Interview: William Fitzsimmons

Die Geschichte William Fitzsimmons sollte euch bekannt sein: aufgewachsen mit zwei blinden Eltern, die Kindheit angefüllt mit Geräuschen und Klängen, das Studium der Psychologie erfolgreich beendet, als Psychologe praktiziert. Dann die große Entscheidung: er wird Musiker. In seinen Songs verarbeitet er sanftmütig familiäre und persönliche Probleme.

Momentan ist William Fitzsimmons in Deutschland auf Tour, und ihr könnt noch immer Gästelistenplätze gewinnen. Ich packte die Gelegenheit beim Schopfe und stellte dem charismatischen Songwriter ein paar Fragen zu seiner folgenschweren Entscheidung, zur aktuellen EP “Derivatives” und zu Deutschland.

Eines müsst ihr mir verzeihen: dieses Mal hatte ich weder die Zeit noch die Muße, das Interview zu übersetzen. Aber ich denke, damit kommt ihr schon klar.

nicorola: Hello! Thanks for taking the time answering some questions! I have to ask you this: you’re a graduated therapist, ready to start your business, and then you decided to make music. What happened?

William: I never had any intention of leaving therapy at any point in my education or training. Music had always been a part of my life, but I didn’t consider it as something to do for work. It was just something that brought pleasure to my life and helped me get through difficulties when I needed it too. When I began writing songs during graduate school to help clear my mind for the work I would soon do, however, something clicked and it began to feel more right to make music than it did to counsel directly. Other people starting hearing the songs and I made the choice that I would try to do both as best as I could. That’s meant making music that has a therapeutic quality to it and something I still today try to do.

nicorola: At this very moment: is making music the best thing you can think of?

William: The best thing I can think of at this exact moment is catching fish back home by the lake with some German beer. But other than that, making music is about the best thing there is. I don’t think anybody should be this lucky to be able to travel and play music for a living, but for that reason I feel so grateful to be able to do it.

nicorola: How important was your childhood for the sound you’ve developed?

William: For a few reasons my younger years were where all my musical background came from. Listening to my parent’s records, learning to play piano and trombone in school, and hearing my mother sing all the time. If it weren’t for all those things I don’t think there’s a chance in hell I’d even know how to play a song. There was also a lot of darkness from those years which seems to come up in the writing more than I’d like, but that’s a part of life for everyone.

nicorola: In your recent published tour film you talk about reaching the people. Your path is suppossed to be reaching out to people through music. Is that something you aimed for in the beginning or was that a feeling that evolved?

William: Because I felt I was always supposed to be a therapist in one form or another, I’ve never felt right about making a song that didn’t have something clear to communicate to someone. Other people can make songs about whatever they want, and it’s not a bad thing to have a variety of subjects to be exposed to. But for me the option of writing a song just to write it has never existed. I have a responsibility to deal with things which other people might not want to even get close to.

nicorola: If I listen to your music, I always have this feeling of “I’m not alone”. So you became some sort of a musical therapist?

William: That feeling, “universality” as it’s called in therapy, is something which most people rarely get to experience in their everyday lives. Most of us tend to go through our days with the nagging sense that we’re rather different from anyone else, that perhaps there’s something wrong with us, or those things about ourselves that we despise will never change or mend. Therefore being able to help correct those thoughts for someone is an extremely meaningful endeavor. In that sense I do think of myself as still performing a form of therapy. But at the same time I won’t ever use that as an excuse to short change the songwriting. The most important thing to me is that both fields are well served.

nicorola: On your new record you’re re-imagining several tracks from The Sparrow And The Crow. They’re getting an electronic makeover with beats and synths. Is this sound something you can imagine doing on your next album?

William: Well honestly I never thought that kind of thing would work for any of my music. But once I heard a few people making remixes of the songs, I really understood that you could keep the core and substance of a song while showing a very different side of it. That being said, it’s not something I want to really make a habit of. Creating music, not unlike photography, or writing, or painting, is something that you should never attempt to find a set pattern in. Once that happens you’re sacrificing growth and development for the sake of avoiding hardship or challenge. I’m of course not saying I would never point people towards great remixes of the songs, only that I don’t think I want it to ever become a given thing that would always happen.

nicorola: You started your last album with the final song from your previous album, but with a different sound. So if I hear these two songs and look at your new record: are your songs in a state of constant development?

William: Well for live shows I suppose they’re always growing or changing slightly. When you play a song for a certain amount of time, if you’re not constantly looking for ways to update it, or alter it, it will inevitably become stale and your heart won’t be in the performance. But as far as recordings go, even if I’m not perfectly happy looking back at a song I might have done several years ago, I have to respect that’s where I was at the time, and there’s a reason I said whatever I did or made the musical choices I made. Redoing “Afterall” was more of a story choice than it was a musical one. I wanted people to understand the connection between what happens in generations past and what happens in our own lives. We like to think the lives and decisions of our parents don’t play a role in our lives and choices, but they always do. I wanted people to be willing to look backwards from time to time and see the danger that exists in never examining what’s come before.

nicorola: What do you like about “I Kissed A Girl”?

William: There’s an inherent darkness or somberness to that tune that I felt like was there but wasn’t really expressed overtly in the original. Kind of a hidden meaning, so to speak. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and wonder whether I’m hearing something the writer wanted me to have to really look hard for, and until I play the song for myself with that meaning in the forefront, it’ll stay on my mind. Much of that stuff is probably just in my own head, but it’s a good exercise to try and understand the multiple sub-levels a song can exist on.

nicorola: The content of your music is very personal and I imagine very emotional. Did you find it difficult to record with other musicians?

William: I mostly always work with friends or people I’ve at least gotten to know pretty well before I would ever record or play with them. The nature of the music requires someone to understand me and what I’m trying to communicate with the songs in order for them to properly play and perform them. But once that connection or relationship is there with someone, it’s not really difficult to make the songs work together.

nicorola: You’ve been compared to some really great artists in the past; Elliott Smith and Bon Iver to name a few. Who really inspires you musically?

William: Most of the musical inspiration for me comes from the albums and artists my parents were listening to while I was growing up. My mother’s folk records, like James Taylor, Dylan, Nick Drake, to name a few, have always resonated with me and those are still the songs I return to today. There’s definitely some current artists who really challenge me to always grow and try to make the best songs I can as well. But those old folk records stick with me like nothing else.

nicorola: Some of your songs had been used in TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. Is there a TV show you like to participate? Delivering exclusive songs or even being a statist?

William: I don’t think there’s any specific project or anything. Of course I’m happy to be lucky enough to have my songs heard by that many people. It’s a good thing for an artist like myself who doesn’t have songs all over the radio to be able to connect with people who might not otherwise ever hear the music. Some of my favorite artists I heard for the first time through films or more ‘alternative’ means. I’ve never really thought much about scoring film or TV, however. I might consider it someday, but it really is a completely separate art form from songwriting in the classic sense. But I tend to like being challenged by new things like that; so maybe someday.

nicorola: You are currently touring Germany. Is there something special about our country?

William: Germany has treated me very well and honestly I’ve had some of my favorite traveling experiences in my life here. I actually studied the language for a few years in school so it’s always enjoyable to come and practice it while I’m here. I’m not sure I can really think of anything very specific. It’s just a beautiful country and I’ve met so many wonderful people here. I always look forward to the chance to come back.

nicorola: Do you prefer playing in small clubs or do you like being on a big stage at a festival?

William: There’s great things about both, and there’s things about both that can be frustrating. The main difference is really energy and intimacy. Sometimes you want to communicate quietly and privately with an audience and you find yourself playing in front of a very energetic festival crowd; other times you need the crowd to give you some energy and reciprocity and you’re in a club that’s peaceful and more calm than you’d prefer. I wouldn’t ever choose one over the other in perpetuity, though. I need both at different times in order to say what I need to with the songs. Either one by itself would make the music grow stale and lifeless.

nicorola: How many musicians will there be on stage at this tour?

William: There’s 4 people in the band, including myself. But we usually break it up and down depending on what the feeling of the room is. Often I’ll still play a few songs solo, or maybe as a duo, just to make sure we’re not relying on any one arrangement too much. It’s tempting sometimes to get lazy and never experiment with different modalities, but it’ll really destroy creativity if you’re not willing to try out something new or different, even if it doesn’t work perfectly. It’ll keep your mind active and working and always improve things over time.

nicorola: You have a MySpace site, you twitter a lot and have a facebook account. What do you think of the importance of modern communication for an artist these days?

William: I think we all have an innate interest in digging ever deeper into that which interests us, inspires us, or we’re simply drawn to. For that reason now that the means are there to connect more directly and even more intimately with people than one could before, it’d be foolish to not allow people to get closer to what you’re doing. I want people to understand my music, my thoughts and so forth. Why wouldn’t I allow them to see more clearly into that? I think artists who hide behind technology instead of getting closer to people with it are terrified people might find out they’re not the same as the substance of their songs. Or perhaps they think it makes them appear cooler to avoid others. But for me I write songs in order to connect and communicate with people. Hiding wouldn’t make any sense.

nicorola: Please name a band or musician who you love and think more people should be listening to.

William: One of my favorite bands are some friends of mine from the States called “Paper Route.” Their one of the best live bands around. They’re absolutely worth checking out.

nicorola: Do you want to say anything else to my readers?

William: Only thanks for taking the time to read and digest. It really means a lot.

nicorola: Many thanks!


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