Musicscan: William, please tell me a little bit about what makes your new album “Gold In the Shadow” different and special for you personally compared to your other albums?
William Fitzsimmons: This to me is the first record that moves toward something positive or at the very least is an attempt to. All the previous records have a rather overwhelming sense of tragedy to them. All the records are honest, and this one is the same in that regard. But it's a story of a movement away from sickness instead of only living inside of it.
Musicscan: Yes, the album sounds a bit more optimistic and “upbeat” than some of your previous efforts. Did that only have aesthetic reasons or does that also reflect the mood you were in when writing and recording the album?
William Fitzsimmons: I wrote the record during the period of my life when I realized that if I didn't eventually deal with some of the psychological problems I've had for most of my life, I was going to end up in a very dark place that I might someday not be able to find my way out of. So it was written alongside the process of facing those old demons. To me writing should always be a reflection of one's internal processes and psychological well-being.
Musicscan: Is music always necessarily functional for you in terms of being an outlet for problems and inner struggles? Is music necessarily therapeutic? What makes music special in this regard as opposed to other aesthetic media, such as literature, film or theater?
William Fitzsimmons: Well, I think any type of art can absolutely be a cathartic release and a therapeutic process, both in terms of experiencing someone else's art and expressing something in your own. In that broad sense, music is one of many areas of culture which offers that benefit. Music, however, unlike those other fields, operates as a language all its own, something that I don't think any of those other items can claim. Music speaks to a specific part of our neurophysiology that absolutely nothing else can access, or at least can't access with the depth that it can. Music is a tremendous form of personal therapy for me. And I've gotten through some very difficult times with music at my side. But I think it'd be misguided if someone were to suggest that music is the only form of therapeutic process in their life. It is a beautiful and powerful tool, but it should never be the only one.
Musicscan: How does the songwriting process work in your case? Do you start with a lyrical idea or a musical one? What helps you to piece the different ideas constituting a song together?
William Fitzsimmons: Although I would probably call myself more of a lyricist, almost every song I have written has begun with a melody, or a chord progression. Music is tremendously potent at influencing mood and emotion, and when it's allowed to freely act on someone in that regard, it can very organically begin to pull words and themes that would never come in it's absence. On a couple specific and rare occasions, I have awoken in the middle of the night with a fully formed lyrical line in my head, but those are few and far between. Once whatever general theme is broached, however, I then use both the lyrics and the melodies to influence each other until a general form and idea is in place. The mistake I think a lot of writers unfortunately make is to approach songwriting with an aggressive and impatient mindset. A great song will allow itself to be formed in it's own time. And it must be given the time and space to breathe and develop freely, without a consideration for speed.
Musicscan: Could you imagine recording a loud rock/noise album someday or do you think your musical language is ultimately tied to a singer/songwriter approach?
William Fitzsimmons: I have never been one to see myself as married to any particular genre, as far as trying to stay within a certain category. I think the folk/songwriter title is probably the one that has made the most sense with the songs I have so far written, but I have never tried to stay within that. It just so happens that those arrangements fall within that. So if songs began to come to me which needed energy, and volume, and anything else for that matter, would chase them in those directions with just as much passion as I have chased all the previous songs I have made.
Musicscan: What inspires you apart from other art?
William Fitzsimmons: The ways in which our minds, bodies, hearts, and souls become diseased, broken, sick, and unwell. And the ways in which those diseases can be mended.
Musicscan: Did you have any goals when you started playing and recording? If yes, how have they perhaps changed over the years?
William Fitzsimmons: The only goal I've ever head when I began writing songs is to say something in the most forthright and honest way in which I could, and in a manner which can somehow influence, challenge, or move anyone who might hear it. That goal had been there since day one and it will never change.
Musicscan: What do you hope people to take away from one of your live shows?
William Fitzsimmons: I understand that for many people the idea of going to a show is a form of entertainment. It's a way to have some pleasure, enjoyment, and perhaps even an escape. And that is absolutely fine. The world would be a much worse place if we didn't have art which can be enjoyable and entertaining to us. But I want more than that. And I want people to take away something so much more intense than that when they listen to my records or even more so when they come to my shows. My goal for anyone who sees me play music live is to connect with them deeply enough with the songs that they are unable to shake the emotions that are conveyed through it. I know that might sound like a storage thing for a musician to say. But it's the exact reason why I believe I was given this wonderful opportunity to write songs.
Musicscan: What is the difference between art and entertainment in your opinion?
William Fitzsimmons: Entertainment feeds the senses. Art nourishes the soul.
Musicscan: Do you think you will be going back to being a therapist full-time some day? What do you find fascinating about this profession and what led you to choose music after all?
William Fitzsimmons: I have always remained open to the idea of returning to being a practicing therapist. It has been a special part of my life and will always continue to be in one form or another. I chose music because whenever my life fell a part right in front of me, the idea of writing songs was the one thing that made sense. But the main thing which drew me to loving psychology, namely a passion for understanding the inner workings of the mind and unconscious, is the very same work I do as a songwriter. It might look rather different, but the goals of better understanding and an empathic regard for those around us, is nearly identical.
Musicscan: What can we expect from you in the near future? Any tours, collaborations, further releases planned?
William Fitzsimmons: Most of the rest of the year will be spent touring behind the new record. I'm not really one to plan too far out in the future, but I have several things I'm wanting to pour a lot of time in as soon as I can. But for the time being, I'm just enjoying being able to share the new songs with people in person.