Husband and wife duo Winnie Brave dropped their lives to tour in a Winnebago and create music
We all have a yearning to pitch away our lives and reinvent ourselves, but only a few of us actually go through with it. Such is the case with Winnie Brave, a husband and wife Americana country duo who left their home and jobs in Beaverton, Ontario in 2012 and hit the road with nothing but their dog, Winnie, and instruments.
“We had a conversation that we wanted to do something different because life was not what we had envisioned,” says guitarist and singer Amy McIsaac. “We put up the house for sale, it sold and we left to drive through the United States. We settled in the deep south of Texas for winter and figured out we wanted to do music and we came back to Ontario.”
After a small stint owning a guitar shop, the McIsaac’s wanted more. They wanted freedom.
“We had this realization that we wanted to go back on the road,” Amy says. “We found a 1976 Winnebago and started putting the plan in motion to hit the road. We were on the road for about nine months and did about 20,000 miles. We went down the eastern seaboard to Texas, to California, and then B.C.”
Now the duo has found a place to live in Holden, Alberta with two full-length albums under their belts. The latest, Cheap Gin, released in early October. And yes, they still tour in the Winnebago.
“She’s interesting and it gets us from place to place while we try to take influence from the places we’re visiting on tour,” says bassist, keyboardist, and drummer Brad. “I think we’re getting more comfortable being on the road. The first time around I think it was more like children in an amusement park and now we have a different intention to write songs and make records.”
Winnie Brave’s sound has the power to immediately transport you to different landscapes and regions. At one point you will be on the southern roads of Alabama, and a few songs later you will find yourself in the dry, scorching deserts of New Mexico.
“The songs’ tones and landscapes are a sonic picture of all the places we’ve been,” Amy says.
This is very noticeable on Cheap Gin’s starting track and single “Moonshine,” which begins with a recorded conversation between Brad and an Alabama RV park.
“Every time I would be doing maintenance or upkeep on the Winnebago, this fella, the guy in the recording would come out of nowhere every time,” Brad says. “He just had a nose for work being done and he would tell stories while you did it. That accent, the cadence, and linguistics are almost mesmerizing to listen to.”
“I recorded the conversation after our dog Winnie went to go see what they were talking about,” Amy adds.
The conversation is a strange, but almost perfect opening to the album. It only lasts 16 seconds, but it immediately encompasses the deep southern ‘50s vibe Winnie Brave is going for.
“It became a representation of our whole experience meeting all these interesting people summarized in one sentence,” Brad says. “It was just a ‘Hey, how you doing?’ first-time conversation, but we wanted to memorialize it to some extent on the record.”
Winnie Brave has become the “family business,” for the McIsaac’s and it’s something they wouldn’t trade for the world.
“We’ve played together for as long as we’ve been together—so about 12 years,” Amy says. “There’s no division between the two.”
“There’s never been a time when there was one without the other,” Brad says. “This is what our life is.”
Fri., Dec. 8 (7:30 pm)
The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse, $5