Whiskey Epiphany Talks: Songwriting Process, a Memorable Gig and Meals on the Road

In this 2011 photo

Whiskey Epiphany in this 2011 photo

CTP: Give me a glimpse into the early years, how did the band start?

Mike: The band got its start in a bit of a slow moving way. I had written about 10 songs over the year 2010-2011 and started gathering each member slowly after that. Dave Toms (on the Cajon) came on board first, then Kris Tonkens soon after to harmonize on most of the tracks. Kris has since moved to Australia with her husband and the female vocals are being taken care of by my sister Lianne Gravitis. Never stopping the momentum of writing, the other members – David MacLean, and Jack MacLean (father and son) – joined later on Mandolin/fiddle and bass. Lots of family going on in the band! The rest is history as they say.

CTP: Tell me the story of how you decided on the band name?

Mike: The name came about when Kris and I were recording the band’s first three song demo (which had It Will Shine for One, Let Your Love, and Something About Whiskey on it). For inspiration sake, I pulled out a bottle of whiskey during the recording of Something About Whiskey, and the next morning Kris declared the band name – Whiskey Epiphany!

CTP: Any place you haven’t toured yet that you want to get to?

Lianne: An East and West coast tour for sure is a future goal and something I personally have always wanted to do. I love the idea of playing at all the small Canadian towns and getting to drive across our beautiful country. It’s such an adventure!! We’ve played a lot between Hamilton and Toronto and are looking to break into the Guelph/Kitchener, and Ottawa/Kingston areas as we keep getting told the music fits really well in the college/university scene. We have active radio play on Mohawk College’s Indi 101.5 which has been a great relationship thus far.

CTP: Is there any tour stories you can share?

Lianne: Well last year we had an interesting experience at North By Northeast (NXNE) at Rancho Relaxo in Toronto. The day before the gig Mike got food poisoning… really bad. The next day feeling no better, we were at the gig where we were having the entire gig filmed for a hopeful video release. Mike turned to me a second before the first song and said “if I look at you funny…I may puke…so cover for me”. I look over at him with panic and said “I don’t know all your words!! DON’T DO THIS TO ME!” lol. Despite some serious close calls we made it through without incident. And Mike doesn’t look THAT sick in the video…maybe just a bit sweaty from trying to hold everything inside his tortured body haha.

CTP: Favourite meal on the road?

Mike: Meat. Or cheese. Or meat and cheese. And bacon. Dave Toms: Something green and leafy that has no heartbeat. Lianne: Any sort of car snack – both sweet and salty so I don’t puke in the car and or kill anyone with my low blood sugar rage. And burgers. Dave MacLean: Breakfast Food! Greek or western omelettes. Jack MacLean: Breakfast sandwiches


CTP: Any stories you are willing to share behind tattoos you have? (If any)

Mike: I have a tattoo of a Celtic cross on my right arm because I was trying to cover up a mistake I made when I was 18. I thought the design was cool in that teenage brain of mine. A native Shaman told me it would be a good idea to cover it up so I did. True story. Dave Toms has a sweet Starfleet emblem over his heart because he’s the man.

Lianne wants a hummingbird eventually!


CTP: Who are your musical influences?

Whiskey Epiphany: Our musical influences are so widespread! We all have such diverse tastes in music. Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Flogging Molly, The Mahones, Glen Hansard, Griffin House, soul music, Mumford and Sons, Mars Volta, System of a Down, and hundreds more. All these artists provide an emotional impact which is a major plus for us and helps the creative juices flow!


CTP: Are there plans to record another album?

Lianne: Our debut album called, Old Story was released in October of 2012, which was recorded with producer Charlie Jacklin at Kerr Village Productions in Oakville, Ontario. We are about 70% done writing all the tunes for the next album to hopefully record by the end of this year. (Editors note: Their softmore album is still pending release at the time of publication).


CTP: Tell me a story behind a song you have written?

Mike:Be My Rock was written over 3 days. I was at work at 9 a.m. and just started singing to a melody that hadn’t existed prior. I came up with the first verse and chorus to only the music in my head. I scribbled the words down after a solid half an hour of pacing around the warehouse I work at and left them alone for the rest of the day. I had the next day off and paced around my apartment with my guitar while singing the lyrics I had written. It took almost an entire morning of walking in circles to finally nail the main part of the song. By the end of the next day, and after belting out more than I could handle, it was finally done! We are just finishing up the studio version of that tune now to release as a single later this month.


CTP: What is your favourite song to play live?

Mike: Anything new. I have a bad habit of getting bored quickly, which I think is why I keep writing. For some time now, it seems like every jam we have I keep bringing at least one new original song to work on. I love seeing the evolution of the tunes, because no matter how many times you play them in a basement or alone, once you put the song out there live, it will shift and change based on how it goes live. However, with that said Be My Rock is a favourite for me right now to play live. It’s a really powerful song, with a hidden surprise halfway through so it’s always fun to play.

Lianne: My favourite song to play live is In My World because it is high energy and is the only song I sing full lead on (*laughs*). Just kidding – It really is just a fun song to sing and the lyrics are awesome! My pup recently passed away so the lyrics are especially meaningful to me at the moment and I really feel the song more than ever now.


CTP: Tell me about your song writing process? Is it collaborative or is one member primarily responsible?

Mike: Up until now, I have written all of the music/lyrics and brought them to the band to build upon. With that, things change and evolve. Endings come sooner or later, new riffs or even chord progressions are generated, and harmonies are produced. I suppose you can say it is a bit of a collaborative effort to get the song to where it ends up being.


CTP: What’s up next for the band?

Mike: Expand, expand, expand. With more material getting written all the time, and more and more people getting on board with the band, it’s awesome to see how everything is growing. It’s been a real grassroots effort so far, and I much prefer it that way. We’d like to keep playing more cities, meet new people and bands, and keep the momentum rolling! It’s been a great ride so far and we are looking forward to what the future holds for us!


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