For the average couple, trying to balance work and family is enough of a hand full. But if you’re Dave and Kortney Wilson, for whom work consists of dual recording careers in Nashville as well as a side business buying and flipping homes, while raising three young children and starring in a hit reality show all about your incredibly busy lives, then it’s all in a day’s work.
“You’d think we’d stop once in a while,” Dave Wilson says with a laugh. “But we don’t. It’s not our style!”
Dave and Kortney are both Canadian-born musicians who moved to Nashville within a week of each other, seeking a chance at country stardom in the city where it all happens, and met at a mutual friend’s home. Despite both being signed as solo artists to Lyric Street Records (Disney’s now defunct country music label), the couple decided to take the path less traveled got married, had kids, and then re-embarked on their recording careers, no longer as solo artists but as a hard-hitting duo.
In the years between, Dave and Kortney began flipping houses as a way to supplement their income – because struggling artists have it that much harder when there are children to take care of. Along the way they also came up with the idea of having their own reality series, Meet the Wilsons, inspired by shows of other musical families like The Osbournes and Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. Now, what started as a supplementary side business has become the focus of the latest incarnation of their family reality series entitled The Wilsons Flip Out, which debuted on Friday, March 11 on CMT Canada.
The show, filmed last summer and airing on Fridays at 7 p.m. ET on CMT, sees them taking on an ambitious house renovation project: flipping the Victorian-style house right across the street from their home. Aside from this project, their three children (Jett, Sully, and Lennox) are all home on holiday, and Kortney is simultaneously working from home trying to market their debut album, The Wilsons. Needless to say, things get a little crazy as the cameras track their progress.
Cadence had a chance to catch up with one half of the country duo on the phone from Nashville where the Ottawa-born Dave and Windsor-born Kortney met, married, and now make their lives. With their self-titled debut album released last summer as well as two TV shows currently on CMT Canada – including the latest installment in their family reality show, not to mention a second record on the way – their naturally busy lives are only going to get busier. But Dave says that their ability to succeed comes from being able to maintain communication with each other and balance their relationship amidst everything else going on in their lives.
“The number one secret for us, what works for us – and I think everything is different for different people – but, [it’s] communication. Knowing limits, and knowing what you’re good at; knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are,” he says. “With our kids, Kortney is amazing at just being a fabulous mom and the kids don’t miss out on any opportunities. She’s just on it. And I am the same way, but we communicate – there are certain things that I will take, there are certain things that she takes. There are certain things I am responsible for because I can get them done quicker, and certain things she can. Same with house-flipping. I have no business budgeting a house flip – as you can see on the show! But she is amazing with it.”
This maintaining of balance is evident in the interview itself: while Dave talks to Cadence Magazine, Kortney is taking care of the kids who are home on March break, but who all got the flu at the same time.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a challenge,” Dave admits. “But we make it work pretty well, and we’re so used to it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
When the two first met almost 12 years ago, however, music was everything to him and having a family was the furthest thing from his mind.
“I always say Kortney sort of saved my life because I was only driven for music,” he says. “[When] I was 15 years old and singing in a band, that’s all I wanted; and Kortney, that’s all she wanted it seemed, since she was little, growing up. She just wanted to ‘make it in music,’ whatever that meant. When I met her, I remember our first date, she said, ‘I want to get a record deal, and tour the world, and do all those things, but that’s just one little piece of what I want. I want a family, I want a life, and I want to do stuff outside of music as well.’ And it scared me to death, because I was like, ‘A family? Doing anything outside of music, well, that would take time away from music.’ But you know I followed her because she believed that, yes, it’s going to be hard, but so what, you know? Let’s just do it. And I followed her, and I’m so glad I did because having a family and other things outside of music makes music better: I have more things to write about. When I’m writing, I use my time to the fullest because I know that I only have a certain amount of time to write.”
While having a family was a conscious decision – and a difficult one, in light of the fact that it would put both their musical careers on hold – flipping houses was something that Dave says they got involved with more out of necessity than anything else.
“When I lost my record deal, I wanted something that was going to be creative and satisfying for me – and something that was better than working flipping burgers,” he says with a laugh. “My dad was very real estate oriented and owned some apartments and houses in Ottawa that I grew up kind of helping him fix up whenever people would move in and out. [I and Kortney] had an opportunity to buy a house. We put very little money into it and sold it for a good profit and realized, wow, this is easy, you know?”
In the beginning, flipping a house consisted of simple things like putting in a carpet, giving a fresh coat of paint, and installing new appliances; but since then Dave says their business has grown to include a full crew who work on the house from the foundation up.
“We just kind of learned as we went. That’s kind of what Kortney and I do; we kind of just figure it out as we go, and it’s always worked for us, so hopefully it will continue!”
Tackling all this under the watchful gaze of millions of viewers might seem intimidating, and their show has been, in fact, compared to The Truman Show. But Dave says that, while the first season did feel very strange with cameras in their home 24/7, the filming has since been incorporated into their lives so easily that their kids don’t even realize there is anything out of the ordinary going on.
“They really don’t understand right now what it all means. They think every kid has a TV show,” he says with a laugh. “The way they film it is very accommodating to our lifestyle. Because they basically will call and say, Okay, what do you guys have going on in the next six weeks? And we’ll tell them; and they’ll say, okay, we want to capture the house-flip. And because I always go to the gym with Kortney, the odd time I’ll do some ridiculous class with her they’ll really want to capture that on film because it’s funny, ‘cause I’m about as flexible as a horse. We’re in such a rhythm where we just have scheduled days to film and certain events they’ll film, so it’s not as intrusive.”
Thanks to this arrangement, the cameras are no longer in their faces all day every day but only show up long enough to capture what is needed for the show before leaving at six in the evening. However, like true kids of the 21st century, the Wilson children have become accustomed to the presence of the cameras.
“The kids usually end up getting sad when the crew leaves because the crew is so much fun. They miss them when they’re gone, which is funny,” Dave says with a laugh. But he has a way of keeping it in perspective. “We look at the show as this amazing, really expensive home movie that we can show our kids. Just imagine that: how many people get a television show? To think we’re so fortunate enough that really great cameras follow us around and then edit it all together with cool music – and the kids can watch this when they’re in college. It makes us feel good, knowing that we have this for them. If I’m 80, you know, and on oxygen bags, my kids have something to look back on.”
While it may be incredible to conceive of juggling a TV show along with raising children, flipping houses, and promoting two music careers, Dave says the show itself began as a way to get the couple’s musical careers jump-started again. He also credits Kortney with being the brains behind its inception.
“Kortney loves reality TV. I’m not as big a fan; she loves it. I guess now, since I have one, I should be a fan, but . . .” he trails off laughing, then continues, “She was watching The Newlyweds with Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey one night, and it was very late; and we were having a phase with the music industry where no acts were getting signed.” “The only people that were getting signed were people that had these stories, and Kortney said, ‘You know we have a great story, but how do you tell it?’ And a few minutes went by and she said, ‘We could be the country version of The Newlyweds!’”
To get started the couple got a camera and filmed an initial pilot themselves.
“It was so awful, looking back on it now,” Dave admits. “It was cheesy. I was filming her, and then she would film me. Very low budget! We played it for a friend of ours who said, ‘This is a great idea, but let me film it for you so it doesn’t look so bad!’”
After redoing their pilot, they then searched for a production company with which they could work, eventually teaming up with High Five Entertainment in Nashville. Working with them for about three years, they created a new seven-minute pilot which was then pitched to all the television networks.
“Everyone passed on it, and then CMT Canada said, ‘We love it! We don’t want to change anything. We love it!’ And then it just blossomed from there,” Dave says. “And they wanted eight episodes, not four and not two – you know a lot of networks just want to test it. So, CMT has been so wonderful to us, and they’re just amazing people. They’ve really opened their doors to us and given us so many opportunities and a great platform for music and everything else.”
Speaking of music, their first album is barely a year past its release but the Wilsons are already working on a second, as-yet-untitled record due for release next year. According to Dave it will be a departure from the themes explored in their debut CD.
“The first album we put out was more of a soundtrack to the TV show. So a lot of songs are about our life in that element of chaos, and house flipping, and taking time for each other, trying to find time for each other,” he says. “The new songs are a lot more of just good stories – more good country stories and some heavier themes – and less talking about sippy cups and milk, and more about being in love and doing, you know, what Kortney and I are also about. So it will be a departure.”
Dave says their plan is to pack up the kids and go on tour next summer to promote the new album once it’s done.
“We’re talking about next summer, when they get out of school, just locking up the house and spending the summer in Canada because we love it up there. It’s just hard to get up there and keep what we have going down here going.”
With no plans of slowing down any time soon, the Wilsons are bound to have ever-evolving themes to add to their music. When asked about future plans, Dave includes their hopes for their singing careers: “Hopefully in ten years we’re well established in music,” he muses, but also notes their desire to continue and expand upon their television show.
“We would like to take it to a level where we are doing something great with it, where it’s not just a show about our life and the personal goals that we’re achieving or not achieving,” he says. “But we’re hoping to have the opportunity to, say, have a season where we maybe drive across Canada and we help people who maybe can’t afford to fix their homes up. Just find those people who are maybe too old or don’t have the financing to fix their roof, and we come in and help them – maybe with sponsors or maybe not – we just help them. Kind of like a giving back type thing. Those are the shows I love.”
To keep up with the latest adventures with the Wilsons, you can find them on Twitter as @meetthewilsons or on their website at http://thewilsonsofficial.com. Be sure to also tune in to The Wilsons Flip Out on CMT, Fridays at 7 p.m. ET, or check out past episodes on the CMT website here.