Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers finds life better on the “Brightside”

“My favorite songs I’ve ever written are like someone handed them to me secretly in the dark,” says songwriter

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Don’t be surprised if you see Luminous frontman Wesley Schultz cuts through the crowd next week when his band hits Toronto for two shows at the Budweiser Stage.

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As the coronavirus first emerged in 2020, Schultz, the affable frontman of the folk-rock collective, made his way through the stands in an emotional moment at the first of two sold-out shows at Scotiabank Arena in March 2020.

I tell him that his actions assured me – wrongly – that my fears of a pandemic were perhaps a little exaggerated.

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“My wife must have told me it wasn’t a good idea for me to do that at these last few shows,” Schultz, 39, said with a light laugh in a phone interview. “It really broke me.”

In the midst of a tour behind the addiction-themed band’s concept record IIISchultz and co-writer and multi-instrumentalist Jeremiah Fraites were forced off the road and had to return home to Denver to rethink their musical next steps.

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For Schultz, he worked on thumbnailsa 10-track collection featuring renditions of classic songs by Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Warren Zevon and many more.

Eventually, however, the friends – along with violinist Lauren Jacobson, pianist Stelth Ulvang, bassist and backing vocalist Byron Isaacs and multi-instrumentalist Brandon Miller – had to find a way to carry on and create new songs they could. sing to celebrating crowds in a post-pandemic world.

Fruit of this introspection, the group’s fourth album, The bright sidewas born.

The nine-track LP, which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative National Airplay and Adult Alternative Airplay charts, revels in its quiet moments (the stripped down AM radio and big hat), but moves deliberately (on the title track and the catchy Where we are) with a sense of hope fueling from song to song.

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“A big inspiration for me was artists like Neil Young or Kurt Cobain,” says Schultz. “They were able to convey a feeling and I wanted to try to do that rather than tell a linear story…What Jeremiah and I were trying to do was not tell people, ‘Here’s what this means.’

“It was a feeling and a fleeting moment that we were trying to convey.”

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Following the runaway success of their self-titled debut album in 2012, which went four times platinum in Canada, the two-time Grammy-nominated group cemented their reputation as one of the best live bands thanks to Schultz’s determination to organize concerts that fans will remember.

“My favorite songs I’ve ever written are like someone secretly handed them to me in the dark. It’s not like I wrote them. I was just there for them and someone put them back in a paper bag,” he laughs.

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Amid a tour landing in Toronto later this week, with other Canadian shows scheduled for Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, Schultz has considered switching gears and hitting the road again.

I remember when you and I last spoke in the fall of 2020 for thumbnails, you predicted that a lot of bad music would come out of the pandemic. How did you approach The bright side to avoid this pitfall?

“First of all, I would like to say that I’m glad I was wrong. I think a lot of good music came out of that period, and it was beautiful to see. I think for us, the trap that we wanted to avoid was literally referencing a pandemic. The pitfall is being so myopic that you make a record that you wouldn’t want to listen to in a few years because it only made sense then. There was a lot of music in the late 60s, early 70s that still holds today, and it was such a cataclysmic and traumatic time for so many people. A lot of artists were pushing that energy and reacting to it… We We were all pretty emotional and affected by the trauma to varying degrees. You talk to anybody and it affected them deeply. You can’t come out unscathed and a lot of great art comes from those moments.

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Jeremy Fraites and Wesley Schultz
Jeremy Fraites and Wesley Schultz Photo by Danny Clinch

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Do you think the lifespan of your last album was cut short prematurely?

“Inevitably, that’s exactly what happens. III was kind of at a disadvantage because we couldn’t turn completely behind. But there are certain records in each artist’s catalog that are outsider records. Many people refer Pinkerton by Weezer. It’s a favorite of many people, but it wasn’t the biggest commercial success. For us, when this pandemic hit, I realized that if the music on this album affected you, it did so in a really deep and good way. It went through all your armor and entered your heart. We still play songs from III on the The bright side tour and I can see them still having an effect – Gloria, It wasn’t easy to be happy for you, salt and the sea. It makes me happy that they meant something to people.

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Guitarist and vocalist Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers performs at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Friday, March 31, 2017.
Guitarist and vocalist Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers performs at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Friday, March 31, 2017. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia network

Lumineers was the last band I saw live before closing. How did you imagine the next few months of being back on the road playing in front of huge crowds every night?

“It’s going to be cathartic. I just had COVID a few weeks ago and in a weird way of getting over it – officially – it’s a good feeling… I hope our reality can slowly return to a reality where people Don’t feel unsafe in a room full of strangers. Beyond my desire to perform, I think there’s something objectively soothing and cathartic about bringing people together. You will never get this virtually and I can’t wait to break it.

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You’re not going to run through the crowd, are you?

“I could (laughs). I ask around me. I have musician friends who do that. I’m not trying to make other people uncomfortable, but I’m okay with that. I don’t want to minimize or light up something that hurt a lot of people. It’s just… we’ll see. I don’t need to; it’s just something that I really like to do. When the time is right, I will. Because of this choice, I got sick in all sorts of ways. That’s a lot of germs I encounter when running in front of several thousand people in a matter of minutes. It’s not the best idea, but it’s great fun to break down that wall, especially in large venues where you can feel so distant.

I know bands aren’t overnight successes. What was your luckiest break?

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“I would say, in a fun way, that a few friends mentioned to me that they were moving to Denver. I lived in New York and it was very expensive. I was doing several different jobs just to pay the rent and write music in my spare time. But when these guys told me about Denver and how much cheaper it was, Jerry and I ended up going. From there, all these clubs we really wanted to get into in New York that kept saying no to us started saying yes to us when we arrived from Denver. I think just putting ourselves in a place where we were forced to travel and tour, it was a weirdly lucky break. And it all came from these friends who asked us if we wanted to rent a house with them in Denver.

The Lumineers perform on the Budweiser Stage in Toronto June 11-12. For other dates, visit thelumineers.com.

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  1. The Lumineers LR: Byron Isaacs, Lauren Jacobson, Wesley Schultz, Stelth Ulvang and Jeremiah Fraites.  (Photo credit: Danny Clinch)

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