The New Face – and Feet – of the Music Industry
I first met Simon Walls three years ago when I was booking bands to play at the Paradise Restaurant patio on Toronto Island during Wakestock as part of a Rock For Humanity fundraiser. While I was looking for bands to fill the bill we got a press kit in the mail from Simon Walls – a singer/songwriter from Montreal – with a short note and his second EP “Don’t Ask Your Eyes What the End Looks Like”. His music was personal, the riffs catchy and his work ethic inspiring. Simon wanted to play Rock For Humanity shows in Toronto and we thought he was a perfect fit for the Wakestock bill. Simon has a hectic work schedule working at a youth house in Montreal and couldn’t take much time off so he drove overnight from Montreal and napped in his car while he waited to meet up with us at the ferry docks.
Fast forward to the present. Simon is walking across Canada. He’s no stranger to blistered heels; Walls walked over 1000 km across Spain in 2008 and used some of his footage to create the music video for “Things I Will Give Up”. While Simon may have experience in roughing it, nothing could prepare him for his newest venture. Clocking in at just over 9,000 kilometers if he sticks to the route he’s mapped out in advance, Simon’s journey has seen the western tip of the country and will continue all the way east to the ocean. Throughout his walk, Simon documents his journey via updates to the blog on his website, plays shows wherever he can and lets his travels inspire him. When he reached the halfway point of his walk in Toronto, Simon took his newfound inspiration to the studio and will resume his walk across the country on Tuesday with a new record titled “Klein Blue”. (Click on the link to buy).
Despite all of his planning prior to his departure, Simon continues to be surprised with what his walk brings. He couldn’t have anticipated the kindness of strangers he’s met who offer him food, money and sometimes even a place to stay. When he isn’t being hosted by someone he’s just met Simon sleeps in fields, parking lots, forests and campgrounds. He’s been surprised by a pack of coyote’s sniffing and snarling outside of his tent in the middle of the night and has endured sleeping in a field next to a tractor during a massive storm in the prairies. He’s spent lonely nights in his tent (which he carries on his back while he walks) recording new song ideas on his iPhone.
On the final leg of his walk, Simon is looking forward to swimming in the ocean when he reaches St. John’s, Newfoundland in September and meeting all the great people the east coast has to offer. He’s looking forward to walking through Montreal, his hometown, and is hoping to get a big group of people to walk with him there. Simon’s learned a few things from the first 4,800 he’s walked:
I really have to pace myself at first. Take it slow. I’ll have to really work on going slow all the way to Montreal, then I can pick up the pace. One of my goals is to meet more people, try and sleep in more houses as opposed to fields, in my tent.
The music industry certainly isn’t easy to make it into. With it’s future resting precariously in the hands of internet and new media, artists, management and labels are trying to find ways to still make a profit. With emerging artists like Simon, the future is clear. Imagine if all artists worked so hard at their art or traveled such great distances to promote their albums. No tour bus, no rider, no ego and no misplaced sense of entitlement; just pure, inspirational motivation and talent.
Whatever awaits him on the second and final part of his walk across the country, one thing is for sure – Simon will be charming the heart and ears of everyone he meets.
Simon is playing his last show in Toronto at the Cameron House on Monday, May 30, 2011 before he leaves for his walk on Tuesday morning.