When there is something you want, you can’t just sit there and expect it to fall into your lap. Amy and Brad McIsaac knew that. That’s why they bought an RV, packed up their pups and headed out on the road as Winnie Brave. Playing any and everywhere that’d have them this husband and wife could not be happier. Yes, there have been literal bumps in the road but the positives surely outweigh the negatives. Both the good and the bad though were able to inspire their latest album, Cheap Gin though. We talked about the road, the RV, the music and more as we sat down with Winnie Brave. They were nice enough to chat while out on the road right now throughout Canada.
Kendra: Over the years I’ve talked to a number of couples and every story varies between them. For you two, when you are working on a song and hit a fork in the road of where to take it – are you talking about the music as artists or does the husband-wife dynamic take over the conversation?
Winnie Brave: Great question! We try very hard to approach songwriting as an exercise that we can both benefit from. Allowing each other to fully explore ideas leads to a greater evolution of the initial thought and gives our creative brains a bit of a workout. We obviously hit roadblocks and that is when the husband-wife moments sneak in. We try to re-focus or move on to another task as to not get confrontational.
Kendra: Did music bring your two together or did you find your voices after marriage?
Winnie Brave: We learned very early in our relationship that playing music was a common interest and we began exploring that by learning a few covers and going out to play open stages. It quickly became the biggest thing in our lives and for 10 years we have been trying to figure out how to best operate what has now become our family business.
Kendra: Recently I talked to a group of sisters who used to tour around in an RV with their family, and here you two are doing the same. How did this idea come about? Did you leave so-called “real jobs” behind to hit the road?
Winnie Brave: At one point in our lives we did hold real jobs and trying to maintain a balance between work and music was a challenge – the music usually took the backseat, unfortunately. We also knew that we needed a solid plan if we were to leave the jobs and hit the road. We settled on the idea of buying and restoring an old RV because we felt it made good economic sense. We could reduce touring costs and be more comfortable by having our own bed to sleep in and a kitchen to prepare healthy meals. We spent nine months on the road in 2016 and it would not have been survivable if it weren’t for the RV. Our dogs seem to like it too.
Kendra: Playing some 150 shows a year in your Winnebago, do you two know how to take a day off away from music?
Winnie Brave: We sure do! A huge benefit to touring is the travel, the opportunity to see new things in new places. We love thrift stores, junkyards, pawn shops and old diners – spending an entire day wandering around places like this is common for us. Also, spending a night or two in RV & Trailer parks as we tour has allowed us to meet some of the most interesting people you could imagine!
In fact, the intro to the new album features part of a conversation we had with a gentleman at a park in the deep south of Alabama. The better part of a day can be lost to conversations like that and we both love nothing more than cracking some pints and getting to know folks from all over.
Kendra: You guys actually just started another run throughout Canada at the end of September. How is that going so far?
Winnie Brave: Good and bad. Our RV suffered a complete engine failure 20 miles outside of Brandon, Manitoba. It was towed to a local shop where it still sits waiting for a new engine. We had to do trek out to Vancouver Island using our ’89 Chevy Astro Van (with a makeshift bed in the back) and let us tell you – van life is so much tougher than RV life! That issue aside, the shows have been great, the new songs are getting a great response and we are growing our fan base with every stop.
Kendra: Fans heading out will be hearing songs from your latest, Cheap Gin like your current single “Moonshine.” With all the alcoholic elements, do you often have audience members trying to buy you a drink? If so, let them know your drink of choice!
Winnie Brave: Ha! We love to play breweries and wineries for that very reason! From time to time a drink or two gets sent our way from a supportive audience member. If you’re coming to a show and want to donate a tasty beverage you can’t go wrong with a nice dark beer or a splash whiskey on the rocks.
Kendra: More about the album though. When you sat down to write it, was it the road that inspired it the most?
Winnie Brave: The road was definitely a huge inspiration but it wasn’t evident at the beginning. When we listen back to the album we can trace the sound and feel of each song to a place that struck a chord with us.
For example, it was our first time visiting southern New Mexico, and we were blown away by the beauty of it. We played a few shows and roamed around the expansive desert for a few days. That experience informed what our song New Mexico would become. The song is underpinned by a fluid and seamless sound reminiscent of the wide-open spaces of the desert. It is both dark and looming while at the same time being welcoming and warm.
There are also elements of old-time bluegrass and gospel on other songs that were steeped from our time Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.
Kendra: You wrap this current run up around the start of the holidays in November. Will you take what seems like a much-needed break and start anew in 2018 with more of that Winnebago life?
Winnie Brave: No time to rest! We have recently moved to rural Alberta and we have lots of work to find local gigs and to get acquainted with the local scene. The RV and its fresh new engine will be put to work early in 2018 when we start four months of touring in January throughout the US.
Kendra: Lastly, here at ZO, we’re all about the creatives in all forms. With that, if you had to compare Cheap Gin to a piece of art which would it be and why?
Winnie Brave: We consider vintage RV’s to be works of art. Their creative and unique designs capture our imagination and their many moving parts all contribute to a common goal. Our album also has many unique and moving parts but when it’s bolted all together and fired up. It goes down the road as one unified and finely tuned work of mechanical art.