Walk Off the Earth Talks “I’ll Be There” Remixes, “Next Level” Live Show

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Following the release of their 2015 studio album, Sing it All Away, the future of Walk Off The Earth became uncertain. The group was in the process of working on new music when in 2018, its longtime keyboardist and vocalist, Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor, passed away unexpectedly. This left the Canadian indie pop project scrambling to work through the loss. 

“We had already had a few songs in the running for the album, but when that specific event took place, we realized a tribute song was what we needed to do,” Sarah Blackwood tells American Songwriter. “We’re artists. That’s the way we’ve always expressed our feelings. That’s the way we go through life is something happens, we write about it, whether it’s good or bad.”

So in the midst of deciding whether or not they would even continue on as a band, Walk Off The Earth got together and poured their feelings into a song. What transpired was “Mike’s Song,” a track about loss, which Blackwood says has not only been therapeutic for the band members but for their audience as well. “We’ve had a lot of fans tell us that they’ve lost somebody that they’ve loved and now they consider it to be that person’s song. It’s really beautiful, even though it’s such a sad thing. It gives people something to help them get through such a tragedy,” she adds.

Looking back, Blackwood is shocked that the band was able to crank out the tune in such chaotic times, especially as drummer Joel Cassady lost his mother two weeks after Taylor passed. “It was a really crazy time to be sitting down and writing about that subject. But at the same time it was incredibly therapeutic and it actually helped and connected a lot of people,” she explains.

Writing “Mike’s Song” catapulted the band back on track with their fifth studio album, Here We Go, which dropped on October 25th. They found their momentum and got into the studio to write “I’ll Be There,” which hit the Top 25 at Hot AC radio on and No. 26 on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart. Gianni Luminati describes the track as the next process in working through the grief. “It was about overcoming that kind of sad, reflective stage when you lose somebody and then you kind of realize that all your friends were there for you and your family was there for you and you were there for them. It’s that next stage where it’s like, ‘okay, we went through this together. Now it’s time to focus on the next stage of life and realize that everything happens for a reason. And thank God that we’re all there for each other or it would have been a lot worse,” he explains. The track, he adds, can easily be mistaken for a love song but is more about the fact that the band “has each other’s backs.” 

The track’s success inspired the band to commission a remix by Liquid Todd, which dropped on February 20th. The maneuver, says Luminati, was one that helped to sustain the life of the tune and introduce it to some new mediums, such as EDM radio stations. But that’s not the only bonus version of “I’ll Be There” that listeners can enjoy. Luminati reveals that in addition to the recent remix, the band actually released the stems to the fans to play around with. “There are a bunch of really cool remixes done by some more amateur DJs that we’re going to be releasing in the coming weeks,” he says. Next, the group is shooting a video to accompany the track.

Here We Go not only helped the band to reinvent itself but also pushed the group into uncharted songwriting territory. “When you listen to the record, you can hear that journey as we go through the songs — all those transitions and all the changes within the band that have happened. It’s just been a very big year for us — one of our best years and one of the toughest years that we’ve ever had,” Blackwood reveals. 

She explains that when the group first started out, they were stuck in the mentality that every single member had to be in the recording studio nine hours a day while writing an album. “Because we all work in different ways, it kind of made us feel like the process was a little bit constraining,” she adds. But this time around, Walk Off The Earth eased up on those old habits, giving themselves a bit more freedom while writing this album. “Gianni would call me from the studio and he’d be in there with an engineer and would say, ‘Hey Sarah, we just came up with this really dope part. Do you have a line that we could put in place of what I threw down?’” she says, adding that the band spent a lot of this album writing over the phone and Facetime and that members would pop into the studio when their specific talents were needed. “It was freeing not not feeling like you had to absolutely be there for 100% of it and just more being there for the times when whoever’s best abilities within the group were needed,” Blackwood says. “Once we worked out who fit into what part, we would come together when we felt like it was the time for that part.”

Blackwood says the band has always preached “nothing but love” and that this latest album is no different. “We always have a lot of anthemic songs, overcoming adversity, trying to have a really positive outlook on life, no matter what is thrown your way, type thing,” she says. And while piecing this one together, per usual, the band had their live show in mind. “We really take into consideration when we’re playing the songs, how that’s gonna work out and how we can get people to sing along or have them be a part of the songs themselves,” she says. The goal this time around, she explains, was to create fun, upbeat songs that people would want to dance along to.

Walk Off The Earth is kicking off a tour in April and says that they’ve really upped the ante this time around. “The new show is a lot more choreographed,” says Luminati. He tells fans to expect choreographed rock outs and on stage head banging. “This is the first time we’ve had the ability to say, ‘okay, we’re going to make every song super tweaked out and to have all the moves that we’re going to be trying to do, whether it’s throwing things to each other or jumping off the risers at the same time and stuff like that,” he says, adding that attendees of past shows on this tour have been saying this is the most entertaining show they’ve seen since the band started out.

Blackwood discloses that the group records every show and watches it back at the end of every night, making “little tweaks” where needed. “We want people to walk away from the show going, ‘I’ve never seen a live rock show like that before in my life ever. And I’m going to definitely come back and see what they do next,’” she says, deeming the current Walk Off The Earth live experience as being “like the Blue Man Group without all the blue makeup and the same production value.”

April 1 – Portland, ME – State Theatre

April 2 – Philadelphia, PA – The Fillmore

April 3 – Richmond, VA – The National

April 5 – Washington, D.C. – Lincoln Theater

April 7 – Somerville, MA – Somerville Theatre

April 8 – Asbury Park, NJ – Paramount Theatre

April 9 – Harrisburg, PA – Whitaker Center Sunco Performance Theater

April 10 – Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak Theatre

April 14 – Grand Rapids, MI – 20 Monroe

April 16 – St. Louis, MO – The Pageant

April 17 – Indianapolis, IN – Carmel Performing Arts Center

April 18 – Chicago, IL – Athenaeum

April 19 – Minneapolis, MN – The Fillmore

June 11 – Halifax, NS – Cunard Centre

June 12 – Saint John, NB – Harbour Station

June 13 – Moncton, NB – Molson Canadian Centre at Casino NB

June 20 – Sarnia, ON – Suncor Agora

June 26 – Toronto, ON – Budweiser Stage

June 28 – Montreal, QC – Montreal Jazz Festival

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