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INTERVIEW: FRASER WALTERS of The Tenors – November 2015

| 13 November 2015 | Reply

I love music… especially great music.  The latest disc from The Tenors, Under One Sky, is great music.  I have been so tempted time and time again to go back and change my original rating on my review, as I find myself going back to the disc time and time again.  The Tenors are in the midst of a North American tour that stretches into early 2016, sharing the music on that disc with their fans (and I cannot wait to see the final 2015 show at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Windsor).  Taking a few minutes out from his vigorous routine, Fraser Walters gave us a call to discuss the tour, the disc, and so much more…


Toddstar: First off thank you so much for taking time out. It’s a pleasure and an honor for me.

Fraser: Oh, wow. Thanks for making yourself available to help share our story.

Toddstar: And a hell of a story it is. The best part of the story is you guys are in the middle of a tour, out promoting a great album, Under One Sky. You guys are about a month or so into the tour. How is the tour going so far? How is it being received?

Fraser: We’ve been blown away from the response. We’re sort of floating on a cloud right now and excited for the new fans that we’re meeting along the way. We certainly have our devoted following that continue to lift us up. If it wasn’t for those fans we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Everything is a result of the incredible support that we receive along the way, and there’s quite a traveling group that have followed us down the west coast and now a different group up the east coast. We’re just thrilled to share new music with an audience that has been with us for years. It’s been five years maybe since we were on the Oprah Winfrey show, and that really opened us up to a new mainstream audience in the US, and they’ve not only stuck with us, but they’ve been our sort of soldiers on the ground, sharing our story.  Word of mouth still works in this day and age, because we might not get all of the latest press on the top TV shows, but there is really a ground swell of support behind this project, which we’re thrilled about, and it’s given us incredible opportunities like recently singing at NFL games, being invited to the White House, and to sing on a PBS special. The list goes on that just shows the support that we have, and that’s why we’re so grateful.

Toddstar: You mentioned a couple things that I wanted to hit on, one being the NFL game and you guys singing the National Anthem on Monday Night Football, which here in the United States is huge.

Fraser: It is huge.

Toddstar: How was that for you guys? It wasn’t like the Argonauts were playing that night.

Fraser: No. Wow, good reference there. You know, 75,000 people on Monday Night Football with millions more watching on ESPN, and the fact that ESPN actually chatted about us after the airing, saying that it was outstanding and then we also got some great social media support from them too which wasn’t planned. They just responded well to what we put out there. That seems to be sort of what’s happened. When we get an opportunity to perform, we do our best to hit it out of the park, and we feel like we earned those 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell said in his book, The Outliers. We had all those years of playing in very small venues. In fact, our first tour was in the prairies of Canada in a province called Saskatchewan, and we played 12 shows in 14 days, and we didn’t even play the major cities in Saskatchewan, like Saskatoon or Regina. We really feel like we sort of earned our keep. Some of those shows were in church basements and high school gymnasiums where the janitor was the guy working the lights for the performance as well. From those humble beginnings you really get to learn about who you are as artists and as friends on the road, and that really informed our writing process over the last 16 months. It took us over a year to create this album. We felt a lot of pressure mostly because we put that pressure on ourselves to strive for excellence, to strive for honesty in the process and truth in the lyrics. It’s amazing when we hear feedback from fans who are saying that our songs have helped them through a very challenging part of their life, whether the loss of a loved one or maybe an illness that they’ve had to deal with a as a family. To be sort of a beacon of inspiration for a lot of people, to be a soundtrack to their lives, it can’t get much better than that when you’re an artist and a traveling musician.

Toddstar: That’s a great insight. Regarding the new album, which I love from top to bottom, you guys have a lot of great originals on this, but you guys tackled some huge songs which you guys have never shied away from. You guys tackled “Hallelujah.” There’s nothing bigger than that. As a huge rock fan to hear you guys take on “Who Wants to Live Forever,” and nail it…

Fraser: Thank you.

Toddstar: To me it doesn’t get much better than Freddie Mercury and you guys really nailed that track. How daunting is it for you guys to take songs that are so beloved like that and, as you guys have said in the past, kind of Tenorize it?

Fraser:  Yeah. It’s funny, when you were bringing up that question and you said, ‘It doesn’t get much bigger than “Hallelujah,”‘ my first thought was, well, “Who Wants to Live Forever” was a pretty epic one to take on, and we took it very seriously because we know how serious the Queen fans are out there, and they’re very discerning because Queen was sort of beyond what a standard band was about. They would write these incredible opuses, songs seven-eight minutes long and Freddie was just one of a kind. We didn’t want to copy. We wanted to expand on some of those ideas in even a classical direction, so we incorporated sort of motifs from Bach and we were so lucky to have the involvement of Lindsey Stirling who is just an incredible, really a YouTube sensation and incredible talent. Not only did she play on the album, but she played on the music video as well. Were you able to see that?

Toddstar: Yes.

Fraser: Yeah, so to go along with the song, we had a great ambition for the music video which we recorded when we were on tour in Europe, so we got a castle outside of Prague. It was pretty magical to connect with the bats and the ghosts in that place. We were filming from 6:00 pm until 6:00 am, and it was otherworldly to say the least. The response has been like nothing else that we’ve ever seen. We posted that and within a week there were 200,000 views on YouTube. That’s partly thanks to Lindsey sharing it on her socials, but also the feedback from staunch Queen fans saying, “I never thought that there would be a version that would come close to Freddie’s,” and in some cases people say this surpassed it, but that’s not necessarily what we were looking for. We just wanted to hang with the big boys, you know?

Toddstar: You’re certainly doing that. Throughout your career you guys have hung with some of the “biggest boys.” You’ve shared stages with Sarah McLachlan, Neil Young, younger guys like Justin Bieber going back to legends like McCartney. Even in production, you guys have nailed down Bob Ezrin.

Fraser: That’s right.

Toddstar: As a lifelong Kiss fan that would have been just huge for me. How is it you guys seem to have that magic touch that everybody wants to be part of The Tenors?

Fraser: Well, it’s that old adage, if you build it, they will come. At the beginning, there wasn’t much interest in a group called The Canadian Tenors. Even the four of us were sort of skeptical when we started. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing, and I think with that level of green or naivety, if you will, we just had lofty goals. We weren’t sure exactly how we were going to get there, but we definitely sat around a table and said, “Hey, let’s put something on a dream board. Let’s put some ideas together of people we’d love to work with in the future.” One of those names was David Foster. Sure enough, three or four years later we got a call inviting us to perform on one of his shows in Las Vegas. That began a relationship that we share with him to this very day. He took us on tour around North America on his David Foster and Friends tour which turned into an opportunity to do the same tour in Asia because we were very well received. We actually produced a track for this album, “Tears in Heaven,” the great Clapton song. We were young and ambitious when we started, and it’s amazing to sort of look back and recall some of these stories. There are some pinch me moments. When you get home from singing for the queen and because you’ve traveled and you’re exhausted and sound check and this and that, it sort of takes your mom to give you a little smack, to go, “Do you realize what just happened?”

Toddstar: Speaking of touring and going out on the road, like we said, you guys are out there pushing everything you can right now, but you’ve got a killer moment coming up and it’s the last tour date of 2015, and that’s another killer crazy, and might I mention, almost sold out show at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Windsor (TICKETS). I think this will be The Tenors seventh appearance there.


Fraser: Yeah. It might be. Caesar’s Windsor has just been a real sort of almost a family type environment for us. It’s becoming a tradition. As you probably know, we filmed our PBS special there, and they’ve just been so accommodating. We’re happy to share their name because they’ve been so wonderful in helping us get our new TV special, Under One Sky, out to the world.

Toddstar: What’s it like? Like you said, you’ve toured, you’ve played for the queen, you’ve played all these places, you’re playing all across North America now. What’s it like when you go back home, so to speak, and play a Canadian show? How different is that from say a show in California?

Fraser: Well, every performance is different, and that’s why when some people ask the question, do you get tired of singing that song so many times? Really, the answer is, every performance brings something different. We have a huddle before we walk on stage and one of the things we say is that we’re here to create moments of meaning, and this might be someone’s first concert that they’ve ever attended and this might be the last concert that someone here might attend. When you have the weight of that responsibility in your heart when you walk on stage, any issues that we might have had or something that might take us out of the music, it really brings focus to why we’re there. People pay their hard-earned money to come to the show and be entertained by us, and we take that very seriously.

Toddstar: That’s nice to hear from an established band. Younger bands and groups, as you’ve spoken about, when you’re working your way up you’re definitely going to give everything you can, but it’s nice to know that you’re there and you’re still doing that.

Fraser: That’s right.

Toddstar: Fraser, you’ve played, shared a stage, and you’ve recorded with some huge names, and on this last album you actually had the benefit of performing a duet with a very special guest, your wife, Kelly [Levesque]. Who’s still out there? Who’s out there that you’d like to share a stage or a recording booth with?

Fraser: Well, I mean if we were talking someone in the pop realm right now, it’s hard to look past Adele. We love performing with women because there’s already enough alpha male energy on stage, so from the pop realm we’d say Adele because her incredible, colorful voice, it’s really yearning and warm and soulful. It would just be incredible to work with her. Someone on the classical side would probably be Rene Fleming who’s just been an inspiration for us over the years on the classical side.

Toddstar: Excellent on the Rene Fleming selection. I would give an arm to see that.

Fraser: That’s right.

Toddstar: For you personally, what does this all mean? How big is this for you when you just look at your personal aspect of just a young kid who this was a dream and now you’re living it?

Fraser: It’s a big question, and I don’t want to answer it too quickly without just digesting the fact that we truly are living our dream. I actually actively work daily in meditation and reading and writing to really accept being in the present. Society, I think, has a lot of outside influences, and it supports that sort of short attention span with the amount of channels that we can access or social media. Everything is about the latest and what’s coming up next. I think that we need to focus some energy on just that balance in life and taking a deep breath, taking time to smell the roses because that’s something in my own life that I was so focused. It was almost one-dimensional for years there, just doing everything it took on the business side and the music side to be successful. It does take that type of sacrifice sometimes, but also sometimes you’re living so much in the future that you’re missing the incredible gift that is the present. I think we’re talking a lot more about that these days. I personally had a trip to India this summer which was totally life changing. With The Tenors we’ve been to Africa now a few times. We’ve got an organization that we work with there to help raise money for orphan care. There are a lot of things that are so important beyond just us being on stage, and that’s helping to bring attention to worthwhile initiatives and causes that really support and bring attention to the betterment of humanity.


Toddstar: It’s awesome to know that not only musically do you guys come off as well rounded when you listen through your catalog or check out the YouTube videos, but to know that you guys are actually well rounded as human beings underneath the surface and out of the spotlight.

Fraser: Yeah. I mean, I’m sure you can probably feel it or see it if you look deep enough into the things that we’re involved in, in the pictures that we post and the messages that we try to convey, and certainly if you come to a concert, you’ll see that energy that we’re trying to create of really bringing communities together. That’s the focus of that title track, “Under One Sky.” It encourages us to focus on our similarities instead of our differences, and there can be a lot of healing in the world if we all take on that mantra.

Toddstar: That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing all that with me, Fraser. I really appreciate it. On a personal note, I can’t wait to see you guys December 22, again, the final show of the 2015 portion of the tour at The Colosseum at Caesar’s in Windsor. Hopefully you’ll make it to the other side of the river and play Detroit soon. Really hoping that all the fans run out and purchase their copy of Under One Sky which dropped this year and really get to experience the music that is The Tenors and not just what they might see or hear on YouTube or on your social media pages. Final question: Looking back at “Under One Sky,” what’s the one song that when you hear it, when you play that album back, or you play selections live, still gives you chills, knowing that you guys had something to do with that making its way?

Fraser: There isn’t just one song. I mean, there’s quite a few powerful ones from “Angels Calling” which references the loss of a loved one. It’s a tearjerker, and we had a hand in writing that one. “I Remember You” is a song that’s getting a lot of love on US radio right now, which we couldn’t be happier about. I mean, “Lean on Me” is a wonderful standard that we wanted to take a new approach with, and that’s a big song. It’s a well-loved song, and we wanted to make it our own. It’s definitely hard to pick just one. Yeah, I mean, “My Father’s So”n is one that we wrote for our dads, and we’ve heard some incredible feedback about that song. “You Are So Beautiful” which we dedicated to our moms. It was certainly a treat to have Kelly, my wife, guest on that one. That was a nice tick on the bucket list there.

Toddstar: Well, you mentioned a few of my favorites, one being “My Father’s Son.” Again, thank you so much for your time, Fraser. We appreciate it. Again, this was an honor and a privilege for me. I can’t wait to be one of those smiling faces that gets to enjoy an evening with The Tenors later next month at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Windsor.

Fraser: Awesome, man. Thank you so much.

Toddstar: Thank you. We’ll talk soon.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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