Ex-Junkhouse frontman turns to new art forms

Tom Wilson never wanted to do anything other than make music.

With nearly 40 years of experience under his belt, the Hamilton-bred singer-songwriter is proud of himself for sticking to his vision, even when — for the sake of his health — he should have moved on to other pursuits.

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“Let’s face it, I played rock star for a good part of the ’90s,” Wilson said, his voice a perpetual growl. “But it wasn’t my ego that played with it. It was the fact I got offered women and drugs and booze and anything I wanted.

“You don’t have to swim against the stream [when you’re famous] — you can let yourself go over the falls. And I definitely went over the falls.”

Wilson, 56, had the artistic side of his personality figured out years ago.

As the frontman for Junkhouse, Wilson, with his long mane of curly hair, beard and bad-boy personality, was a staple of Canadian rock radio during the middle part of the 1990s.

The group disbanded following 1997’s Fuzz, but Wilson has enjoyed a triple-pronged career in the years since, under his own name, Tom Wilson; with his bandmates in Blackie and the Rodeo Kings; and at the helm of his current project, Lee Harvey Osmond.

He enjoyed the spoils of success perhaps a little too often, resulting in a series of bad habits.

Now sober for more than a decade, he has thrown himself into all manner of the arts, from writing and acting to painting.

And he’s doing so with unparalleled enjoyment.

“The job I’m doing is more gratifying now than it has ever been in my life,” Wilson said.

“People are actually feeling what I’m doing, which isn’t a stroke to me. But it is an accomplishment on my part. I had a biker in Winnipeg crying over a story I told. It’s resonating with people.”

During his current run of dates with Lee Harvey Osmond, the burly performer has been reading from his in-progress autobiography, which will be published next year.

He has no shortage of riveting tales to tell, from hanging out with Bob Dylan and the Neville Brothers in the late 1980s at Daniel Lanois’s New Orleans studio to discovering late in life that he was adopted and has roots in a Mohawk family tree.

Though he has recently become a painter and actor, music has always been at the fore.

In fact, Wilson has been playing music in an organized way since his teens. He never chose songwriting as a means to make money, though he certainly didn’t complain when Junkhouse was its peak with the songs Out of My Head, The Sky Is Falling and Praying for the Rain.

It was always in him to create, and he simply answered the call.

“If you don’t have to do this, don’t. You’re wasting your time, and as a result, you’re wasting everyone else’s time. If you don’t wake up with a burn inside you to create something, to take your ideas and share them, if you don’t have that burning desire, go find something else to do.”

His latest album under the Lee Harvey Osmond moniker, Beautiful Scars, packs a lot of emotional punch. He has battled demons and won, and the results are there between the grooves.

“I can’t be any happier than I am,” Wilson said of his life at the moment.

He has two grandsons and his own son, Thompson Wilson, is on the road with him. He’s putting in the work, and the nature of that task — because it comes from a pure place — is at its most rewarding these days, he admits.

“Our lives are a work of art, every one of us. We couldn’t go back and re-create it the same way. We couldn’t make things happen any differently. One way to have no regrets is to look at life as a piece of art. If you lead with art, you can never go wrong.

“You never fail when you lead with honesty and truth.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

What: Lee Harvey Osmond

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 7)

Where: Upstairs Cabaret, 15 Bastion Square

Tickets: $29 at the Victoria Jazz Society Office (202-345 Quebec St.), Lyle’s Place, and rmts.bc.ca; $32 at the door

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