From Merlin, Ontario to Nashville, Tennessee and far beyond the borders of North America, Michelle Wright has been more than a staple in country music for many years.
With the release of her latest album, Milestone in August, Michelle is celebrating brand new music, including her current single “Heartbreak Song”, along with the re-recording of her global number one song, “Take it Like a Man”.
Wright has seen many shifts in the industry over the last few decades, and we chatted about the age of streaming, women in music, and how a small-town girl from Merlin found herself in Music City at just eighteen years old.
5 Questions With Michelle Wright
1. How would you define the Canadian country music industry today?
“I think it’s amazing, my gosh. I grew up with Carol Baker, The Family Brown, and Ronnie Prophet. But there wasn’t a whole lot of industry, you know, we got by.”
“I’m so happy to see in this day and age, there are Canadian artists out there having serious careers. They can make a living, do what they love, sell to huge crowds right at home.”
Michelle says looking at the Canadian industry that’s grown over the years is exciting to see. She believes the talent is as competitive as anyone else out there. When she was making her debut in the industry, it was difficult for country artists if they weren’t based in Nashville.
“I think Canadian talents are world class. Women can independently do great. It makes me proud as a Canadian knowing Canadians are supporting their own artists.”
2. What’s one major evolution in the music industry that you’ve witnessed?
“I’ve had an album out, a CD, a cassette, and now downloading. That’s one major change.”
“I feel that Canadians now, through platforms, social media, streaming, and that sort of availability can have their music heard around the world. Previous to that, without a record deal and radio play, you were stopped at the door.”
3. Artists are chasing a huge career and opportunities every day – you’ve achieved some insane milestones. How do you define success in a healthy way that doesn’t leave you always wanting something more?
“Achieving goals has always been important to me. I was an athlete, I trained hard. As a musician, it applies the same. You have to have goals, and once you achieve a goal, I encourage people to set a new bar. But, you have to be able to sit in victory and find joy in your achievements too.”
There’s pressure from everywhere to focus on what’s next. That’s why it’s tricky; the record label, the next single, an album, what the charts are telling you. There are things that are not self created that are put on you. Michelle notes, if you can achieve a healthy balance, there’s fun and satisfaction in it.
“I enjoy my successes more in hindsight. I don’t know that there’s any sane way of doing this because we’re typically really driven. There’s no smooth emotional journey in striving to succeed.”
“I don’t know that you can truly stop someone who’s driven. I chased it, I lived off it. There’s no smooth road here. When you’re young, you’re going to be driven to keep on succeeding. Nature takes its course and you accept that there will be failures along the way.”
She finishes with, “There comes a time when you can say, “look you did it, enjoy yourself,” and feel good about what you’ve achieved over your career.
4. What stands out to you when you’re looking at young emerging artists who are carving their paths in country music?
“I see that hunger, I see myself in them. I recognize that sass and that fire. In Tenille Townes and Kelly Prescott, and these emerging artists, they have it.”
“They’re so smart and hard working and driven and determined. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you have to have all of these characteristics, and these emerging Canadians, they have it.”
5. What advice did you receive early in your career that you find still carries value today?
“Be good to people. Be good and kind to people. To your team, your fans. That’s always been easy for me. I love people, I appreciate the team, and fans. I didn’t need to be told that but I think about it all the time.”
“Do what you say you’re going to do. I had a manager for 28 years, and he could always count on me, and I could count on him. I’ll be at the radio station at 6:30 am. I’ll have my shit together. Just be a person of your word. Have honour, have character. On your way up, and on your way down, people will not forget you if you’re a person of your character.”
About Michelle Wright
Michelle Wright’s fondest memories growing up involve the strength of her mother … a parent of two and divorced at nineteen, she worked extremely hard to have a happy family. Strength and work ethic would be something Michelle carried with her right up to today.
With hard working musicians as parents, Michelle thought she may follow in their footsteps.
“I thought I’d do like my mom and dad did. Get married, have children, do music on the weekend, work on the farm. Day to day work and music on the weekends.”
That’s exactly how she started. Playing in a band in college led her down an entirely different path. Playing in bars six nights a week unexpectedly led her to playing for a booking agent from the US, who would end up putting her on the road. She crossed paths with Brian Ferriman would would sign her to his management company and kick off their 28 year partnership.
Michelle would turn twenty years old her first week on the road with Wild Oats. She continued to play every night of the week, and eventually landed her first record deal with Arista Records.
When it comes to the turn of events that led her to her global career, Michelle will say, “It’s a role of the dice, and I sure got lucky,” but a lot of hard work, late nights, rehearsals, and not taking a single opportunity for granted helped to land her on this path.
At the age of thirty-two, Michelle would achieve her first number one song, “Take it Like a Man” and while she’s always been one to manage her expectations when it came to anything she was part of, she knew it was a special song.
The success of “Take it Like a Man” and consistency at the top of the charts would take her all over the world to perform.
“It’s been full of the highest highs you could ever imagine, there have been some disappointments along the way, but I’m hard pressed to have much of a regretful heart or point of view,” says Michelle on the volatility of her chosen career path.
In 2011, Michelle was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Milestone – Her Tenth Studio Album
2022 marks the 30-year anniversary of Michelle’s album Now & Then. The leading single “Small Town”, co-written with Rick Ferrell and Danielle Bourjeaurd captures Michelle’s career in 3 minutes and 38 seconds.
The current single “Heartbreak Song” came from a very honest place for her and co-writer Adam Wakefield. Both having their hearts stomped on in the past, they did what great songwriters do and drew inspiration from it.
Milestone also includes a 2022 remake of her hit single “Take it Like a Man.”
Follow Michelle Wright on Social Media
You can catch Michelle Wright on stage and on social media:
Country music lover with an unhealthy collection of concert t-shirts. Always looking for up and coming artists. Believer in music's ability to soothe the soul. Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter.