CLOSING NOTES

Music

The soulful country sounds of Aaron Wilkinson

AMY CAMERON February 24 2003
CLOSING NOTES

Music

The soulful country sounds of Aaron Wilkinson

AMY CAMERON February 24 2003

Music

The soulful country sounds of Aaron Wilkinson

On stage in a dark, cavernous bar, Aaron Wilkinson tunes his guitar and mutters incoherently into the mike. He adjusts his cowboy hat and strums a few chords. The downtown Toronto Thursday-night crowd barely registers his presence. However, within the first few minutes of playing his kind of country, Wilkinson has their attention. By the end of his 40-minute set, the room is utterly silent, caught in the beautiful voice and evocative lyrics of this Dublin-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter.

Wilkinson—much too skinny, with a wispy beard and honest eyes—is awkward talking about himself. Here are the basics: now 27, he is the son of Colm, the acclaimed Phantom of the Opera singer; he dabbled in songwriting while attending university in Ireland for a degree in architecture; when he realized that school was "nothing about design and all about concrete" he left to focus

on music; six years ago, after Dublin's music scene grew too claustrophobic, he followed his parents to Canada. "Everyone wants to be U2 in Ireland," he explains.

On the subject of his music, he is both animated and uncompromising. "I treat songwriting as a job, writing more than eight hours a day," says Wilkinson, who, on Feb. 28, joins his father at Roy Thomson Hall to raise money for their preferred charities: Celtic Studies at the University of Toronto, the Casey House Foundation, and AIDS relief projects in Africa. "I'm also an insomniac. It helps me with songwriting because I am half dazed all the time." The results are hypnotic. Dark, soulful and funny, Wilkinson's country tunes are taking classic sounds in a new direction. Currently recording his second album, he is clear where he's headed: "I'd like to be independent, write my own songs and pay my rent." AMY CAMERON

Tm also an insomniac. It helps me with songwriting because I am half dazed all the time.'