It’s been a busy year for Walk off the Earth. This past March saw the release of the group’s third studio album, R.E.V.O., by Columbia Records, which features nine original songs and their popular cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” which catapulted the group into international stardom in 2012. Now, the Ontario rockers are nominated for Response of the Year in this Sunday’s inaugural YouTube Awards for their remix of Taylor Swift’s 2013 hit “I Knew You Were Trouble,” yet another singular transformation of a publicly-adored pop song. In addition, the band is performing at the show alongside other headliners including Lady Gaga, Eminem and Arcade Fire. This week, we caught up with WOTE member Ryan Marshall during a break between the group’s rehearsals for Sunday to discuss the upcoming awards and how YouTube changed the course of the band’s fate. Read on for our interview!
Ones To Watch: First of all, congratulations on your nomination!
Ryan Marshall: Thank you.
How is the band preparing for your performance on Sunday?
RA: Sporadically, as usual. We try not to overthink too many things and kind of let it flow. We’re probably not going to concentrate too much on exactly what’s going to happen and see what does happen.
Who are you looking forward to seeing at the awards?
RA: I’m a big Eminem fan, I’ve been a fan for a long time. I really like what he’s doing with the new album, this whole rebirth of Slim Shady, so it’ll be cool to see what he does.
You’ve released original music on your two albums before R.E.V.O., how did Walk off the Earth decide to start changing its style up with more covers?
We don’t really feel we changed up the style too much, what we did was introduce some new art. When we did those first two albums there was only three of us and Gianni and I are left of those three. And then we brought in a new drummer, who happened to be really into hip-hop, and Taylor, who listens to Broadway music, this whole other genre. Not to say it’s too much different from those first two albums, but it’s full, a lot more full.
Who came up with the idea for the Gotye cover?
At the time, the Gotye cover wasn’t too much different than any other cover we did. That song really hadn’t taken off like it did across the world in North America yet. We try to follow pop music across the world. It was number one in Australia for two years and it was number one in Germany and it’d hit Japan, and we were like, “How is this song not huge here? This is an awesome tune.” And it was the same time I think they started to do a lot of marketing around it. Luckily we just had one of our best video ideas at the same time. So we called the perfect storm. It was the right song and the right video idea.
You guys are super hands-on in your videos. How do you come up with the concept for the instrument passing and all the physical things you do in addition to singing?
To be honest it’s not planned. The general idea will be there somewhere. With the Lorde music video for “Royals,” we came up with the idea of throwing the ukeleles a few days before. Sometimes it just pops up.
How has YouTube changed your relationship with music?
I love one major thing about YouTube and that’s the fact that it has increased the competition for musicians tenfold. You don’t need to be signed to a major record label anymore to get your music out there and we’re good proof of that. There’s so much talent out there. You know, we’re stuck in Canada a lot of the times, and if it’s not Canadian content, then you don’t hear it - well, before there was YouTube. And now, you can listen to whatever style you want. It’s cool, it introduces you to so many new bands.
What about in the way you’ve connected with music fans?
We started using YouTube, believe it or not, because in Canada you need to drive like, forty eight hours to play seven different shows. And we didn’t want to get in a dirty white van and tour across Canada and play that many shows. And so we had a couple different videos out there, and all of a sudden fifteen thousand people had seen it, making us think, “Wow, we just reached fifteen thousand people whereas we would have only played for forty last night.”
Then once we started connecting with our fans, and replying to their comments, then it became really hand-on and we became connected with our fans. Now that there’s more, sometimes we try to keep up, but it’s something we feel is important. We like to know what our fans are thinking because they’re a big part of what we do. If they didn’t like our videos, then no one would be watching them and none of this would be happening.
If you were to have an artist cover one of your original songs, what song would it be and who would cover it?
We have a song on our album that almost has a hip-hop thing to it called “Sometimes” and I think it would be cool if it was completely changed around and Michael Bublé did it. Something completely different. Take one genre, put Bublé on it, and let him do some crazy vocals on it.
Tickets for the Ones To Watch Presents: Walk off the Earth - Gang of Rhythm Tour go on sale tomorrow.