From Kids In A Band to Having Kids: 15 Years of The Smith Street Band

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From Kids In A Band to Having Kids: 15 Years of The Smith Street Band

Credit: Ian Laidlaw
Words by Tammy Walters

2009 was an interesting year for popular music.

On one side Lonely Island had teenagers singing about jizzing in their pants, David Guetta had us calling everyone sexy bitches and Black Eyed Peas were nonsensical with ‘Boom Boom Pow’. On the other side, Arctic Monkeys has us swooning with ‘Cornerstone’ and The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s made heads roll thanks to their third studio album It’s Blitz!

On Thursday, 26 November 2009, waiting at the back of house at Melbourne’s favourite live music venue The Tote was an 18-year-old Wil Wagner. He was ready to unleash his music onto an eager crowd, his first gig as the frontman of the now famed The Smith Street Band, with a vision to turn the stage that he was about to step foot on into the stage at The Corner Hotel, a feat achieved in 2012 with two back to back shows, and as any young band would have it, to get free beer.

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After six studio albums and national and international tours across North America, China, the UK and Europe, including a show at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, the tides of the thirties have taken a toll on Wagner. 

“We’ve replaced the free beers with free coconut water and free Gatorade. Lemsip is on the rider where it used to be,” the now 33-year-old laughs.

“I used to do tours where it was 30 shows in a row and I would somehow survive the whole thing but it’s now like three shows in a row, I’m fucked! I’m exhausted.”

The exhaustion may also stem from some new additions into Wagner’s life. 2023 saw Wagner reaching major personal milestones of becoming a husband to his sweetheart, Tess, and a dad to his daughter, Maisie, a month apart.

“No honeymoon for us or anything, it was straight onto the next thing. I think the next day we had a session with our birthing specialist. One special night and back into baby prep,” Wagner explains.

“Getting married was the most incredible amazing day and when Tess walked down the aisle I thought “I’ve never loved anyone more than I love Tess in this moment” and then inevitably being there for the birth I was like “oh what, whatever”. Seeing someone you love go through all of that and to have this baby is mindblowing. It’s a completely world-changing event. 

“It’s so funny after leaving the hospital, I was like “Why is everyone going around like everything is normal? Why are people at work and stuff? Doesn’t everybody know we’ve just had a baby? Why is the whole world not stopping to recognise this moment”. It’s everything!” 

The life changing moment has brought a new perspective to Wagner’s life and career. A man who had formerly been all consumed by music making, writing and performing is now seeing the world with the lens of a proud dad.

“It was the great joy of my life until my kid was born and now it’s the other great joy of my life,” he says.

“The perspective change that I have had where it’s like getting up on stage and performing used to be my everything and it’s still obviously very important to me and it’s a big part of who I am, but it’s like “oh nothing is about me anymore at all”, which I’m actually kind of grateful for as a self-obsessed writer to have… Everything is about her and her life and her happiness. It’s a really transformative period of time.”

The biggest joy however is merging the two together with Tess and Maisie set to join Wagner and co on the road on their extensive 18-show, 15 Year Anniversary Tour, including the Torquay Hotel show.

“Maisy has come to a couple of sound checks already. She has these little baby earmuffs which are super cute,” he gushes. 

“I love having kids around on tour. A lot of people in the band are parents now as well so it feels like there are always kids around and all of our friends are now at that age where they all have kids now so yeah, soundchecks and backstage has changed a lot from how it used to be.”

With the new generation of The Smith Street Band groupies in tow, the band may be changing direction on their new releases with Wagner very much in writing mode for album number seven.

“I’ve been writing a tonne in the lead up to Maisie being born. Since Maisie has been born, I’ve been making up a lot of kid songs to sing to her so I think I’m going to have to put out an adults album and kids album for the next release,” he laughs. 

Catch them before they turn full-blown Wiggles on their upcoming tour, jetting into Theatre Royal in Castlemaine on Thursday 18 April and Torquay Hotel on Saturday 20 April 2024. Tickets here.