Zeke's Latest Discovery: WILLIAM FITZSIMMONS

There are times when you intentionally seek a new artist out based on critical buzz among music journalists, and there are times that artists find a way to sneak up on you.  Such is the case with my latest musical discovery.

Earlier today, I was looking up information on an artist I had just heard on an NPR podcast, called "All Songs Considered".  That artist is an experimental artist by the name of Julianna Barwick.  Julianna is known for creating a beautiful soundscape of layered vocals, a striking work of art with only the instrument of her voice and a sampling machine.  While looking at her website, I looked to see if she was touring at the moment, or whether or not she had recently been on tour, as I had seen an artist that had a similar style this past summer.  The website inadvertently took me to the Asthmatic Kitty Records website, a small, Wyoming based Indie record label, known for being the home to artists like Sufjan Stevens and (apparently) Denison Witmer, whom I discovered on a record Denison recorded with Sufjan and mutual friend (and one of my favorite singer/songwriters), Rosie Thomas.  On the website, I glanced to see a forthcoming date at Salt Lake's Urban Lounge (a local club known for hosting great Indie acts), and saw Denison's name listed.  At first I thought that Denison was coming to town with Julianna Barwick, before realizing that it was concert bookings for the entire label's roster.  Denison was coming to town.

Having been a fan of Denison's music for a couple years, and owning a few of his albums, I quickly texted my dear friend Mary to see if she was interested in seeing Denison.  As she confirmed her interest, I decided to check for further details about the show, i.e. ticket prices, etc.

While doing said research, I came to discover that Denison was NOT the headliner, but was, in fact, opening up for someone named William Fitzsimmons.  This seemed odd to me, considering I had never heard of Mr. Fitzsimmons, but was very familiar with Denison.  Obviously, if I were going to be seeing these two perform, I needed to investigate the former artist, if only to see if he would be worth paying a higher price to see.

The first video that popped up on his website was a lovely little ditty called, "Beautiful Girl".  It was just beautiful, it was breathtaking!  I watched the video in all of it's 2 minute, 38 second glory.  Other "official videos" began popping up, and I proceeded to explore them.  Equally as beautiful, delicate in nature.  Being a man that is drawn to sparse, heartfelt Folk music, I was immediately finding myself not only a fan of William Fitzsimmons' music, but truly connecting to it.

Where immediate descriptions about Mr. Fitzsimmons touted him as "equal parts musician, equal parts psychotherapist".  Intriguing, to say the least.

The following is taken directly from his website, and gives a deeper perspective of who William Fitzsimmons is.  Enjoy the videos, read his short biography... I promise you will NOT be disappointed.  If not by the music, then certainly by his truly AWESOME beard.

William Fitzsimmons is equal parts songwriter and psychotherapist, creating captivating music, which uniquely melds depravity, honesty, and autobiography into a counter-intuitive seamless whole. Since 2005, Fitzsimmons has created three full-length albums, each thoroughly themed and embossed with matters of family history, intimate disclosure, and bold confession, yielding rich folk music, ranging from the stark and acoustic to the voluminous and electronic. All the while reflecting William's commitment to addressing what is always pressing, and yet all too often ignored.
Fitzsimmons' path into music came at the influence and education of his parents, both of whom filled his childhood home with a myriad of instruments, sing-a-longs, and theoretical instruction. However, far from being a mere pastime in the Fitzsimmons' household, music was a communicative necessity between William and his parents, both of whom being blind, relied on the language of music to bridge the relational gap between themselves and a child who experienced the world entirely differently from them.
During his collegiate and post-graduate years, Fitzsimmons left music behind in order to pursue a career in the mental health field; becoming a therapist was a long-held aspiration. Upon completion of a Master's Degree in counseling, he worked as a therapist with the severely mentally ill for several years. It was during the latter part of his training that he began to write songs as both a preparative exercise for his work in the psychiatric field, and as a personal catharsis to deal with his own long-standing psychological maladies.
His first two albums, homemade and self-produced, were expositions on both his unorthodox upbringing and his family's disintegration during his youth. Their understated presentation and overt descriptions of relational and familial disillusionment met quickly and potently with listeners. Very soon thereafter, still working within psychology, William found his songs spreading broadly and being featured on national television programs. However, the process of such revelatory writing and rumination was taking a gradual and heavy toll. During the making of the Goodnight album, Fitzsimmons saw most of the segments of his life begin to tear asunder.
Fitzsimmons' third effort, 2008's The Sparrow and the Crow, was a detailed and afflictive retelling of the events surrounding his divorce from his wife of nearly ten years. Written as a personal apology to her, the album is a foreboding but genuine tale of misfortune and a reconciling of the darkest point of his life. It was named iTunes' Best Folk Album of that same year. Following the release of Sparrow, William would take a moratorium from songwriting for over two years.
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 psychopathological 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 intrapersonal 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.