Michelle Wright Interview

Michelle Wright can do no wrong!!

She is one of the most awarded artists in Canadian Country Music history. She has over 30 major music industry awards to her credit and a string of 23 Top Ten hits on Canadian Country radio, including 7 Number One Singles!!

Michelle Wright is the first Canadian born artist in the modern era of country music to have a Top Ten hit in America (“Take It Like A Man” – 1992); a Number One video on CMT (“Take It Like A Man” – 1992); and to win a major U.S. music industry award (Academy Of Country Music Top New Female Artist – 1993.)

Q – I’d like to know about the town you grew up in, Merlin, Ontario ( Canada). Was it a Country Music town?
A – Well, I don’t know that I can say what other people listened to. I don’t really know. I know it’s a farm town. It’s a small town of 600 people; because of the proximity of being just across the border from Detroit. Most of us grew up listening to CKLW which is a pretty heavily laden Motown Station, Motown, Pop, and Rock. I’ve kind of always been a crossover act before crossover was cool. It’s unfortunate that my record label didn’t have a crystal ball to recognize how relevant the music I was bringing to them was going to be. I can tell you my parents were country music singers and performers therefore I was exposed to a great deal of country music growing up and also my stepbrother played The Beatles records. So, I listened to a lot of Beatles and rock ‘n’ roll, R and B, Motown and so on.

Q – So having parents in the business, it was only natural that you would pursue a show business career?
A – I don’t necessarily know that it’s a natural thing. Some people do and some people don’t. I think there’s no doubt that the influence of my parents’ music and the fact that we had a garage full of musical instruments. I’m the only one in the family that went that way. I think their influence can’t be denied, that’s for sure.

Q – You started out playing drums.
A – Yes.

Q – How big of an influence was Karen Carpenter on you?
A – You know, Karen was definitely an influence and actually it’s a little freaky sometimes if you listen to a Karen Carpenter record and you listen to my voice. There’s a lot of similarity. We’re both altos for one thing. I definitely was influenced by Karen Carpenter. I ended up being a drummer basically by process of elimination.

I also liked to dance and had a very strong sense of groove and rhythm. And, it just came very naturally to me. Again, I think that had to do with listening to a lot of that Motown music and dancing to ‘Soul Train’ every Saturday afternoon. Karen Carpenter was an influence in many ways on me. As a matter of fact, I remember the day she died. I was in Indiana.

Q – I’ve heard there are rock groups in Canada that are doing so well, they sell their tapes at the bars they’re performing in, by passing major label deals because they can make more money on their own. Have you heard about that situation and why couldn’t you have done the same thing?
A – Well, I did do the same thing. For 10 years I played the clubs, 6 nights a week in Canada, a few years in America, just crossing the border a little bit. I did sell my CD’s independently. So, I did all that and couldn’t seem to get a record deal either. There’s only a population of 33 million in our entire country. I think California has a population of 27 million or something and the only country artist they had signed to a record deal at the time (the early 90’s) was Dwight Yokam. So, Canada is actually starting to do pretty good statistically speaking. Not a lot of signings went on for country artists at one point.

Q – Weren’t you on another label before Arista?
A – My manager had an independent label called Savannah Records and we were distributed by Warner Bros. I believe at the time. My manager’s label was the label I made my first independent record on, which got me my record deal. My manager-----we’re together to this day. He’s a real hard-working, brilliant guy. He had this record label and it helped my career a lot.

Q – What did you think of Nashville the first time you set foot in that city?
A – Well, I love Nashville. I’ve done the Hall of Fame a few times. I just love it. I thought it was awesome. I remember when I moved here, for the first few years I kind of drove around in just disbelief that I was really living here and a part of this community.

Q – You’ve won a lot of awards. What does that mean to you personally and professionally?
A – Well, of course it’s great. Personally it just feels great to know that your peers are rewarding you. I think the respect of the industry has been something that’s been important to me. I knew that longevity is a key thing here. I wanted to be able to do this for awhile and therefore I think you have to be very careful about the music you make and the decisions you make and how you represent yourself. At least I think you do. (Laughs). And so, when the industry gives you the nod, it’s awesome. Professionally, we need to sell records in order to survive in this business. So, anytime you win an award, the focus changes a lot and the focus is on you. So, I think it’s a great help. Not a necessity always. Obviously there are people having great careers without having won many awards, so there’s no rule.

Q – Was it tough being an opening act for Randy Travis and Kenny Rogers? How were you treated?
A – Just fabulously! They really set the standard for me. It wasn’t difficult at all. It’s funny, I’ve toured with some of the Top acts----- Alabama, Randy Travis, Kenny Rogers and I was always amazed at how they treated their opening act. We were never treated as if we were an irrelevant part of things. We were always treated by these class acts as people who mattered. It’s like when I met Tammy Wynette; she was such a beautiful, lovely, loving woman that I now realize these are the standards of the legends.

Q – Your bio describes you as “A woman who’s lived, loved, lost and survived to love again”.
A – (Laughs). I love those bios.

Q – What did you love?
A – Oh, c’mon! We’re all out here dealing with life, you know? There’s great joys and there’s great disappointments. I’ve lost loves in my life. I’ve lost records that I thought were headed up the charts and just didn’t. The loves that I’ve lost. It’s amazing how God works in his most amazing ways. He was preparing me for the right one and I mean that without being cliché. It’s very true for me. I never have felt what I feel right now for my finance Marko. When I met him I knew he was the one. The loss I think would be loves, but, that’s o.k. And a few records that I’d hoped would have headed up the charts. What else would you lose at really?

Q – Again, quoting from you bio. your described as, “A woman who knows what life is all about”. As you see it, what is life all about?
A – Well, I think it sure is about a lot of ups and downs. Without fail, a challenging time has always led me to a better place and I just love that. I’ve learned that while I’m being challenged to try and just sit quietly and recognize that if I don’t let this get the best of me, than on the other end of this is something really good for me. So, the thing I think that life is most about is certainly to come from a place of love if you can; be kind to people, and to be loving to them and not be judgmental and also at the end of challenges are good things.

Q – As you see it, what does the future hold for Michelle Wright?
A – I will tell you the business has been very good to me. If it all ends today, that’s o.k.

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