An interview with Sarah Blackwood of Walk Off The Earth

Call me a fan boy, but I love this band!

Walk Off The Earth gained 127 million viewers in four months for their creative YouTube cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” which, combined with a score of other wildly imaginative and adventurous DIY vids, earned them a record contract with Columbia and a three-continent world tour.

This summer I caught up with vocalist/guitarist/ukukelist/percussionist Sarah Blackwood to ask about the band’s rapid ascent. The following is an edited version of the interview.

Me: What do you think attracted Columbia Records to you? Was there ONE THING that most impressed them?

SB: We didn't worry about what we did that impressed them. It was completely the other way around. They had to impress us! We knew we had a great future ahead no matter what—with or without them.

Me: In my opinion WOTE is one of the most creative bands to come along in years, especially in the video medium. What do you attribute your creativity to?

SB: People are afraid of failing and terrified of the unknown. So they stick with what is safe. We don't live like that. We don't wait around for stuff to happen to us, we go out there and make it happen no matter what the risk. There are very few people telling us we can't make things happen, and the ones who do, we tell them to go fuck themselves and then we make it happen.

Me: Talented bands that have long careers are able to not only tolerate differences and disagreements but to capitalize on them, to fashion a better final product. How does Walk Off The Earth deal with conflicting opinions within the band?

SB: The relationships in our band are intense. I mean that in the most compassionate way. We are all very connected and we know that. So no matter what we will always resolve any issue that one or more people are having. It's a family.

At the Paradise in Boston July 17

Me: Another thing that separates the great bands from the good bands is a big dream or purpose—plus the work ethic to fulfill it. What kind of hopes and plans for the future does WOTE have? You obviously have a killer work ethic.

SB: We have those same dreams and bigger. Our work ethic is ridiculous. Gianni [the band’s co-producer/guitarist/bassist/percussionist/vocalist] is beside me right now editing a video and it's Sunday. Our machine never sleeps. We have all been in the industry for over ten years and know how shit works. We will never stop, so we plan to have the world move with us.

Me: Great teams think for themselves and find a way to maintain their independence and autonomy. Are you confident you can maintain your indie voice and vibe while under the Columbia umbrella?

SB: Absolutely. Gianni and I both own our own labels on the side and have plans for more world domination in more categories than just Walk Off The Earth! Our independence is what made us, so we will never let that go. We will also never stop encouraging that kind of path for people. We'll probably own Columbia Records one day. Just wait and see. Haha.

If you're looking for team lessons from rock, WOTE is a band to study. This is one insanely creative, passionate, driven, self-determined business team.

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  1. "We didn’t worry about what we did that impressed them . . . They had to impress us!"

    Not the answer I expected, but it's the perfect answer.

    I worried, when you first mentioned their contract, that it was a bad sign for the band. Now, not so much.

    Let me know when their IPO is scheduled.

  2. I loved viewing that video on YouTube. Such creative and fearless people deserve a large audience.

    Great interview John--you might be able to work for Rolling Stone if your book doesn't sell a million copies.

    1. I love this band too and their videos are a trip to party rock anthem. With such diversity,creativity and confidence, the sky is the limit.

      John, I agree with David that you would absolutely by an asset to Rolling Stone Magazine, but you WILL be busy with your book on the bestseller list....after all, no one rocks like you from every angle!!

  3. Joel, as you can see, Sarah B is no shrinking violet — and the band isn't lacking for confidence. A good omen for success in the music biz. Yeah, I don't think Columbia is going to be calling the shots here.

    David, Rolling Stone still owes me. Kurt Loder interviewed me years ago when I was running for President, but it never got published. I think he was counting on my being elected. (He may have been the only one.)

  4. Excellent website. Plenty of useful information here. I am sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you to your sweat!

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