Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Michelle Wright

Country singer sticks with the car she loves best Add to ...

Michelle Wright

Profession: Award-winning country music singer

Age: 50

Hometown: Merlin, Ont.

Notable achievements

- Has amassed a total of 25 Top Ten hits

- Received more than 30 major awards

- Member of Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame

- Active World Vision artist affiliate

Upcoming

- New CD release, The Wright Songs: An Acoustic Evening with Michelle Wright, available Nov. 22

More related to this story

- I'm Dreaming Of A Wright Christmas Tour begins in Kamloops, B.C., on Dec. 3 and ends in Waterloo, Ont. on Dec. 22; includes a Dec. 17 concert in Markham, Ont., 8 p.m. at the Markham Theatre

*****

Michelle Wright is one of Canada’s top country singers.

The Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame star has sold nearly two million CDs since her debut CD, Do Right By Me, in 1988.

After hitting it big with Take It Like A Man, she treated herself to a new car – a 1994 Mercedes-Benz E420. And despite her climb to fame, she still drives it, after 17 years.

Why did you buy a Mercedes-Benz at the time?

I came up the hard way. My generation had the good fortune to play clubs six nights a week to make a living, albeit making just enough to put gas in the vehicle to get to the next gig for 6 nights.

When I was playing the clubs I used to sing Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz by Janis Joplin. I used to sing that on stage in some stingy, smoke-filled bar where I was like, “Oh God, am I ever going to get a real recording career?” When the time came, I went and bought me a Mercedes-Benz.

I paid cold hard cash for this car with my success of Take It Like A Man. I bought it in 1994 – it’s almost 20 years later and it’s still a fantastic car.

I love it. I have an emotional connection to this car that I won’t have with anything else ever again. Something about that time in my life, if I ever let this car go it would be like almost forgetting it, really. This car has a certain sentimental meaning to me. It’s not like I got money to throw around all the time on a brand-new Mercedes. This one is still fabulous.

What does a Mercedes say about you?

I was literally raised with a teenage, single mother and we were very poor for many years of my life. There’s no doubt there’s a certain sense of success.

It feels a little shallow on one hand to say, frankly. But I drove around in broken-down vehicles for so many years that when I could get this car it just felt successful. All these years later I realize it doesn’t necessarily mean that.

Now that I’ve had the career and the material things that success can buy, I ultimately realize it doesn’t mean anything. What matters are my relationships. But it still is a fantastic ride and I still really enjoy it. I’m still that frugal girl who goes, “It’s working fine so I don’t need to get a new one.”

What’s your worst memory on the road?

One of the worst things that happened – and God love my mother because she helped me buy this GMC cube van for my band, which at the time was around $16,000.

It was a big cube van that was done up like a little camper. Overtop of the cab it had a bed and couches. The other half was the equipment – my speakers and amplifiers. It was a diesel and I let the fuel run out. That’s the worst thing you could do.

I think $10,000 later that vehicle was working again. We were broke down for days. It was a nightmare.

I was like, “Mom!”

“Honey, you were never supposed to let that run out of gas.” How parents don’t kill their kids sometimes I don’t know because if there was a killing that was needed it was right about then.”

There’s been a few tour bus breakdowns, too. Some breakdowns we had before the tour buses. Because I was raised on the farm I could change an alternator, change a fan belt, or a tire – among the band we could figure out how to get the vehicle going again.

With a tour bus, you can’t do that. The worst situation was my Christmas Tour of 2009. We had just enough time to get to Red Deer, Alberta, and we got a flat tire. I was like, “No, you’re kidding me?” We’re on the side of the road, trying to get to this gig and we had to wait for the big dogs to show up.

What do you listen to on the road?

Right now, I’m listening to my Christmas CD. I’m singing these songs and smiling so much – Christmas songs will make you smile before you even know it.

Besides that we listen to everything from Frank Sinatra to David Gray. I love Sade. I’m saying a lot of older artists.

Do you work at the wheel, too?

I do. The great thing about my iPhone is now when I get ideas I can just record and sing into it.

Driving around in the car is a wonderful place to get ideas. Before I used to write them down and try to remember them.

I love to be in my car. I have a little dog named Gracie. I have four dogs now. When it was just her and I, before I met my husband, she would get in the car with me in the passenger seat. We’d go driving around, listen to music and stop at the Dairy Queen. I’d get a Dairy Queen ice cream and she’d get the last little bit of it. It was a thing we would do together.

I love to get in the car, turn the radio on, and drive along the countryside in Tennessee [her current home]– it’s so beautiful, especially this time of year.

What was your first car?

My very first car that my mom bought me to go to college in was a 1978 Capri. Then someone hit me from behind and I didn't get to keep it very long.

We also had a Vega. I learned to drive on it. Then I went on the road and drove the band's vans. Eventually my mom helped me buy a red Ford cargo van for the band. Then I graduated from the cargo van to a GMC cube van. I was the band leader so I used the vehicle to transport my band around.

What girl do you talk to that goes, “I had a cube van?”

Raised on the farm [in southern Ontario]I used to drive combines and tractors. I'm definitely a country song, aren't I? I could drive just about anything.

If I can bring you the keys to any car what would it be?

I think it would a Mercedes – a two-door convertible, maybe an SLK.

The interview has been edited and condensed.

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories