Dylan Weightman, a talented Chilliwack drummer, who’s played at Carnegie Hall, several stadiums across Canada, and had a number-one single on iTunes with his former band, has just released his own EP — and there isn’t a single drumbeat on it.
His three-song Word of Mouth EP was released on July 22 and features acoustic guitar, bass, ukulele, accordion and his own voice.
The fascinating thing is, over the past year, not only was he quietly writing and recording his EP, but before that he was teaching himself how to sing, plus play four new instruments: guitar, bass, piano, and ukulele.
The 29-year-old has been playing drums for 20 years. He’s performed with several bands including: Pardon My Striptease, Andrew Christopher, Kieran Mercer band, Danielle Marie band, and Plans and Disguises.
The sudden step to become a singer-songwriter came after Weightman arrived home from a cross-Canada tour playing in the Kieran Mercer band, which was one of two opening bands for pop rock/punk band Marianas Trench during its Never Say Die Tour last year.
After coming off such a big high touring with Marianas Trench, he wanted to be more creative, write songs, and have more control over the music he was playing. He had never picked up a guitar in his life, but decided to do so, asking for some advice here and there from other musicians he’s played with.
“I learned how simple a lot of my favourite songs were on guitar. It was kind of empowering,” he says. “It was such a mystery for me for two decades on how people wrote songs. All these years I spent worshiping songwriters and guitar players, and then you learn there’s only a few main shapes and you can play everything.”
He knew one song, and from the chords in that song, started recording himself playing guitar. Then came the singing.
He had never (successfully) sung before. He used to sing some harmony parts while performing with Andrew Christopher, but realized he wasn’t that great at it.
“I got really scared and self conscious to even do it,” says Weightman. “As I was starting to learn guitar and sing a bit more, I was really scared that it was never good enough to show anybody.”
“I played with [Kieran Mercer] on these big stages, I played all these big festivals with Danielle [Marie], and then I played a million shows with Andrew. These are all incredible singers and so I knew what amazing singing sounded like and I knew where I was at.”
So he kept his singing to himself. At the same time, he would listen to Bob Dylan and Neil Young and came to realize that “these guys wrote really good songs, and they’re not amazing vocalists. That was my inspiration, and it kept me going.”
A high school friend of his, Chilliwack opera singer Rebecca Paulding, would give him some very basic vocal exercises to practise. He would send her audio clips, and she would give him feedback.
“The singing took a lot of focus,” he says.
Weightman also bought a keyboard to help improve his singing. He took what he learned from a few months of piano lessons years ago, and applied them to his singing.
“That’s how I learned how to sing parts. I knew enough piano to know keys and chords, so I knew what key my song was in and I could find my vocal melodies and then figure out what’s wrong. It was quite a process,” he says.
He spent the entire 2016/2017 winter squirreled away in the studio of his parents’ basement — just singing.
He had recorded his guitar chords, and would play them over and over again as he sang.
As he was working on his EP, Weightman says it was pretty easy to keep it hush-hush and not spread the word on social media, since he felt his newly learned instrument sounds weren’t too spectacular.
“I just didn’t think any of it was that good to show some of my [music] friends who are all so good.”
But, he kept at it. He treated the EP like a full-time job — working on it during his spare hours throughout the day, before heading off to evening gigs. After many, many months, Weightman recorded the demos of his three songs: Just What I Needed, Goodbye Farewell, and Leaving on a Jet.
One of the only people to whom he showed his songs was Alan Poettcker from Chilliwack band These Kids Wear Crowns. For some reason Weightman felt comfortable showing Poettcker, someone he had never worked with before, what he was recording.
“I showed him and he said ‘go record those, those are great.’ He was really encouraging and that’s probably one of the only reasons I pulled the trigger and did it.”
Weightman contacted Sheldon Zaharko in Vancouver, who did the recording and co-producing for Word of Mouth. Others who were a big part in recording the album were guitarist Kyler Pierce (who can be heard on Just What I Needed and Goodbye Farewell), and James Stobbe who plays accordion on Just What I Needed. Stobbe, a childhood friend, also helped Weightman figure out what harmonies and notes would work well for the songs.
As far as the other two instruments he learned to play? Weightman learned bass guitar on the day of recording, and the ukulele was literally something he picked up several times at a friend’s house while relaxing in his hot tub.
Word of Mouth is a simple, drum-free, easy-to-listen-to EP, about personal experiences and frustrations. And that’s exactly how Weightman wants it.
“I was truly just making what I’d want to hear,” he says. “I didn’t want drums in it because I thought it would be so cool if I come out of nowhere, post this [on Facebook], and people are going to picture the first song with this dragging drumbeat. Then they click [to listen] and it’s just acoustic guitar and singing and claps and shakers — I thought it would sort of blindside people.”
And it did. The reaction on social media has been outstanding.
“The fact that people seem to sincerely like it around here, gives me a lot of confidence to move forward and play it for other people.”
Why the title “Word of Mouth?”
“Because I knew that’s the only way it would get out there. I thought if I called it Word of Mouth it would be easy to encourage people to show their friends and to share it. It’s worked really well so far.”
“With all that being said, I definitely consider myself a drummer first and foremost. That’s my principle instrument for sure,” says Weightman.
You’ll find him under singer/songwriter on iTunes, but he classifies his music as pop/folk.
Word of Mouth retails for $3.87 on iTunes (or $1.29 per song). It’s also available on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and other online locations.