Interview: William Fitzsimmons Bares his Soul.
by Daniel Haim
I first met William Fitzsimmons at a downtown show during the colder days of October. He was working on the release of The Sparrow and the Crow and back then, I was able to relate with the album, it’s what helped me gain this interest in William’s music, and life. During our interview in 2008 William spoke about his parents, about the story behind the album, but also about the growth he had from his previous album, to this last album.
William says this album is a “step forward in terms of the progression of the macro-level story”. He explained “The major difference in substance between “Gold” and the previous records is a focus leaning more towards the side of balance and healing. I must agree, as I am going through hard-times right now as well William’s music is just, perfect. Don’t think twice. Pick up William’s new album right here.
Fitzsimmons’ new release, Gold In The Shadow, is a musical reflection of the personal resuscitation and psychological renovation, which took place in the years following his divorce. Based on a specific set of psycho-pathological disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV), he describes the songs as “a real and long coming confrontation with personal demons, past mistakes, and the specter of mental illness that has hovered over me for the great majority of my life.” However, whereas nearly the whole of William’s previous albums have dealt with the bleak and somber side of inter- and interpersonal disaster, Gold is a work focused on healing. William continues: “I had reached the point where I was either going to yield to my sicknesses or engage them headlong. In either case, I could no longer continue the way I was.”
Gold In The Shadow represents a welcomed musical departure, not from authenticity in writing, but in the field of focus. It is a return to his pre-music therapeutic passions, but with one eye now fixated on actual and optimistic change. It is ripe with personal elements, but also represents his first foray into external perspective taking; examining the lives and psychological struggles of those around him in addition to his own. It is an acknowledgment of the shadow self and the Todestrieb (Freud’s “death instinct”); but, even still and more so, an acceptance of hope.
Daniel: William, it’s been a while since we last spoke. It’s been over two years and you were then working on ‘Sparrow and The Crow’ how have you been? what have you been up to?
William: I’ve been well lately, thanks for asking. I actually spent the better part of the last two or three years touring, with most of it being the “Sparrow” record and songs. I was pretty surprised how well people seemed to connect with that album, which of course is a wonderful thing. But it had the eventual adverse effect on me that I began to get overwhelmed by the subject matter of what I was thinking about and singing about constantly, given the nature of what those songs were about. So whenever all of that was over, I really didn’t have anything left to even think about starting a new project, or writing even one song. Most of time that wasn’t on the road, then, was spent trying to get my life back together from how well I screwed it up personally and trying to get my head straight.
Daniel: So I asked the same question back then, how has your music career progressed between the last album to this album?
William: Well I’ve been very fortunate and the music really seems to be finding more and more people everyday. My fans are very determined to get these songs to other people, that’s really the way my songs have spread since the beginning. I’ve been grateful too to see the shows grow as much as they have. The challenge is always to keep the intimacy that I love having with the live performances no matter the size of the audience. But I believe in what I’m writing, so it makes me very happy to see those words getting to new people.
Daniel: Gold In The Shadow is your fourth studio album – must feel like a huge accomplishment. How long have you been working on this album?
William: “Gold” has actually been a pretty long process, mostly because I started it from a completely academic and itinerary place. I’ve been dealing with quite a few longstanding psychological issues for some time and I knew that I needed to read as much as I could about theory, biographies of fellow sufferers, etc… as a starting point to getting myself well. The notion of making songs about the process was more of an afterthought when I again needed some sort of outlet to chronicle and explain what I was going through, as a way to understand it better for myself, and communicate that to others with the hope it might do the same for them. I probably took the better part of a year and a half from start to finish with al that considered.
Daniel: What kind of change you think your fans will see in the upcoming album?
William: I think the record is s step forward in terms of the progression of the macro-level story I see to be telling/experiencing. My central commitment as a writer, that I refuse to be swayed from, is to write as honestly as possible, regardless of the outcome. The major difference in substance between “Gold” and the previous records is a focus leaning more towards the side of balance and healing. The earlier songs are really only about understanding and experiencing a darkness. I also think the record is a step forward in terms of openness to new arrangements and ideas in my writing and recording. I think the worst thing an artist can do is stay in one place. It doesn’t mean I’m going to start writing songs for Lady Gaga. But I’m a strong believe in letting the songs decide where they want to go and what they call for.
Daniel: What inspired Gold In The Shadow?
William: The need to fix my head before it was too far damaged to do so.
Daniel: I know that most of your songs, and album titles have a meaning behind them. What is the theme that’s running in Gold In The Shadow & is there a story behind it?
William: The medium with which I choose to conceptualize this record in was that of psychopathology and mental health; telling each story through the lens of specific disease and the notion of what it would mean to chase and perhaps someday capture a cure. What it would mean to accept, rather than run from, that darkness that we’re always so tempted to deny. Each song actually uses a specific diagnostic illness to tell a story; some are clear, others more difficult to discern.
Daniel: Did you write this album for someone?
William: I wrote this album for myself and for anyone that is willing to step inside some very strange and rather deep recesses of my mind.
Daniel: Who are you working with writing wise, what producers are coming to the table on this project?
William: I still write everything on my own, at this point I feel like that’s the most direct path into whatever areas of our neurophysiology such things emerge from. The new record was produced by a couple great musicians and friends of mine, Jay Clifford and Josh Kaler, down at their studio in Charleston, SC. It was a very collaborative endeavor in terms of production and arrangement, and it was much more open and not nearly as strictly structured as I had specifically designed the “Sparrow” project to be. I think it came out all the better for it.
Daniel: How many songs in between did you record for this album? And how many songs are going to be on the album – with what’s left over and did those make the cut?
William: I did a fair number of demos, once I was far into the literature review and reading, it was a matter of narrowing down the focus of ideas as opposed attempting to pull them out of me. I don’t know for certain, but there was probably a good 10 or songs written or partially written songs that were left off or out of the sessions. After everything was said and done, I still had too many many songs for just one record, and I wanted to do several acoustic versions of these songs as well to give people a chance to experience the songs both host where written and I envisioned them being arranged and recorded. That’s why I chose to make a deluxe version of the album as well; to make sure if somebody really wanted to get as deep into the story as possible, that option would be there.