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Webb Wilder with Trent Summar and the New Row Mob
Thursday Sept. 14, 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Market Square, downtown
Webb Wilder carries on with his full-grown rock 'n' roll
by John Sewell
In the music world, a performer's personality can overshadow the actual tunes. That is especially the case for Nashville's Webb Wilder, a regional rocker who's eternally on the cusp of commercial success, or at least name recognition. Ask anyone who has had even a peripheral involvement in any music scene in the Southeast in the last 15 years what they know about Webb Wilder, and they'll all spout off Wilder's credo by rote: "Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard, grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
This mantra has stuck with Wilder like white on rice, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. The bespectacled, middle-aged-looking rocker has faithfully followed his own advice, creating a legacy of catchy, country-tinged pop rock in the process. But is the exaggerated, manufactured-for-the-stage Webb Wilder persona sometimes an albatross?
"I guess I don't ever really get tired of it because it's kind of like an old friend," says Wilder. "It allows me to emphasize the entertaining or fun aspects of my personality rather than to be just stuck with my own, up-and-down human thing. I've done it so long...
"But there's more than one side to it," Wilder continues. "It's kind of evolved through the years and it's not always pretty either. It's like a second skin to me now. I rely on [the persona] in a concert situation probably less than I once did in terms of just going out there and playing a role. It's really become me at this point.
"When I was young, people used to tell me that Webb Wilder re-minded them of their grandfather. Now, I'm probably actually getting near to their grandfather's age."
As a performer, Wilder has soldiered on for the better part of two decades, and he has a legion of followers to prove it. Like most longtime rockers, his career has perhaps reached a plateau phase not that he's having any trouble making a living. Wilder reached his greatest success around 1986, when his Doo Dad album rode high in the college charts. At present, Wilder is not aligned with any record label and most of his recordings are out of print.
This situation might discourage weaker mortals. But the self-described "last of the full-grown men" is gearing up for another rock 'n' roll campaign.
"This is probably not what I should say in an interview, but I've been in kind of a lull for the last couple of years," says Wilder. So there have been people telling me that I should somehow raise the money and do it all [record and release CDs] by myself. There's a lot of activity on the Internet, and that could work for me.
"But I have a psychological problem with the idea of paying for [the recording of] my albums. It's not something I can necessarily do anyway. And when I started in the music industry it was always, 'get signedget the record deal.' But the truth is that people with a fan base such as myself might do better doing it on their own.
"I'm trying to push myself to get motivated enough to make it happen one way or another," says Wilder. "Intellectually, I've faced the fact that ultimately, it's all up to me. But I'm lazy. I hate to admit it, but it's true. That's one reason I'd like to just get another record dealso we could just say OK, we've got the money so let's go on and record. Then I'll work really hard and put in the 12- and 14-hour days recording."
It may take him a while to arrange an advantageous recording contract, but Wilder is already jumpstarting his comeback by returning to stages around the country. Also in the works is a possible trip to France, a nation he's already toured several times. And in the live concerts, there's no telling which direction Wilder's irrepressible personality and onstage rants will take lead him.
"I have strong views on music, but I've never used my shows as a way to push any agenda or platform," says Wilder. "I've given some sort of halfway serious, halfway mock tirades about cultural stuff onstage. But that's about as political as it's ever gotten. It's really more about just entertaining people and having fun."
September 7, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 36
© 2000 Metro Pulse