Today’s Feature – June 6-7: William Fitzsimmons

June 8, 2008 at 1:31 am (Today's Feature)

There are a lot of things that William Fitzsimmons is known for – for one, he’s extremely in touch with his music. The man writes, produces, performs; stands behind everything he creates. Some may know him as the folk musician raised by two blind parents, learning to rely more on sounds than sight as he grew older. And of course, others know William Fitzsimmons for that amazing beard he sports – the thing is a permanent fixture in his story. I however, know Fitzsimmons for another fact: His peers give his talent the utmost respect. We’ve talked with and interviewed many emerging artists in the music industry here on, and I can honestly say that Fitzsimmons is a regular on a folk artists “to collaborate with” list.

There’s good reason behind such popularity – his music is deep. Really deep. His outstanding work on “Until When We Are Ghosts” and “Goodnight” reflect a profound sense of self-awareness, a blend of melody and tone that captures you whether through its tranquil affects or its emotional dialogue. It is individual music that allows us to reach back into our minds and pull on the strings of what defines us. The upcoming collection to be released contains similar subject matter for Fitzsimmons, and accomplishes the difficult feat of successfully mixing ingredients of electronica with a folk sound.

There will be some guest work on the record through the vocal stylings of Prescila Hahn, much like the past guest effort of one Ingrid Michaelson, another PEV favorite. You may be lucky enough to catch Fitzsimmons performing live with such guests near you. Constantly touring, he knows his audience comes out for an experience; for something heavy and sometimes emotional. And Fitzsimmons delivers… with some well-timed humor in between. Before you look up his stop near you in support of the new record, get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: William Fitzsimmons (Richie): Hey William how’s everything?

William Fitzsimmons (WF): Good. I’m in Illinois… after some raucous touring (laughs).

Richie: Where was the last stop on the tour?

WF: Los Angeles. I started out there and did some recording when I was there. Then we came back down the coast… Wait! No I wasn’t. I just lied to you. I was in New York, sorry about that (laughs). It’s really not as much of a blur as I am making it. It was just a tour.

Richie: Do you find a difference in the west coast and east coast fans?

WF: Yeah… I mean I meet really nice folks regardless. It depends on how many drunk people there are. I prefer west coast, just because they seem to be a little more receptive. The east coast I find them to kind of wait for you to suck (laughs). The west coast is hoping for you to be good. I prefer nice people.

Richie: What can fans expect from a live show?

WF: Um, well, boredom… the usual reaction. Yeah, again, not really a selling point. You probably shouldn’t write that down. No, it depends. I think people are expecting me to be the guy that walks from his log cabin with his hand-made guitar and sit on stage with my hand in between my knees and then play some songs and walk off the stage. The songs tend to be pretty heavy. The people that get into it tend to have a pretty emotional experience you know… it is for me too sometimes.

I actually tend to engage the people and crack some jokes with them. I try to be funny… sometimes it works. The songs are heavy on their own so I like to make it light hearted.

Richie: Out of all the cities you’ve played, is there one that tends to be your favorite? WF: I love doing favorites to isolate the rest of the people (laughs).

Richie: Sorry, one that is like your “home base” or something?

WF: Well I never really played Pittsburgh when I was there, which was my home. And I don’t play around here so much. Los Angeles is probably the closest thing to that. Or the Northwest, which I’m really fond of. I’ve always have fun every time I go up there.

Richie: When you first started out to where you are today, how has your style changed or evolved over the years?

WF: Well in regards to touring, not that much since I’ve only been touring for like a year. But as I said earlier, I try to keep things lighthearted now and playful when I play live. I try not to put on this air of being an artist or serious musician. If it happens, it happens though, you know. And I guess as far as the music, it hasn’t changed as much. But in the beginning I usually played by myself. Now I have made it more communal and play with other people. I still like to write it all myself though.

Richie: Is there someone that you haven’t collaborated with that you want to?

WF: Oh, wow, that’s a good question… I mean honestly, that list has become shorter since I’ve had a chance to. I mean, people like Ingrid Michaelson, she sang on half of my last record. Priscilla Hahn, who will sing on this new record. I would say “The Weepies” I would love to do a song with them. Also, my favorite band for a while is a group called “Paper Route”… There are a couple out there.

Richie: Tell us about your latest work?

WF: The new one that isn’t done yet?

Richie: Yeah.

WF: Oh, wow, that is a good question (laughs). Well, I am doing this all in a studio which is totally new for me. I have never been in a studio before a few weeks ago. It’s pretty neat. It’s kind of storied facility we were in. I think Prince recorded there, some others… it felt neat to be in there with such a musical past. The subject matter of the record isn’t too far off. I set out to write a pretty divergent record and kind of went through a lot of personal stuff that kind of put me back in the spot I was before (laughs). Some of the darkness, from where I was writing before – I say that with laughter, which I shouldn’t but… (laughs). As far as the style, I’m not quite sure yet. There will be some electronica, some folk stuff. I mean, I try to use some left to center stuff like a banjo or accordion. And I’m trying to be a little more open. I guess more of the same… but different (laughs). I know that sounds ridiculous.

Richie: In reading your bio, you grew up surrounded by music. Self taught. And I also wanted to touch on the fact you are the youngest of two blind parents. Did that have a large effect on your musical upbringing?

WF: Yeah, it did. I tell people, usually when they ask that, I mean it is sort of relative. But the thing is, it wasn’t weird for me, since I grew up with it, you know. I’d like to say it was really weird and “out there”, but to me it wasn’t. I mean, at a certain age when friends started to ask about it, I thought, “Ok, there is something strange about this…” I mean, I could tell them I got straight A’s on my report card, when I didn’t. I never did that though!

Richie: (laughs) Don’t worry, I will make sure that it is made clear.

WF: Yeah, I mean, I never did that!… Just saying I could. But yeah, music was always around us. I mean people always tell me that it was a unique thing, but I don’t like to use it as a marketing thing, even though it is interesting. But music was always around us. Whether we had viable eyes or we didn’t it just made sense of it. We all loved it, it was a family thing. My dad still has an electric organ in the house, my mom still sings in the choir, my brother is a musician too. Obviously it has had some affect over the time.

Richie: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?

WF: To be honest… well, I think my dad gets it, that I’m a musician now. I don’t think my mom really does. She doesn’t watch too much TV so she doesn’t get when I say, “I got a song on Grey’s Anatomy!” She’s like, “Wow… I don’t know what that is. When are you going to go back to counseling and do a real job?” (laughs). But they are supportive. As much as they can comprehend, they are supportive.

Richie: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you? WF: Oh boy, um… That’s a good question. Oh I mean, I guess, probably that I’ve recorded some rap songs. I mean they were kind of, well, I mean they were a joke! They were a joke for a friend who was getting married and I did them for his bachelor party. So, if this folk thing doesn’t work out, I’m sure they are looking for a Midwestern, bearded, white guy.

Richie: I can see it now. The cover of Rolling Stone!

WF: I can’t lie… I see it too.

Richie: Speaking of your beard, it has become iconic with what people recognize of you. Would you ever shave it?

WF: It’s funny, I mean, I can’t remember the last time I was clean shaven but I did shave it once. I did a show with Cary Brothers (Note: A former PEV feature) and we were out and I had a nice full beard, midway through a tour and he said, quite seriously that he was going to hop up on stage and shave my beard while I was playing. And to be honest, I believed him! And I had never done a tour of that magnitude so I went and bought clippers and made a handle bar mustache. I looked, well, like I was going to kidnap a kid (we both laugh). I don’t want to have it because I have to, even though it is a good thing to have but I feel weird without it. I like having it.

Richie: So, what is next for you?

WF: Just trying to get this album out. Some tentative touring as well that I’ll be doing. There should be some good touring in the summer to open for other people and support the record. That’s my focus now.

Richie: Thanks again for taking out the time for us. We’re big fans, so I appreciate it.

WF: Oh thanks, that’s nice of you to say. Thanks.

For more information on William Fitzsimmons, check out


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