Rock, blues and country can easily be looked upon as musical cousins; each different in their own way but with similarities that allows them to mingle together seamlessly. Dom Wier knows this well, growing up along the Mississippi where all three genres come together like a river delta. With his most recent EP New Waters released just this past January, we caught up with the roots singer to find out how his musical path lead him from playing in bands in St. Louis to a solo career in Music City, how some of the songwriting greats have influenced his own craft, and more.
CN: For our readers who may not be familiar with you – could you tell us a little bit about yourself? When did you realize you wanted to be involved in music?
DW: My name is Dom Wier, I’m a roots songwriter originally from southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO. I’m based in Nashville, TN. I’m the youngest of six kids. I’ve always enjoyed music, songs, melodies and come from a musical family. They used to make me sing “Great Balls Of Fire” when I was like 5 years old while my brother played piano. My parents had music around like Carole King, Jim Croce, The Sons Of The Pioneers, Roy Orbison, The Beatles and Elvis. My brothers and sisters were into 80s and 90s music which I listened to plenty as well. I started buying classic rock albums and paying more attention to guitars and songwriting when I was about 12 years old. It was more towards the end of high school and the first part of college, 18-20 years old that I realized I wanted to really be involved in music. So I made my through different bands with friends and other local musicians. I didn’t really think of it as a career but I knew I loved it and wanted to be a part of it.
CN: What was it about the guitar that drew you in? At what age did you start playing?
DW: I just loved the sound of it. It was real, raw and the players were ridiculously awesome. When I was 15, I decided I wanted a guitar and to form a band with local friends. So my Mom took me to the local music store in town and got me an acoustic Arbor guitar, which I still have! I took eight lessons. I had a picture chord book and guitar magazines. I learned G, C and D, and then got a Mel Bay guitar book with classic rock songs in it and learned them. As a kid, punk music really made you feel like you could play too. Playing power chords was super easy so it was a good place to start.
CN: How did growing up in Southern Illinois along the Mississippi River direct your path in music?
DW: There’s a lot of history there. Rock, Blues and Country music all have origins there. My first concert technically was Chuck Berry. He was playing outside of a Cardinal baseball game and I just stumbled upon the show and saw him play and do the duck walk when he was like 70 years old. It was pretty awesome. Of course I knew of him and Johnny B Goode from “Back To The Future” but it was really cool to see the guy who wrote it in person. Just learning about the history of music and how many greats came from the St. Louis area helped to influence me. There’s definitely an underlying blues rock influence in plenty of what I write. Some people say there’s something in the water of that mighty river.
CN: You spent a lot of time in the St. Louis area singing and performing in different bands. When did you decide to concentrate on your songwriting and head to Nashville? Was there an “ah-ha” moment that made you realize this is what you were meant to do?
DW: These are some good questions. I had a rock band in college in which I was one of the main songwriters and it was kind of the first time where I was also a a lead singer. That really helped me focus more on writing songs so we had material to play at our shows and to record. That’s when I really got heavily into songwriting. I had always liked some of the really old cowboy country music that my Dad had around like Sons of The Pioneers and Gene Autry. And then my brother Ben really loved country music and I started to enjoy 90’s country like Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and John Michael Montgomery. At that point, I had two different folders of songs; one was more rock-based for my band and the other was my early attempts at country songs, so I kind of doubled up my songwriting. I used to see music videos on CMT and notice the songwriters’ names in the credits. I realized you could just be a songwriter and other artists could record your songs. Nashville was only four hours from where I grew up and it became more and more appealing. I had grown disillusioned with the thought of being a history teacher. When my band nearly got a record deal but then broke up and I had a relationship that ended after several years, it seemed time for a new start for me. I knew I wanted to pursue music extensively by that point. So I loaded up everything I had in my Mom’s Corn Pro trailer and moved to Nashville.
CN: Songwriters tend to write from personal experiences, experiences of those around them, and/or sometimes situations that they may not have any connection to. Can you take us through your songwriting process?
DW: I’m always taking notes. Sure a lot of songs come from personal experiences but plenty of others are about other people and their lives/struggles. I usually like a strong rhythm to lay down melodies and lyrics over. So it usually starts with strumming around and finding a cool pattern or riff. I’ll try to incorporate a line or two that I’ve got in my notes and if it seems right and sounds good, I just continue down that road with that idea. Sometimes it seems the best ones can come more easily. Other times it does take a while to get things right. There’s no one way to do it. Sometimes you just rewrite and rewrite, take this word out or substitute it with something that sings better. ven after I record something, I still am rewriting it sometimes. 95% of what you write won’t see the light of day. A lot of writing gets done in my home or at friends houses but I do write on the road when I can. You’d be surprised how much inspiration can come from a crappy hotel room.
CN: You site some of the world’s best singer/songwriters as influences, including Carole King, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Waylon, Willie and Cash. Are there specific details about each that caught your attention? Songwriting style, performance, musicianship?
DW: Carole King is just a genius to me. It’s so organic and real that it hits me in the heart. Tapestry is one of the best albums ever. And the list of awesome songs is seemingly endless. Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan. I mean if Tom Petty said he’s the greatest songwriter ever, I’ll take his word for it. Neil Young — what a legend. You can’t beat him on feel. He admits he’s not the greatest musician but it doesn’t matter because it’s so uniquely him and those songs are ridiculously awesome. Waylon was just a badass and I love outlaw country stuff. He’s such a cool artist and performer that will live forever. Willie Nelson — this guy is an icon who’s done it his own way. What a life he’s lived. He has a really unique phrasing style and just doesn’t stop touring and recording. He’s an inspiration to musicians everywhere. Johnny Cash — just look at that picture where he’s giving the middle finger and that’s all you need to know.
CN: Your music mixes rock, country and blues. In your own words, what is it about those genres that make them different yet so compatible to be intertwined?
DW: They’re different in terms of the delivery of the music/lyrics. It’s the attitude and background of the musicians/vocalists that makes these genres different. Sometimes it’s just the way a record is produced that makes something sound more rock, country or bluesy. I believe truly great songs transcend genres. You could take a Waylon Jennings song and make it sound like Metallica if you want. It’s all music that more or less originated in America. In the early days it was influenced by struggle, sadness, heartache and poverty. I think a lot of the great material of rock, country and blues comes from the depths of the souls of ordinary people who have been able to emote their desperation extraordinarily. You take your influences, whatever they may be and try to make it into something of your own that represents who you are as musician.
CN: Speaking of varying genres, you have toured with groups ranging from Candlebox to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Toto to Blackberry Smoke. How did each of those experiences compare, and what did you take away from them?
DW: I haven’t toured with them but I have been lucky enough to have opened for them or played the same festivals. Mainly you just get to watch these seasoned pros perform and show you how it’s done. It’s evident how much work goes into keeping a band going for years and years. And they don’t take it lightly. They’re all killer bands of course. I have a lot of respect for Blackberry Smoke because they just go and go, never let up and gain those fans one at a time. The musical talent and songwriting levels makes you want to be better. And their tour buses are bigger.
CN: Your new EP New Waters is your fourth solo release. How does this EP differ from the others?
DW: It’s the first time I’ve really had a producer involved in the process from start to finish. Matthew Miller has really helped bring out things I may not have been able to do by myself. And we’re really trying to choose the right songs. That’s really what a great producer does… finds the right songs and brings them to life by pulling the best performance out of the artist and musicians.
CN: The first track “Doses” was released as a single – can you talk a little bit about the background of the song?
DW: It’s influenced by the pageantry of life. The ups and downs. They’re always going to be there. It’s about understanding the thought that nothing lasts forever. Things will be good, things will be bad but you gotta keep going and continue to take chances.
CN: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be and why?
DW: I can’t. I tried. Workhorse sounded too cocky. But I do try to work hard.
CN: Is there an artist that you would love to work with but haven’t had a chance to yet?
DW: There’s a ton of them. If I could play a show with Willie Nelson or Neil Young, I wouldn’t be disappointed.
CN: What’s on deck for 2018?
DW: I’m playing plenty of shows and we’re planning to put out a full length record this summer! Just going to continue to make music and write songs.
For more information Dom Wier, visit his website: www.domwier.com