Interview: Tom Wilson “Lee Harvey Osmond”

Lee Harvey Osmond

by Josh Fewings

Lee Harvey Osmond has morphed over the years, but at its heart is Hamilton native Tom Wilson, former frontman for Canadian alt-rock band Junkhouse and current member of roots-rock supergroup Blackie and The Rodeo Kings. Other core members of the band include former Junkhouse drummer Ray Farrugia and for the upcoming Peterborough show – the talented guitarist and pedal steel player Aaron Goldstein.
Lately, Tom has been joined in Lee Harvey Osmond by his son Thompson Wilson, a singer-songwriter best known as the bassist in the now-defunct Hamilton band Harlan Pepper. A talented musician in his own right, Thompson’s songs have been recorded by Lee Harvey Osmond, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and Colin James.
Tom formed Lee Harvey Osmond back in 2009 as an “artist collective”, backed by Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies and Josh Finlayson of Skydiggers, with a signature sound Tom calls “acid folk”: groove-defining bass, guitars with lots of reverb, and hypnotic rhythms, all topped off by Tom’s fluent lyricism and sonorous baritone voice.
Lee Harvey Osmond, purveyors of “acid folk”, returns to Peterborough on Thursday, January 19th at Market Hall Performing Arts Centre, presented by kawarthaNOW.com and the Market Hall.
The band released its debut album A Quiet Evil in 2009, followed in 2013 by The Folk Sinner, and in 2015 by Beautiful Scars. All three records were long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize, and The Folk Sinner was also nominated for a Juno award. The latest record, Beautiful Scars, is full of deep lyrics and an atmosphere tinged with a pleasant yet mysterious tone.
Between April and November this year, Tom and Thompson played close to 130 shows in the United States in support of the record. That’s a grueling schedule even for a pro, but it doesn’t scratch the surface of just how hard Tom continues to work on all the moving parts in his career.
Tom may be the proudest Hamiltonian you will ever meet — and one of the more artistically diverse as well. A larger-than-life character, he may also be the busiest man in Canadian showbiz and, with apologies to the Dos Equis guy, perhaps the most interesting man in the world. He writes and performs in both Lee Harvey Osmond and Blackie and The Rodeo Kings (the latter has just released its eighth record, Kings and Kings, and is performing at Toronto’s Massey Hall on February 25th). He’s an accomplished artist. He performed at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival last March. He’s writing a memoir for Random House. And he’s even expanding on his already full portfolio as a voice-over artist.
“A filmmaker who wants to make a documentary about my life just got me a job as one of the new voices for The Nature of Things,” Tom tells me. That sentence alone says something of the aura of awesome surrounding the long-time musician.
Tom spoke to me on his cell phone while an Uber driver rushed him across Hamilton towards Toronto for a meeting about the upcoming narration work. Though The Nature of Things opportunity is on a loftier level than the other commercial ad work he’d done, he felt compelled to tell me about his past exploits, including being the voice of commercials for Kibbles ‘n Bits dog food, McDonalds’ iconic Quarter Pounder with Cheese (which he admits is complete evidence that he’s “nothing but a slut”), and a particularly lucrative run for Pontiac.
His philosophy on doing commercial work is straightforward: it supports what he wants to do as an artist. That includes being able to share his love of music and performance with his son Thompson, who’s following in his footsteps as a professional musician. For much of 2016, Tom and Thompson toured the United States supporting Beautiful Scars. The elder Wilson finds it special each and every time he shares a stage with his son.
“He’s a gift,” Tom says. “He’s like Buddha and he’s probably the most talented person I’ve met in my life … almost. And there’s something about sharing a mic with your kid or somebody who shares the same blood as you. There’s nothing like it.”
Even now that he’s back home in Hamilton, Tom’s attention has shifted towards his upcoming literary efforts with Random House, who are expecting a manuscript of his new memoir by March 1st.
“All I want to do is stay home and write,” he chuckles.
It’s doubtful that Tom will be able to stay home and write for long, as he continues to work on many other projects, including a Canadian tour in March with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings that kicks off with the February 25th concert at Toronto Massey’s Hall and, more immediately, the upcoming Lee Harvey Osmond concert at Market Hall.
Tom gets excited every time he returns to Peterborough, because he sees a lot of his hometown of Hamilton here.
“I like the people in Peterborough,” he says. “They’re a bit of a combination of country folk and Hamiltonians in some ways. I feel that Peterborough is a no-nonsense kind of community, so I like it there.”

Josh Fewings is a local writer and musician who is half of the band Mayhemingways. He’s a regular contributor to kawarthaNOW.com, covering music, musicians, and upcoming concerts. You can follow Josh on Twitter at @JFew82.

kawarthaNOW.com and Market Hall present
Lee Harvey Osmond
When: Thursday, January 19, 2016 at 8 p.m. Where: Market Hall Performing Arts Centre
(140 Charlotte St., Peterborough)
How much: $35 in advance ($28 students),
$40 at door, $43 cabaret-style seat
Featuring Tom Wilson, Thompson Wilson, Aaron Goldstein, and Ray Farrugia.
Tickets are available at the Market Hall Box Office, by phone at 705-749-1146, or online at markethall.org.

Excerpted by kawarthaNOW.com
Read the full article at kawarthaNOW.com