By Paul Miller
Web Content Specialist
If you've been a part of the local music scene in the Harrisburg area over the last decade, odds are you knew Wally DeWall before he joined the fold with the Colt Wilbur Band. A member of Stealing the Covers, among others, and a staple at local Open Mic Nights in the area, Wally has been promoting local music in the area with integrity and passion that hasn't been seen in quite some time.
Wally started his musical journey at age five, as he started playing trumpet, then evolved to the tuba by his college years, and even teaching himself to play guitar without any lessons. But little do many know that before taking the job with the Colt Wilbur Band, Wally hadn't ever played bass and didn't even own the equipment. But Colt saw something in Wally, and knew that taking a chance on him could have a profound impact on the group.
ColtWilbur.com recently had the opportunity to chat with Wally about his career in the music industry, what being with the group means to him, and what his greatest musical moment has been in his life.
ColtWilbur.com - What is it that makes you so passionate about music?
Wally DeWall: Music for me is a way how I express emotion. If I’m in a sad mood, I listen to sad music. It’s almost like you have camaraderie with music. When I’m happy, I listen to happy music. Music is really important to me and it allows me an opportunity to spread joy to other people. It gives you a way to interact with the people around you, and on an intimate level sometimes. I’ve had some good jobs over the years, good paying jobs too, but they never made me happy the way that playing music does. I feel like our music provides the outlet for me to express my passion.
With the band, I have enough money to pay my bills and get the things I need, and I’m happy. To me, that’s way more wealth than having thousands of dollars in the bank. I think these are the main reasons I got into music.
ColtWilbur.com - Tell us how you got into music.
Wally DeWall: I started playing music in 5th grade, playing the trumpet, even though I quit because I didn’t see eye-to-eye with my band director, who now I’m really good friends with. My middle school band director convinced me to come back, and I started playing the tuba in marching band and concert band. Due to wrestling, I was never able to apply for the state band (in high school), so my director convinced me to apply for honors band, where I became first chair. Tuba took me to Messiah College where I was a Tuba Major.
ColtWilbur.com - How did you go from horns to guitar?
Wally DeWall - Well, chicks didn’t dig the tuba. This was during the 90s when grunge came out, so I taught myself to play guitar. I tortured my parents because I would play at all hours of the night. I also played piano as well.
Bass is almost like playing a tuba. I know that one is a stringed instrument and one is brass, but the styles are very similar because the tuba is the bottom end of the band, whereas the bass is the bottom end of rock music.
When I turned 40, I had an infection and had to go to the hospital and while I was there I got MRSA. I ended up having to have surgery to take care of it. I got out and the doctors said that they really didn't prefer that you don’t go into food service because this was the type of thing that can hang around. And this is while I was bartending at Flapjack’s. The doctor said though, that I could jeopardize customers if I worked in food service and I didn’t want to jeopardize the customers.
So at that point, I thought I could play to make a little extra money. I was down for a couple months. When I finally could work again, I thought music might be a good alternative to working in the bar business. Bartending was fun and helped pay many bills, but I was getting tired of the scene. It got to the point where it was affecting my personality and I didn’t like that. I’m a big believer in energy and there is so much negative energy at a bar. When you are exposed to it for hours and hours on end, it really takes a toll on you and turns you into someone you are not.
So I started playing again and was having fun and I kept getting calls to play for this group or that open mic, and I loved it. My parents were a very important part of this because of the support they gave and still give. I mean, they are at every show we play and they really enjoy the music. When I talked to my parents about this I said, I’m not going to rich, but I’m going to be happy.
Now, let me be honest, I love playing music in any aspect, but I really love playing with a band. Sometimes when you play acoustic, outside of Open Mic, I get a lot of interaction when I play an open mic, sometimes you are playing certain places and you are basically elevator music. You are basically background music. I like to have more involvement with the audience.
ColtWilbur.com - So how did you end up getting to know Colt and joining the band?
Wally DeWall - We met at Open Mic and saw each other around the circuit and mentioned that he needed a bass player. I never really played bass and didn’t own one, but when I saw them play it was mesmerizing. Stealing the Covers was a blast, but I’ve always desired to play in a band that dropped people’s mouth.
An interesting moment was when we played the Apple Harvest Festival, we had multiple people come up to us and say, “You are the best live band I’ve seen in years.”
I think our personalities are part of the reason that this band continues to be successful and grow, because we are real people. No matter what happens in our future, I don’t think that we will ever change.
One of the only reasons I ever want to elevate to fame, it’s not the money; I just don’t want to have to change my own strings anymore.
Colt Wilbur.com - What was your greatest musical moment?
Wally DeWall - There’s been a lot. I think probably the greatest was, I’m a huge Deftones fan. I’ve always been a fan and I like their sound. I had an opportunity to watch them play from the side of the stage in Las Vegas at the House of Blues.
That same night (after a three hour Deftones show), we immediately left there and go to the Hard Rock to watch Guns N’ Roses. I have a really good friend who is the drummer that plays for GNR now that got us in. What an amazing experience. They were doing a residency at the Hard Rock. So in one night I got to see two of my favorite bands up close and personal for entire full setlists. It was the most amazing night I've ever had and an experience that remains with me to this day.
You can catch Wally playing with the band at our full band and acoustic trio shows. Wally also hosts Open Mic Night at Johnny Joe's Sports Bar and Grill every Wednesday Night starting at 9 p.m. Whether you want to play some new tracks for a fantastic crowd, or just to continue supporting local music, stop by and check him out!