In December, one of Canada’s most popular and celebrated recording artists, Michelle Wright, will embark on her 2019 Christmas Tour. The tour begins December 3 in Brantford, ON with shows set across Ontario and Alberta through December 15.
The Michelle Wright Christmas Tour is a holiday tradition for music lovers of all ages. From carols to your favorite holiday classics, the renowned show has been putting audiences across Canada in the festive spirit of the holiday season for over a decade.
She performs at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in Brantford on Dec. 3 and then the Wingham Town Hall Heritage Theatre on Dec. 4, before heading out of the 519 area.
We spoke with Michelle about her heritage, legacy and Christmas.
We love to talk to people about their stories, about where they grew up, and we know you’re from the 519 area and originally from Merlin, Ontario. How did you discover country music in Merlin?
Well, my parents were both country music singers and performers on a local level. And so that’s really where it started with my mom and dad, and I used to watch them get dressed up and go off to play their country shows be it a wedding, or a dance, or a Legion hall or something like that. So that’s where it all started.
You’re in Nashville now and the country music part is obvious, but what are some other aspects of Nashville that appeals to you?
Well, there’s no doubt that being the Mecca of country music is the biggest draw that anybody who’s a country artist dreams of being able to come here and be a part of this country music community here. I will just tell you the weather’s wonderful. You get the four seasons. The summers are pretty tough to handle sometimes, but fortunately I’m often out on the road somewhere doing a show so I don’t have to deal with all of it, although I do still have to deal with that brutal heat. But I do enjoy the weather here and the fact that you get the four seasons. And I don’t know, I mean I love that there’s lots of things I could talk about. I mean this town is just exploding, and there’s so much life and activity and you can go downtown for restaurants and shopping, and it’s quite a city.
Do you get to return to Ontario for non-concert visits very often?
Yeah. I actually just got home here a couple of days ago. I was up to visiting the family, so I get there as much as I can, you know. It’s sort of like being on the road and then leaving to go on the road to go visit again. So I try to. My family was down here in August and then I went up to see them. And so we try to break up the, who’s going to be where for visiting so that I can be at home as well. But I do make an effort absolutely to get up to my home and area and visit.
You said you do a lot of touring. So after 38 years of music and touring, has the road changed you in any way?
Of course I’m a different woman today than I was when I started, much wiser of course. And the years, if you use them well, will teach you a lot, and hopefully create a well rounded life, but who I am as a human being or that girl. I think I’m still the same person in a lot of ways. I don’t know. It shouldn’t change you that much. I mean it should certainly make you wiser and make you all the good things. But people often say to me, “You’re still the same girl we went to school with,” because I just am.
You’ve had some great people behind you for much of the 38 years there. Sadly, Brian passed away last year. So has your career changed at all without Brian around?
Yeah. Boy that was a tough one. You know his wife who sort of did the business side of things, the accounting and so on and so forth. She passed away in 2014 from ALS after 11 years of battling that horrible disease. And then a couple of years down the road, Brian is dealing with Lewy body dementia, which is just any type of situation like that is not good. And that watching him, you know, I took over power of attorney and just took care of him until the end. It was just terrible. So, the good news for me is that I’ve been very, very lucky that I have a new manager. His name is Chuck Thompson, and Chuck and I have actually been working together for about four years now.
Brian had gone into retirement previous to learning that he had Lewy body dementia. And so I’d already started rebuilding my career again with my new management team. And I’m so very, very fortunate to have run into them. I mean I hear artists say this all the time, it’s so hard to find good management, I’m very, very fortunate to have to have Chuck Thompson as my manager now. I don’t know if I’m being redundant because I’ve been doing a bit of interviews, but Chuck used to manage, was a part of the management team for the Judds and then for Wynonna and David Allan Coe and worked at RCA. He has layers of experience in this business, not unlike what Brian had. And so we really we go about this business. We sort of had a similar point of view, as did Brian and I. And so, I mean I’m in good hands and so certainly losing Brian and him retiring and all of that stuff affected things maybe a little bit, but ultimately I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to sort of just move forward rather smoothly.
Now another person great behind you is Marco, your husband. What is that, 17 years now, that you’ve been married?
I would not have survived in this business without him because he, when there’s lean mean years, he’s there for me and just emotionally and financially and spiritually. Really he is, I mean he just left for the road himself this morning. So I always miss him a little bit. It takes a day or two to adjust when one of us is leaving for the road. He’s a wonderful soul. He’s my love. He’s my friend. He’s my partner. He really is, I did good. He did good too. We did it. We did good. We were very lucky again to have found each other.
A few months back you were part of the CCMA legends concerts. Was there a point when you started to notice that your career went from Michelle Wright, the performer to Michelle Wright, the country legend?
Well, that’s always a little awkward or a little like wow, or a little like initially that was a bit strange for me. But I embrace it now and consider it quite an honor to have that the fans and that this business and have kept me around long enough and supported me all these years that they view me that way now, you know? And so I really, I would say, I’m going to say that it might’ve been about two years ago when I finally just went, you know, that’s where it is now. And that’s what it is now. And that’s a beautiful thing. And so I embrace that now and feel honored to be that.
Back in the day, there probably was like a huge push for you for new music, more albums, lots of touring, but now it seems a bit more relaxed for you. And it seems like you’re doing it your way.
Well, there’s no doubt that it was pretty relentless for a lot of years, and that’s kind of how it needs to be done. And you know what? I mean the bottom line is that there comes a point when demand is less. And just even, I have no desire to be out on the road like I used to be. There’s no doubt that things will slow down. The demand will slow down. The pressure to be cranking out music slows down, and that’s necessary and good and positive because now I have a nice balance in my life, and I like it.
You released a couple new songs last year, the first in five years. Was there something that inspired you for making Love in This Day and Attitude Is Everything?
Well, it was definitely time. And you know, Bob Funk is my producer now. His name is Bob Funk. F-U-N-K, that’s correct. I love that name. And so he’s a friend of mine, and I was looking for a producer and he’s a great producer, but he’s like one of my dear friends and he’s also the husband of my best friend. And so I didn’t really want us to go to work together because you don’t want to mix those two things and risk our friendship. And he kind of looked at me and went, “Are you kidding me?” And I was like, “Yeah, because what happens if this and that, and he was like, “I think it’s time for you and I to get in the studio together.” He’s been asking me for about 10 years. And so I felt like I had the person I wanted to go into the studio with.
And then I had Love in This Day is this song that I’ve had for 15 years, and I’ve wanted to record it. And I just knew that he was the right person to do it with. I was writing and people pitch you songs. You know when you’re getting into the studio to record, people will pitch you their tunes. And a good, a dear, a longtime friend came to the table with Attitude is Everything. And he actually wrote Love in This Day as well, coincidentally. And I just said, “Oh, I love that. I love both those songs. So let’s go on in.” And I think that’s probably, I mean I just read an article with Sheryl Crow as well, and she was just saying the need to record full albums is just not the way people listen to music anymore.
The song Love in This Day, it feels like there’s a bit of a gospel feel to it. Is that a new side of you?
Do you know what? I’ve always had a tinge of spirituality in my music, a faith. It’s always been there, and I always, I feel I’m moved by music like that. So, it’s always been a part of my music, and it’s always been a part of my life just sitting quietly and in prayer. And so it’s a part of my life. It’s a part of who I am and always been a part of my music and certainly Love in This Day is definitely all wrapped up in just faith. I’m not really any type of denomination or any type of anything in particular, but I know for me that I feel the spirit, so to speak.
So this is a perfect segue into talking about your upcoming shows, a Wright Christmas show that you’ll be hitting in Ontario in December.
I hesitated to do a Christmas show. I actually haven’t done it for eight years, which is unbelievable to me that during all that time with Brian and Sue and so on and so forth, things slowed down a little bit. I needed to shift my focus a bit and be there for them and their long story. But we stopped doing the Christmas tour because it’s such an undertaking, but I had done it for eight years as well. And I also thought if anything we’ll give a break on, it’ll be that for now. But I have to tell you. So I hesitated to do the Christmas tour, so I thought, well that’s pretty laid back, lolly, lolly, lolly all night long. And I’m not sure if my hyperactive self can handle that.
And it’s just one of the greatest things I’ve ever done, and I can’t wait to roll it back out on stage this year after all this break.