After a drug-fueled run as lead singer of the rock band Junkhouse, Tom Wilson is at ease.
The Canadian roots-rock musician is content — comfy enough, anyway, to take a leak while speaking to a reporter.
On the set of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Wilson wandered into the bathroom while waiting for his partner, Cathy Jones, to finish taping 2007’s final show of the venerable satire.
“I’m just hanging out — just having a pee right now, waiting for the Christmas dinner to come out,” he said with the tinkling evidence of his bathroom break in the background.
A laid-back guy, indeed.
“I’m having a good time,” said Wilson in an interview with the News.
“Playing with Blackie and Rodeo Kings, I rediscovered my love of music. There’s a playfulness that goes on this end of my career. I make a lot of money, I have a lot fun — what more could I ask for?”
Wilson is playing the Yukon Arts Centre Thursday with his partner of four years, comedian Cathy Jones, long-time player with This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
A fundraiser for the Nakai Theatre, the performance is a variety show, with Wilson and Jones alternating music and comedy.
Jones takes characters from TV and one-woman shows. Wilson plays music from Junkhouse, root-rocks group Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and his own material, including songs he wrote for Colin James, Mavis Staples and Billy Ray Cyrus.
“We’re together so it’s pretty easy to walk on stage and do this,” said Wilson.
“It’s a lot of fun. “It’s not too hard — I do music and she does comedy. It’s that simple.”
Simple, perhaps, because they’ve been honing their respective crafts for years.
Wilson has played music professionally for 30 years.
In the ‘90s, he had a string of hits with Junkhouse, putting his baritone voice on radios across Canada. The band collapsed, leaving the Hamilton native to work on solo material, culminating with his albums Planet Love and Dog Years, while writing songs for a variety of musicians.
The three-time Juno award winner also hooked up with Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing in 1996 to form Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, initially a tribute band to Canada country legend Willie P. Bennet.
Jones founded the award winning comedy troupe CODCO and has spent 15 years entertaining Canadians on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
With Wilson currently touring with the Rodeo Kings in the US and Jones filming This Hour, co-ordinating schedules can be difficult.
They tour when they find time.
The couple doesn’t do regular shows — “whenever we feel like it,” said Wilson — and by the end of 2007 they will have played six shows across the country.
Touring together is a natural thing, said Wilson.
“It’s a chance for us to spend more time together and work together,” he said.
“We don’t have a lot of time sitting around.”
Jones co-wrote a song for his album Dog Years. They’ve been together for four years since meeting backstage at a Rodeo Kings gig in Ottawa where Jones was performing a one-woman show.
It wasn’t the usual backstage celebrity meet and greet.
“Naw, we just wanted to fuck,” said Wilson.
“That’s pretty much it.”
While this is a variety show, don’t expect sequin dresses and smaltzy duets, like Sonny and Cher.
“Oh, God no,” said Wilson.
“We only do one song together. It moves really fast. Cathy does 20 minutes of standup and the second part she does some characters.
“We make it up as we go along. That’s how we run our lives and that’s how we do the show. We’ve both been doing this a long time, individually. It’s a pleasure to work with somebody you’re with.”
Wilson is no stranger to comedy.
His performances are peppered with true stories, some of which have crowds laughing as if they were at Yuk Yuks.
“I pull some of that comedy shit out too,” he said.
“Comedy is really tough. I can get away with it because I got a wealth of songs to fall back on. I don’t have to be concerned with holding down the fort for a half hour. Comedians have to be totally insane.”
Performing in front of audience, in any genre or medium, is tough, he added.
“You see more and more artists who haven’t spent a lot of time playing live,” said Wilson.
“It’s not a lost art, but it’s not out there like it used to be. You find artists who are more self-indulgent or don’t communicate with the audience. That wealth of experience can be a beautiful thing.”
Thirty years in the music business will give anyone a unique perspective on the industry, and Wilson has seen its good and bad side.
At one point, after some success with his music, Wilson found himself in an untenable path towards “self destruction” where he’d rather pay his dealer than his taxes.
“You can drive a career into the ditch way easier than you can sustain it,” said Wilson.
“You gotta find your own way in this business. I can only talk about my own experience. The cure for addiction is always the same, which is stop. It’s pretty fucking easy.”
Now he can look back with an objective eye.
“Fame is just an illusion,” he said.
“Notoriety is just an illusion. I had my seven minutes of fame in the ‘90s with Junkhouse — we had hits all over the world — and we were served up, you know, like royalty.
“Those things go away. Your love of the craft is what remains.”
But young artists may not be looking for the authentic experience, spending time in small clubs and making a fool of yourself on stage.
“Sometimes the world gives great gifts,” he said.
“Just because you get money or fame, a lot of people aren’t really looking to work their craft or be an artist — they’re looking to walk the red carpet. It’s not a very interesting thing to strive for.”
Tom Wilson and Cathy Jones play the Yukon Arts Centre at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
Nakai fundraiser tickets can be purchased at Arts Underground or the Arts Centre for $40 or $35 (children and seniors).