Walk Off the Earth March to Their Own Beat
The Canadian Expat Talks to Marshall from WOTE About Becoming Famous & Touring the World
Have you ever wanted to watch someone play the song “Rude” by Magic on a guitar bigger than he is? Or hear a cover of Adele’s “Hello” played using a surfboard, trouser zips, plastic tubes and a tap solo? If so, there is a Youtube channel you should be following.
Walk Off the Earth are a Canadian band who have rocketed to international fame with their unexpected and quirky covers. From filming low budget homemade videos to signing a record deal and touring the world, their journey is a fascinating one.
Although many videos feature guest appearances from other musicians, the core members of the band are Ryan Marshall, Sarah Blackwood, Gianni Luminati, Mike Taylor and Joel Cassady. They grew up in the same town together and all played in different bands over the years, until they eventually started working together. Originating in Burlington, Ontario, the five piece ensemble are known for goose-bump-inducing vocal harmonies and their creative ways of making a beat.
In one of their recent videos they cover "Shape of you” by Ed Sheeran with drainage pipes, children's toys and some cereal in a Tupperware container. (Keep watching the video for something awesome at the 3:05 mark).
Sometimes the innovative reinvention of the song on a strange instrument or household object becomes more interesting than the original. (Check out the bizarre multi-kazoo contraption that comes out halfway through this cover of Closer by the Chainsmokers!)
They are incredibly fun to watch. In their videos ukuleles fly through the air, plates get smashed and they deliver their own silly lyrics in a hilarious deadpan. However, they aren’t just a joke or a novelty cover band - they have serious musical chops and gorgeous voices and they also write their own tunes.
This ingenuity and playfulness is what makes their videos like Lays Potato Chips - bet you can’t watch just one.
Walk Off the Earth hit it big in 2012 by playing a cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” - with all five of them playing on one guitar at the same time. Within days of posting the video, it received over four million views and led to a record deal with Columbia Records. Bands started to ask them to cover their songs because the original track would become more popular. They are one of the few truly independent bands in the music industry - gaining most of their fans via word of mouth.
They have been recognised for their talent with numerous awards, including Juno Awards for Pop Album of the Year and Group of the Year and Canadian Radio Music Awards for Best New Group or Solo Artist: Mainstream AC and Fans Choice. The album Sing It All Away impressed critics, who compared its catchy folk pop anthems to bands like Mumford & Songs, and Of Monsters and Men.
As well as bringing in several awards and going viral on YouTube, the band has been touring all over the world and has received lots of attention from Canadian fans as well as international crowds.
If you look closely at the audience in the videos of international WOTE concerts, you can see the flash of red and white as Canucks abroad proudly wave their maple leaf flags. It’s no surprise that you’ll spot Canadian expats at WOTE gigs. Canadians abroad often long for a connection back to Canada and sometimes a touring band from back home can be that connection.
Band member Ryan Marshall says that it means a lot to them when Canadians abroad come out to their international concerts and fly the Maple Leaf. “It's always nice to see fellow Canadians in other countries. It's a country to be proud of.” he states.
Ryan explains that throughout the music industry, Canadians have spread themselves far and wide around the world. “We see a lot of fellow Canadian musicians while playing festivals in other countries. And we often tour with fellow Canadian bands, for example Scott Helman and USS have both been on European tours with us.”
“Canada has such a strong hold in the music scene right now it's hard to find a festival that doesn't have Canadian musicians involved.” he explains.
There are 2.8 million Canadians living and working around the globe currently. While it is clear that Youtube has played a large part in bringing Walk Off the Earth to the mainstream, it could also be said that some of the success they are seeing is due to Canadians living abroad and sharing their experience with friends, family and co-workers.
Many Canadians (both expats and back in Canada) are intensely proud of what this unique band has accomplished. With so many Canadian expats around the world, no matter where the band goes they are likely to see fellow Canucks singing along when they look out from the stage.
Ryan is incredibly grateful for the love the group receives from fans all over the world.
“I think our fans are the absolute best in the industry. I honestly do.” he says. “Their purity for the love of music is what brings them together. It doesn't matter what country they're from or what language they speak. They're just truly good people.”
Check out the Walk Off the Earth website to see if the band will be performing in your corner of the world anytime soon. They have an international tour planned for the summer of 2017 that includes stops in The USA, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, France and Australia. Stay tuned to @canexpat on Twitter as we will be Tweeting the tour dates.