Walk Off the Earth’s Sarah Blackwood Discusses Success + Touring
When Sarah Blackwood, Gianni Luminati, Ryan Marshall, Mike Taylor and Joel Cassady -- better known as Walk Off the Earth -- first posted their now infamous acoustic Gotye cover on YouTube, they didn't really know how people would take it.
Fast forward three years and over 165 million YouTube views later; Walk Off the Earth are not only ready to release their sophomore album, Sing It All Away, via Columbia Records on June 16, but they're also hopping on the road to play packed venues around North America. Before the band hits the road, we had the chance to chat with Blackwood about Walk Off the Earth's growing success, their upcoming record and bringing her son (with Luminati) on tour.
How did you guys first get together?
Gianni and Marshall started the band in 2006, and then Taylor and Joel, we all played in different bands. And I was playing in a punk band at the time, like touring all the time and making solo music -- I actually hired Gianni to work on a solo album. Then from there he asked me, "Oh we need a female vocal for a few songs, can you do it?" And I was like, "Sure." Gianni and I were both getting into the YouTube thing, and Gianni had some really cool ideas for some videos and I was like, "Oh I want to be involved. Let's do this." So we started working hard on videos and started touring less with my other band. Then we made a video that went insanely viral, and then we got a 100,000 phone calls from people who were interested in signing our band -- of course, after we did all the work. [Laughs] And then we just moved forward from there in the best way we thought we possibly could, and we're here today doing our second release with Columbia Records. We're super stoked on everything.
With all the work you guys have put in, and now that you're on your second album, how does it feel to get to this point?
As artists, it's a dream to do what we love to do, so we were hoping that we would do this forever. It feels amazing. It's the greatest feeling in the world to wake up and know I don't have to go to a s---ty job every week. Well, everybody in the band does different things. So for me, I do a lot of the artwork and the photography and the visual stuff for the band, so I get to wake up every day and just be creative, and I get to spend every second of my days with my kid and soon to be new baby. And Gianni and I are together so we're living our dream. There's no resentment from one to the other. It's just all around a super positive situation.
Congratulations on the new baby! Let's talk about the new tour. How do you prepare yourself for it?
You just work your ass off pretty much -- but that's our job. We have the new record, and for the show, we have two weeks of rehearsals. We come up with the most interesting show that we think we can with the time period that we have to rehearse. That's our job: We're going on tour with a new record. We spend a week in rehearsals and learn the new songs and come up with a brand new show and all new antics. We want to make it fun and entertaining every time we come to a new city or visit a city again. And for the new album, Gianni and I run all of the social media stuff anyway so we do a lot of online promotion ourselves. We get the info to our fans and make sure we're on top of everything all the time as much as we can be. We stay on top of what's going on and keep people aware of everything.
After seeing the "Rule the World" video, I have to ask: Will all the special effects, artwork and even backup dancers somehow be incorporated into the tour?
Yeah absolutely. The only thing that we're missing for this new tour is a new backdrop. [Laughs] But everything else ... we have an all new stage, merch designs and some really cool new antics. Like if you look at the drum kit in "Rule the World," it's covered in paint, and that is something we've brought to life. So our drum kit and some of our ukeleles are all painted to match that. We like to incorporate our visual creativity from our videos to the stage so we definitely make that happen. And when the album actually comes out and the tour starts in the fall, then we will have more new stuff. We jut didn't have a lot of time to get ready.
What goes into your tour survival kit?
It used to be very selfish, and it was a pillow and some headphones and earplugs. And now because we bring our 2-year-old son on the road with us, we bring diapers and baby wipes and clothes for him. Because as long as he's good, then I don't need anything.
How's your son taking everything that's happening right now? Is he aware of what his mom and dad do or does he just fun on the road?
We haven't been on the road with him on our last tour, and he's changed a lot since then. We haven't been on a bus in a year, so he's probably going to love it, I hope, and I think his idea of what we do, because he does watch all of our YouTube videos, I think in his mind everybody's parents are on YouTube. And until somebody says to him one day, "No, my dad works in a factory. He's not on TV." And then he will be like, "I thought everybody's parents were on TV because my parents are on it." I don't think he's old enough yet to really conceptualize what it is that we do as careers compared to other people.
That makes sense. So with the new record coming out, does this mean the set list will mostly be new stuff? Or will some of the older material make it to the stage?
We have a nice mix. It's actually heavier on the old stuff, to be honest, because we know people. We know when you go to a concert and when you want to see a band, you want to sing along to the songs. And we're not the type of band to take those songs out of the set because we want everyone to hear the new stuff. We know this. We want people to love all of our music even though it's old. So we have a really good mix. I think we have five new songs in the set and the rest are older songs. People can rock out. We really, really think out our set list -- not only so people can enjoy the show but so they're able to love the new songs without it becoming overbearing.
What can you tell us about the new album?
The first album was really rushed, so this time around we had a really decent chunk of time to write the songs we wanted to write and showcase every person in the right way. We have three lead singers, so it's really nice to have the opportunity to show that in an entire album. And we just got to write a lot. We wrote something like 35 songs or something, and then we chose the 11 that we loved the most and put those on the record. They're bigger. They're anthems. We wrote a lot of them about motivation. "Rule the World," for example, is about finding your own way to rule the world and make opportunities for yourself and not just give up on things so you can succeed in life. That's what we're all about -- positive forward thinking and making s--- happen.
Aside from the tour and album, are there any other things Walk Off the Earth are working on this year?
Well, the album is actually coming out on June 16, but you can pre-order it now. And if you pre-order it now, you'll get three songs from the album. Then at the end of May or beginning of June, there will be another song released. So if you pre-order the album now, you'll basically have four songs before the album comes out. We have tons of stuff going on. We want people to get the album before the album actually comes out, and then we want to shoot videos for every single song. So that's what we've been doing. We've just been working hard and making sure people get the music and don't wait too long.