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Fitzsimmons brings new album

BY ERIC HAWKINSON | APRIL 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Singer/songwriter William Fitzsimmons believes there are two types of people — those who value insight and those who would rather never look back.

“I am greatly the former,” he said. “If you want to move forward, you have to be willing to go through something. Catharsis is the process by which change happens, not denial.”

The folk artist is on tour in promotion of his new album, Gold in the Shadow. He will perform at Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., at 9 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $15.

The Pittsburgh native has been through a great deal in his life and has been quite open to the media about his struggles. His music has served him as a “therapeutic tool,” and he attributes much of his openness to his earning an M.A. in counseling at Geneva College. Crossing paths with individuals who have aggressive, violent, psychotic, and suicidal behaviors has had a major effect on his life.

“When you’ve learned how to be comfortable and at peace in those situations, you’re able to say things in songwriting without any sort of fear or inhibition,” he said. “I think it’s benefited me greatly. There’s really not enough music that’s as cathartic as it could be.”

Longtime manager Michael Solomon said it’s been an honor and a privilege to work with Fitzsimmons. Solomon described him as a perfect intersection of all things intellectual, spiritual, and emotional.

“When you put it all together, you got this really wonderful person who can feel and understand emotion, both from the perspective of the person who’s having it and from why and how people have their feelings,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said he believes his experiences in counseling have given him a bit of an edge on others. In school, he was trained to be able to get inside people’s heads and to understand their motivations. He applies these skills in his music not to solely entertain people but also to to get to the core of people’s experience and to have a bolder conversation.

“It’s not magic; I’m not brilliant or anything, but I know a few tricks here and there that can help me get to a conclusion,” he said. “I use that, man, and I don’t feel guilty about it.”

Fitzsimmons writes mainly from emotion. His previous album, The Sparrow and the Crow, was written in reaction to his divorce. His latest album, Gold in the Shadow, is balanced, and it moves forward honestly from the melancholy. He has moved on from the diseased state he once was in, he said, but he recognizes the previous albums as truth — that was how he felt. He’s proud of those works because they resonate with people.

“If you take everything individually, there’s nothing groundbreaking,” Fitzsimmons said. “I’m not the first person to sing quietly, to write a breakup album, to have a beard, or to play guitar. But the gestalt of the whole thing is, I think, what creates something different. That’s the idea that you can use music to go as deeply as possible into someone’s sickness, darkness, and evil and use that as a way to actually come out of it.”

Throughout his career, he has been compared to the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine, and Elliott Smith. These comparisons flatter him, he said, but it’s a two-way street because it’s not perfectly accurate.

“Iron & Wine, yeah, there are some similarities there — sort of hushed vocals, maybe attention for more guitar-driven stuff, or they may be just saying that because we both have beards,” he said and laughed.

In any event, Fitzsimmons is prouder of his show than ever. He refuses to do any complacent work while on tour, in which the audience might feel as if it wasn’t an honest performance.

“If I wanted to just play music for people, I could just walk up there and put my CD in a stereo,” he said. “I want people, if they decide to come to the show, I want them to actually feel something deeply.”


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