INTERVIEW: Walker’s Cay – an original rock band based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Walker’s Cay is an original rock band based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Members include Gary LaBarr, (Vocalist/Rhythm Guitar/Keyboards), Mike Swain, (Lead and Rhythm Guitars), Tim Morrissey (bass) and David, “Dave” Pistilli, (Drums). Gary LaBarr has gold and platinum record status for his work in various original band projects, working as a musician, producer, and arranger. Mike Swain is considered to be the “technical wizard” for the band, due to his 30-plus years as a licensed control technician at a nuclear power plant. Mike is also a professional recording engineer, specializing in the Pro-Tools recording platform. Tim Morrissey comes to Walker’s Cay with quite the resume as a professional bass player and recording artist.  He is a “gear geek” in regards to his intense interest in achieving that “perfect” bass sound.  Tim loves the older analog components of sound, stating that “anything with tubes, is ALWAYS a good thing!”

Lastly, David “Dave” Pistilli lays down the tasty “back-beat” that Walker’s Cay is known for.  With a rock/jazz style type of percussive education, Dave is the epitome of musical class, knowing “what NOT to play” in Walker’s Cay music! Walker’s Cay gets its name from an “out island” in the Bahamas.  It was visited by Gary LaBarr, (a private pilot), and some friends back in the late 1990’s.  Not only did this beautiful island stand out in Gary’s mind throughout his life, but the name of “Walker’s Cay” did as well. The music that this band writes, records and performs, is reminiscent of such classic bands as Styx, Journey, Def Leppard, Toto, and Heart, just to name a few. New single, “Tell Me” reached #1 on the iTunes AND Google Play charts in South Africa!

  1. How long have you been performing and recording as Walker’s Cay, and how did the project come together?

Walker’s Cay (Gary LaBarr): We have been together as a performing and recording artist now for approximately 2 years.  The band project as a whole was the “brain child” of lead vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Gary LaBarr.  Gary knew David Pistilli, (the drummer), and met Mike Swain, (the lead guitar player), on a radio show that was on a radio station that Gary owns. Tim Morrissey, (the bass player), rounded out the project when he contacted the band via an advertisement that Walker’s Cay was looking for a bass player.

  1. For our readers who haven’t heard of you yet, can you tell us anything about the band you’d want us to know? Who have been your major influences in your writing style?

Walker’s Cay:  Our music is very much reminiscent of the “hair bands” and alternative bands of the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2,000’s.  Some of our major influences have been, (and continue to be)…Styx, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, Queen, and Heart just to name a few.  

  1. If I was to turn on your media player right now, which artists/songs would I be most likely to hear on your recently played list?

Walker’s CayMost of the bands as listed above, with a few blues and progressive bands all thrown in!   

  1. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?

Walker’s Cay:  The lyrics would be a definite asset to the music and listening experience.  Also, the mixture of acoustic and electric guitar sounds for most of the songs brings a “clean/dirty” aspect to the overall sound.  We also like melodies that are pleasing to the ear, and GREAT powerful chorus hooks!  

  1. With the music industry always changing and evolving, what are the things you like and don’t like about it currently? And if you could change anything about it, what would it be?

Walker’s CayIn a lot of todays so called “modern music,” technology is used as a “crutch” to compose a lot of songs.  A lot of musician’s today use a lot of “pre-recorded” samples to “write” their music…And in essence, it is NOT really writing…It is composing, since the melodies, sounds, and parts have already been “written” and recorded by other musicians.  Then the “producer” of the song just puts these parts together, and wa-la…A song!  Personally, I would like “musicians” to again be “musicians”, by playing their actual instruments, and not relying on other people to write the parts for them.    

  1. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?

Walker’s CayMusician’s, bands, and artists have always used their particular craft to make a point to the people of the world.  Sometimes political, sometimes educational, etc.  We try not to be political per se, as that can alienate a lot of your fans and people who may otherwise support us.  I have to admit though, once in a while, “a lyric line” may have “slipped out” in my particular writing regarding being political, but I try NOT to do that…In Walker’s Cay, we try to write and record songs that are truly in the realm of reality, and not necessarily political in nature.  Good songs that people can relate to!

  1. Do you ever write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you simply write focused on your own personal vision?

Walker’s Cay:  I think a little bit of all of the above.  But mostly, what we feel a song should be…A “composition” that tells a story, be it happy, sad, or somewhere in between.  It all starts with an idea, or a “segment in life” that one, (or all of us) may have dealt with at some time in our lives…

  1. Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Is it a democratic process between the members, and who does what?

Walker’s CaySince I am the primary song writer in the band, I usually just bring a completed song to the rest of the Gents, and then they listen to it a few times.  After that, if they have any ideas to improve it, or change a little bit of something here and there, we would try that idea to see where it goes.  Most of the time, the song pretty much stays the same, but when there is a change, we would usually all agree to that.

  1. Where do you do most of your recording and production work?

Walker’s CayWe do most, (if not all) of our recording and video production, (pre/post) at Mike Swain’s home.  He has an amazing Pro-Tools HD studio with all kinds (and types) of audio and video equipment.  From vintage to modern, Mike is a music store in his own right!

  1. What would you consider a successful, proud or significant point for Walker’s Cay so far?

Walker’s CayI would honestly have to say the two newest songs that we have recently released this far…”Tell Me,” and “Why Oh Why”.

  1. If someone has never heard your music, which 5 keywords would you personally use to describe what your music?

Walker’s CayHappy, Sad, Funny, Crunchy, and Kickass!

  1. What are currently some of the most important tools and/or instruments you’re using in creating your sound?

Walker’s Cay: Well I am a nut for vintage equipment, and anything analog from the past.  The cheaper, (and the less complicated) the gear, the better it is for me to use. I use an amp that is 40 years old, and a chorus pedal that is at least 35 years old. My main acoustic guitar right now is a $200.00 model with a million dollar sound!  

  1. Which aspects of being an independent artist excites you most and which aspects discourages you most?

Walker’s Way: The biggest aspect of being an independent artist is of course the freedom of flexibility, creativity, and basically doing what you want to in regards to the “business of music.” However, that is not always the best way to go in regards for promotion, (or financial gain) for your craft. With major label support, most, (if not all) of the “worriment” of succeeding is taken away from you to some extent, in regards to monetary gain, tour support, and worldwide promotion.  Sure, sometimes you have to “give in” quite a bit to a major label to be successful and financially secure, but that is a price to pay since the label usually takes all of the financial risk to develop an artist and get them to “super star status.”

  1. Is there a particular recorded song in your catalog in which you feel the band delivered its most perfect performance, on all levels? And is there maybe one song that you keep thinking you should have done differently in some way?

Walker’s CayI really feel that our two new releases, “Tell Me,” and “Why Oh Why” are really a fantastic accomplishment by the band.  Both songs tell a story that most, (if not all) people can relate to. As far as doing anything different on those compositions or the recording process, I think that most artists always listen to the final product of their work, and say, “Gee, I could have done this, or I should have done that…”  We ARE our own worst enemy as producers!  There has to be a time to just say STOP!  Enough is enough! 

  1. Could you tell us something about your latest project and what fans can expect to hear?

Walker’s Cay: First, we truly hope that most folks will like the songs. Secondly, we also hope that they will appreciate the content of the lyrics, (and can hopefully relate to them). People in general should hear something about reality, love, dishonesty, caring, coping, questioning, and then just maybe giving a hoot about people and things going in the world.    

  1. Do you have a personal favorite track amongst your compositions that has a specific backstory and/or message and meaning very special to you?

Walker’s Cay: Again, I would have to personally say that I really love our two new songs that have been released, “Tell Me,” and “Why Oh Why.”  No special meaning per se…Just a sense of reality in the world!

  1. Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two do you ultimately prefer and why?

Walker’s Cay: Again, (for me personally), I like both experiences. In the studio after I lay down my guitar, keyboard, and perhaps some drum or percussion tracks, I really look forward to doing the lead vocals. And when we are in the dubbing process of doing harmonies, etc., that is what I love the most. I love experimenting with different vocal lines and harmonies to compliment the main vocal tracks.  Performing live is a thrill all in itself. There is nothing like being in front of a live audience, (with NO technical problems or health issues), especially if there are people in the audience that you know! 

  1. What’s your favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?

Walker’s CaySimple…ONE behavior!  Don’t be a hypocrite!  Man, I hate that.

  1. How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you would suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?

Walker’s Cay:  Ever since the days of MTV, videos have in fact been an integral part of the music industry. Video tells the entire story of the song, good, bad, or indifferent.  I think that a video for any song not only provides the listener of that song a fantastic review of the story line behind it, but lets the viewer of the video actually see what the artist wanted the music to “paint” in reference to the song.  (Now a visual artist if you will). Not just an “audio artist!”

  1. What is the best piece of advice regarding the music business that you actually followed so far, and what is the advice you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?

Walker’s Cay: I have actually been very blessed to work with some very well known, prominent and outstanding professional people in this business. Not just “wannabe’s” who think they know what is right, and have an opinion, but honest to goodness folks who have made their mark in the entertainment industry. My only regret in life regarding “this business of music,” is that I did not pursue it early enough. I knew in high school I had a gift, (at least a gift to myself) for music. I should have listened to myself and tried my hand at this craft way back then. But I have no ill thoughts about the past. There is always another song in me!



Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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