William Fitzsimmons

I would like to thank William Fitzsimmons for agreeing to do this interview. To all readers: don't forget to check out William's music here. You can also find our review of "The Sparrow and the Crow" here.

RRR: For the readers who may not be familiar your music, how would you describe it?

WF: Music descriptions are obviously a bit difficult anymore, given the breadth of styles and the melding of several different forms in recent years. But I personally like to think of my music as "confessional folk music." It's not really pure folk music, at least as I understand that genre to be, but it's probably most closely aligned to that. The confessional element to me is important to denote, as the writing all stems from actually lived experience and always attempts to be as honest and forthcoming as possible. Instead of hiding myself or my thoughts behind the music, I endeavor to reveal myself as much as I (appropriately) can. I think listeners at the very least deserve that kind of honesty.

RRR: While reading a short article about you I saw that you were raised by two blind parents. How did this affect your life as a musician?

WF: I really owe whatever musical capabilities I possess to my father and mother. If it wasn't for their influence, I have no doubt I wouldn't have had music as an important part of my life. Music in our house was more than just a recreational activity or hobby, it was a way that we could communicate and relate to each other that wasn't affected by their lack of vision. We didn't really do many of the traditional things that other families might have done, we didn't take trips, we didn't watch movies or tv together, and we never really spent that much time outside of the house. But music and sound were areas that we could all understand and all relate to. It was a language for us, and one we all learned to speak together.

RRR: Who were some of your favorite musicians while growing up and how have they impacted your music?

WF: When I was very young, most of the music I listened to was that of my parents. My mother was mostly into 60s and 70s folk: Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Bob Dylan, and my father usually was playing classical and organ works. I got pretty heavily into classic rock, the Beatles, Beach Boys, that kind of stuff, when I was a teenager. But in and after college, I kind of returned to a lot of the more stripped down acoustic sound as I was connecting a lot more to it than anything else. I think it's because that's what I was raised on and it'll always make more sense to me than most other sounds.

RRR: How does "I Don't Feel It Anymore (Song Of The Sparrow)" and "Please Forgive Me (Song Of The Crow)" relate symbolically?

WF: The album uses the two birds to represent the male and female characters in the story of a divorce, and I wanted it to be clear which voice was saying what, at least in specific parts of the album. I didn't want to make it so entirely specific that I was the only one that could relate to the record, but for the things I needed to communicate, I wanted enough of it to be crystal clear. Each bird has it's own voice or song, and those songs represent the main messages of each party. The sparrow is the one who was wronged, who was the victim, and who deserves the sorrow and sympathy. The crow is the offender, the one who carries the guilt, and the one that needed to ask for forgiveness. Those two songs are basically the cornerstones of the record.

RRR: The Sparrow and The Crow has received an outstandingly positive response from critics and rightfully so, it has even managed to grab iTunes' "Best Folk Album of 2008," do you feel that this adds pressure on you for matching the high expectations of the next album?

WF: Well firstly I am extremely honored by the very warm and generous response the record has had, and that iTunes accolade is just an absolutely treasure for me. To answer the question, yes, I absolutely think that any type of artistic achievement, whether it's recognized as such or not, has the added effect of raising one's expectations for what might be able to be achieved next. I don't think any of us can ever escape the inevitability of rising expectations. That being said, however, I think I've always placed pressure on myself and my work in mostly different areas than many others do. Although I always want to make the absolute best music I possibly can, I personally define my success by how well others can connect and relate to it, how well it opens up someone's affective experience, and how effectively it can make someone feel something that they need to feel while listening to it. For that reason, as long as I am able to do those things with my songs increasingly well, I will always be pleased with the results.

RRR: What were some highlights of your most recent tour sponsored by Paste Magazine?

WF: That was a really fun tour for me, and though it is certainly cliche to say, there were too many highlights to name only one. The part about touring that I always love the most is getting the chance to meet and get to know so many more people than I would normally have the chance to. My fans always seem to be the most kind, genuine, thoughtful, and supportive people I have ever met. And having the opportunity to share my songs with them, meet them, and talk to them every night is a more appreciated treat than I can even really explain. I was so grateful to get to see so many people on the Paste tour and for that reason, it couldn't have been more rewarding.

RRR: What was touring with Caitlin Crosby and Slow Runner like? Do you plan on touring with them again?

WF: The whole tour was really just a bunch of friends hanging out and playing music. Caitlin was a friend from before who I had the pleasure of singing with on my new record, and although I didn't know the Slow Runner guys before the tour, we were basically old friends in only a matter of days. All of them and Caitlin are so very talented, and just the exact kind of people that you'd actually want to spend a month in a van with. I would tour with any of them again in a heartbeat, certainly.

RRR: What was the craziest thing a fan has ever said or done to you?

WF: Honestly I really don't get that many strange things requested of me, which is rather nice. I get a lot of people wanting to touch the beard, which is probably understandable given the magic powers held safely inside of it. But other than that, nothing too outlandish.

RRR: What are some of your hobbies other than music?

WF: If smoking and drinking beer are hobbies, than let's call that the first one. No, I mean I'm mostly a homebody and I really don't get into that many things. I like sitting outside and enjoying the peacefulness of my home. Lately I've started to try to get back into some studies as an old habit from college and graduate school, just reading up on some subjects I never spent enough time on. Touring is such a non-stop, very fast moving endeavor, that when I'm able to be at home, I find myself wanting to slow down and just enjoy calm as much as I can.

RRR: What are some of your [favorite] places to eat while on the road?

WF: I'm not much of a picky eater, so most of the time I'll let others decide on where and what to eat. But I always make sure to try something local in any city or area we're playing in, be it a certain style, or dish, or beer, etc... It's important for me to make sure to appreciate the different places I'm lucky enough to visit, whether that means meeting new people, or visiting an historical site, or trying various foods that I might not be able to anywhere else. I also am not opposed to a nice stick of beef jerky, bag of cheetos, and a soda from a gas station. Sometimes nothing hits the spot like that.

RRR: Now, I know that you write all your songs and each one relates to your life, but what exactly happens during the process of writing a song?

WF: Songwriting to me always needs to start with a broad area of inspiration. I have a great deal of respect for a songwriter that can sit down and craft a melody and lyric without having to draw from a well of personal experience. There is real skill in being able to do that. For me, however, it has to come from something inside, or something outside that had an internal effect. After that motivation is there, it's really just a matter of letting the music come out through playing the notes, chords, melodies, beats, etc... that draw from those emotions. Lyrics, likewise, usually come from a combination of stream of consciousness and trying to describe the emotions or situations as accurately and clearly as I can. Not every song comes about the same way, and some do seem to come to me rather out of the blue. But for the most part I merely attempt to get out what's already inside my head.

RRR: Do you have any rituals that you do before, during or after a show?

WF: I'm not a terribly superstitious person really. There's nothing that if left undone I feel will truly affect my performance. But I always do make sure to come out and talk to my supporters after every show, at the very least just to let them know how thankful I am to have them as a part of my team. Other than that I suppose a good drink or two is about the only 'must' at a concert.

RRR: And the final question that I have to ask, do you plan on keeping that beard forever?

WF: The beard was never really meant to be a part of the music. I grew it out many years ago and just never got around to getting rid of it. All the men in my family also wear beards so it's never seemed odd or out of place to me. But I don't really have any qualms about shaving it at any point. If I come to the point of feeling like I want to be rid of it, at least for a time, then I'd certainly get the razor out. I just haven't really ever gotten to that point yet.

Interview by Michael Hale

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