makeover. Alex the lead singer had girls throwing themselves at him every day. Needless to say, two guys are not enough for a band. All of a sudden everyone objected to being a boy band! Bye-bye manager, bye-bye labels, and everything that means to me. We didn’t even make it to the offices. In fact, the manager's contact was stolen along with my lead guitarist’s bottles of Jack Daniels and even my new package of unopened underwear! LOL. Strangely, nobody stole the amps or guitars. Just party stuff and my electronic organizer and booze and phone stuff. LOL.
Keri: When I got to Venice Beach from LAX in Los Angeles I was getting ready to go to school and study oriental medicine like acupuncture. It was going to be my life. Meeting James changed all that forever! I heard James playing his Ovation Acoustic and I couldn’t pull myself away. We had talked about music and California’s history and spent every day together at the beach. One day near the 4th of July we just clicked on a deeper level and I told him “ We belong together all the time.” Much to my amazement, it stuck and he accepted me more as time went by over the course of the summer of 2002. But I had to make a choice, give up cigarettes or give him up. This was a requirement of his. LOL. Lucky for me, I chose wisely and picked him. It was later I realized he had done me a huge favor and instead of ciggies, he gave me ice cream. Smartest move I ever made. I’m in better shape now than I was back then. He taught me a lot about nutrition and I taught him a lot too. It’s a good fit.
Where would you like to be in five years?
James: Most likely at the beach with a guitar or two – working on new songs with Keri, and maybe storyboarding a video or two.
Keri: Almost the same as now, making great music, living the life we live near the water. Making videos and maybe start a family. It seems like a good idea for me to have a soundproof music room in the house too so we can jam and make noise – a home studio. That would be great.
What inspires you to write?
James: Storytelling. We know each other well, that laptop and me. I have been at this for quite a while now. I write lyrics almost every day. I can’t stop! It’s just who I set out to be at an early age.
Keri: James writes lyrics and guitar parts every day so it kind of makes my job easier, at least to a certain degree. I enjoy taking his song ideas – his lyrics- and writing a vocal melody and making the whole thing gel. He is talented with words. We love what we do.
What is your philosophy on life and how does it affect your music?
James: I use a holistic approach I learned a few years back. I look at the big picture, then jump into the details and explore the subject whatever it may be. I think this makes me a little calmer- easier going. A music publisher friend in Nashville commented “Strong lyrics” back in 2016. In a way, they are a given by now. With Keri the sounds are more gentle – it ain’t Death Metal (Laughs). If I was in a band with all guys perhaps the songs would be more aggressive? With the current lineup, it’s more Pop Rock and Country Rock or Country Pop occasionally sneaking in. I don’t mind this at all. I enjoy it. Also, We laugh a lot during the day. Things are good – whether in the home studio or professional studio we have a good time.
Please add the names of the places you have played and the city they are in.
Well, that’s a little too numerous to list - we’ve played all over the US and some dates in Canada in the big cities. Recently we played a lot of clubs around Nashville as it is a totally rad fun thing to do! Every major city you can name we probably played a small venue at one time or another. We haven’t played any outdoor festivals yet but we’re open to it. Sometimes I’ll see a place when we are in the car driving by and say to Keri “ I’d like to play there someday.” And she’ll add it to the itinerary. Lately, I have not given it much thought but I’d like to play a set at the museum coffee shops or art gallery courtyard to a big crowd with a wide cross-section of people from different walks of life. That would be a time when there’s fun in summer or near Xmas holidays just because I heard it is cool to do that. We like the whole art world and music world colliding and cross-pollinating. We think that it is very inspired and healthy.
Do you have any causes that tug at your heartstrings, or that you support? Abused pets, world peace organization, save the whales, etc…
Keri would like people to help homeless folks more, and James being Brit-Canadian, lack of universal healthcare is a pet peeve of James. He doesn’t understand how folks go for this idea of robbing the poor to give to the rich who already have what they need …since everywhere else it is accepted as normal to have universal healthcare it is obtuse to him. James said: “A healthy nation is a strong nation and it is better overall with a higher GNP”. We also donate to charities if we feel there is a strong need. When we are able to we tithe. In other words, giving 10 percent of our income to different charities. It’s not preplanned either. It is more spontaneous.
Please tell me about your performance schedule and new releases.
We signed to a blues imprint in Nashville called ODR Records. We have enough songs for 3 albums so we have a 3 year deal with the new Label. We’re actively writing and making rough demos of new songs to record. We have some great things pending for the future but we signed an NDA so we can’t talk about it. But suffice it to say it’s pretty exciting stuff, especially for us. We have a new manager from Canada, a new agent from Nashville, and a record label that is almost like a startup and is affiliated with Sun Records in Memphis. We are just searching for the right publisher to complete the team.
Album #1 is already on Apple Music so album #2 should be out by summer or autumn of 2018. We really want to do a little sweet tour of the UK and Ireland and maybe even Europe. We heard good things about the UK and half our fans are there. The 2nd album should be out there by next summer. I refuse to rush things. It’s got to be just right. Coastal Waters is a possible album title as is Warm Winter Nights. The Label likes the first title best as does our manager Adrienne Hawe up there in the Ottawa, Canada region.
We have gotten a lot of airplay on the first album so I’m wanting us to improve with each album or perhaps a few singles as well… Fortunately, the CEO at ODR is a musician himself so he is very patient and cool to talk to. We do plan to continue for quite some time. Music is life for sure. We believe in music’s power to be a healing force and make us enjoy life more. Can you imagine a film without music? We can’t. We did a post on our social media that pretty much sums up music’s role in life:
Let love and light be your shield and sweetness be your fire.
Music is the sweetness.
"The Girl is" - by Bristol Kids Band
"Tennessee Rain" - by Bristol Kids Band
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