Back at the start of the 1990s, a country band from the town of Westbourne, Manitoba appeared on the scene. It was fronted by singer/guitarist Chris Thorsteinson and began building a reputation the traditional “weddings, parties, anything” way. In 1994, Thorsteinson recruited his childhood friend, singer/guitarist Dave Wasyliw, and the pair quickly established a formidable songwriting partnership that now after nearly three decades has resulted in a Juno Award, 14 Canadian Country Music Association Awards, 21 Top 10 Canadian country radio singles, eight #1 CMT videos and millions of streams.
Although the numbers certainly support the notion that Doc Walker is one of Canada’s most successful country bands, its foundation remains Chris and Dave’s unshakable creative partnership. They’re putting it on display again with a new single, “She Wants What She Wants,” to coincide with their return to stages across Canada (watch this space for a national tour announcement soon). Produced by Dave at Stereobus Recording in Winnipeg, “She Wants What She Wants” is the first new Doc Walker music since the 2017 album Weathervane and finds them in top form with their trademark harmony, a heart-swelling chorus, and a modern spin on traditional instrumentation.
Chris says, “The idea for the song came to me one morning while I was messing around in the studio. I came across an ‘80s guitar sound and it was like a time machine for me. I started to remember all the great music recorded in the ‘80s and it inspired me to create something similar. The lyrics came from thinking about my three children, and realizing that someday my little girl is going to have her heart broken. It scared me, because my job as a father is to protect my children. But I came to the conclusion that life happens and all you can do is try to raise your kids to be strong enough to overcome those situations—and most importantly to have respect for yourself and those around you.” Dave took Chris’ initial demo and reworked it as the song’s producer before handing it over to well-known Canadian producer Eric Ratz for his final mix magic.
Dave adds, “We always feel that country music can have some ‘meat on the bones,’ as it is a genre heavily rooted in real-life experiences, trials and tribulations.”
That attitude has played a big part in Doc Walker’s longevity, along with an overall drive to explore new musical approaches in order to keep their sound fresh. As Dave says, “We just can’t pretend to be something we are not. The fans that have stuck with us I feel have been rewarded with two of our strongest records in recent years, The 8th and Weathervane. And now we can’t wait to show the fans what we’ve been up to!”
As Doc Walker continues to look ahead, they are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of 2001’s Curve, their breakthrough album that spawned the hits “She Hasn’t Always Been This Way” and “Rocket Girl,” both of which remain staples of their live show. Curve garnered the band its first Juno nominations and first CCMA awards, a scenario that has been repeated many times over the ensuing years. Both Chris and Dave point to receiving the 2008 CCMA Fans’ Choice Award at that year’s gala in Winnipeg as a particularly significant moment in their lives.
Dave says, “We’ve had a lot of career highlights, from getting to work with so many amazing writers, to playing in every province and territory in Canada, and touring Australia three times. And then there are the personal highlights, like meeting Willie Nelson and playing the Whisky A-Go-Go in L.A. It’s all incredible to look back on; opening for Bon Jovi and having Eric Church open for us—something I doubt he’ll be doing again anytime soon!”
Getting back on tour is something Doc Walker has been eagerly anticipating since the world shut down in early 2020. As Chris says, losing that connection with their audience—albeit temporarily—was something he wasn’t totally prepared to deal with. “I think the lack of live shows has given us time to reflect on the last 25 years and reminded me to never take for granted the support we’ve had from our fans. I also realized how much I missed meat and cheese trays backstage! But seriously, the plan has always been to create music that we are proud of and to spend as much time as we can out on the road playing for the fans.”
As for what the future holds for Doc Walker, Dave says he expects something to come together following their new tour, since the band has always fed off the energy of playing live. “That’s how everything starts. The more we play together, the more we talk and plan and write and record. The ‘snowball’ gets big quickly. It has been very difficult not having that outlet for the last couple of years. There is now a heightened appreciation for it because it was taken away as abruptly as if someone had turned off a tap. If there is any silver lining, it’s that it’s served as a reminder of just how much we love making and playing music.”