Small Town Pistols
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Small Town Pistols

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
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Colour Blind (Single)
Living on the Outside (Single)



Grandma Ida would be proud.

Amanda Wilkinson was building on an already glittering music career when she released her slick and impressive solo debut in 2007. But the diminutive singer-songwriter wasn't satisfied, even if everybody else was. Having given seven of the 10 songs on her record to other composers, Amanda was hungry for full-blown independence.

"I felt like it was my responsibility that the next project I would do, I'd be saying something as a grown person," she says, explaining why she exiled herself to Nashville in 2010 to bunker down and get back to her first lovesongwriting.

Meanwhile, some 1300 kilometres away, Tyler Wilkinson was also busy forging his own identity when the fateful call came from his sister. "I had a rock band in Ontario for six years that I was working with pretty much full time," he says, "and Amanda was, like, 'Come on down and write with me!' I was thinking I'd be going to help write for her future solo project."

For all intents and purposes he probably was. Instead, 15 or 20 songs into their collaboration, something started to feel familiar and right. "I think there was kind of an, 'Ah ha!' moment where we were both, like, 'Holy shit!'" he chuckles. Enter Small Town Pistols, named after the small but powerful family matriarch whose spirit Amanda seemed to inherit. "People would say, 'You're like Grandma Ida,' she says. "'She was a pistol!'"

While nobody is likely to forget that Amanda and Tyler enjoyed phenomenal success together years earlier with the Wilkinsons, one listen to Small Town Pistols reveals an entirely different beast. Their debut self-titled album profits from a long connection as performers something immediately heard when they wrap their close harmonies around a winding vocal melody in "Easy as Breathing"but there's also a newfound sophistication and scope at work here.

From the chiming, modern pop of "Blame the Radio", to the galloping Fleetwood Mac redux of "Love is Gonna Find You", the songwriting and performances their first record are, as Tyler bluntly states, "just more mature." Adds Amanda, "It's a jump from being a 16 year-old, when we released our first record as the Wilkinsons, to being a near 30 year-old with different things to say entirely. We're saying things we'd say as adults."

The timing obviously works. Amanda sounds amazed when she recalls the "fluency" of their writing sabbatical together. "It just kept spilling out," she says, while the duo's interior journeyboth were recovering from broken relationships at the timewas doubled in some ways as they pieced the album together on an impulsive path that took them from Nashville, to Toronto, to Vancouver.

In the course of things, the Pistols also invited a varied bunch of friends to lend a hand. The effusive modern country of "Colour Blind" comes courtesy of Chad Kroeger's creative partner Joey Moi, while the slightly eccentric path taken in "Walk Tall" is the result of a hook up with Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat. Amanda says they approached this project "with no rules," and the payload is an album that swings naturally from the affectionate vintage country pastiche of "It's You" to the grandeur of "Friends" or "Living on the Outside".

With a majestic feel that recalls classic Jimmy Webb, "Living on the Outside" is a track where the duo's attention to songcraft couldn't be any clearer, or more affecting. It's significant therefore that it's also one of three songs co-written by their father, Steve. While Amanda and Tyler cite everything from Lefty Frizzell to Emmylou Harris, the Beatles, and Death Cab's Ben Gibbard as inspiration, she's happy to admit that "the biggest influence of all is always our dad." The only difference now is their autonomy. Meanwhile, somewhere, Grandma Ida is tapping a small foot in approval.