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On a bonus track of indie-folk artist William Fitzsimmons' 2008 release, “The Sparrow and the Crow,” he penned the earnest words “I need to try and start again.” Three years later, with the release of his album “Gold in the Shadow,” it is apparent that the singer-songwriter with the storied past has done just that.

Last week, The State Press spoke with Fitzsimmons, talking about everything from his new album to how he got started in music.

The State Press: So, first things first, how excited are you about the new album?

William Fitzsimmons: Yeah, I'm really excited. Especially on this side of it, you know, you hope people connect to it the way you wrote it. Even if you're very proud of it, you never know if people will actually feel the same way about it that you do. But all the feedback I've gotten so far is pretty wonderful, so now it's just fun because you go and play and get to share it in person.

SP: I know previous releases like “Goodnight” and “The Sparrow and the Crow” have been sort of inspired by specific events, was there anything in specific that inspired this album?

William Fitzsimmons: Yeah, it's really the flip side of the coin for all that stuff. It was the opposite, you know, going through all that stuff and writing about it, and of course living it — it was good, it was honest, and I'm glad I did it, but it was very drawn out, and it started to get pretty heavy. I'm not the type of person or performer that likes to put it in cruise control, so I think if you're going to write and play this music, then you should be feeling the things that you're singing and playing. So there was sort of this great beginning, then it got less great, then it got depressing and painful to be out there and remembering all those things that happened. This one kind of came about when I took some time away from all that, from writing and playing for a little while, just spending some time trying to get better and figuring out how to fix my life a little bit. And that's what it's about — it's about balancing all that and trying to look forward for once, instead of always looking back.

SP: So would you say that it's a kind of coming full circle for you?

William Fitzsimmons: I think so. People have described it that way. I talked to this girl last night who actually phrased it like that. She's been listening from the beginning, and she said it sort of feels like a circle and that this is kind of the end of a chapter. It sounds cheesy or whatever, but it is. This is either the end of act one or the beginning of the second act. Which I guess makes sense to me. When I started writing songs, I didn't plan out that I was going to f--- my life up really bad and write a record about it, but you go in arcs. You're always moving up and down.

SP: For “Tide Pulls From the Moon” and a lot of the other tracks on the new album, it feels like the production was a little bit different. Was it intended to be that way?

William Fitzsimmons: Yes and no. With the last ones, and especially with the very last one, “The Sparrow and the Crow,” that was extremely intentional how it was meant to sound. I wanted it to sound very organic and raw, pretty dark and pretty sparse, so it was kind of made the way it was not to a fault, but to a tee. And this one, it was a much more collaborative effort with a couple guys that produced it, and it's a lot more wide open. I wanted to chase the songs a little bit instead of forcing them into submission, so there was a chance that it could have ended up sounding similar, but I didn't think it would. There was just a lot more freedom and exploration. It was a lot nicer doing it that way. I mean, certainly there was creativity before, but when it's too structured, it becomes more of an exercise as opposed to a journey or an adventure.

SP: So are you excited to get out on tour and play the songs for fans in a live setting?

William Fitzsimmons: I mean, if you ask me today, I'll say yes. If you ask me a month and a half into this, I might say that I hate it. But I've grown to appreciate, and more importantly, see the importance of all of it. Because when you put too much weight on any given modality, it just feels that you'll become well out of balance. There are people that only feel comfortable making songs in the studio or only comfortable being an ass or touring and being a jerk, but you need to be willing to be open to all those different things. And the cool thing is, when you do it right, they all end up influencing the other ones in a really positive way. I think you become a better songwriter when you actually look at the peoples' faces and see how they're being affected and reacting to what you're doing, you know? So, to answer your question, it was a lot harder before because one, I wasn't used to it, I was never a very well traveled person, and two, even though I'm out there getting to play music for a living, which is wonderful, I was singing about such horribly sad things. So this feels like the first time I'm able to give a more gambit of emotions in a show. I can actually have some positivity and a little more lightness, and that is incredibly fulfilling. Even with the two shows I've already done, I've kind of been beside myself with gratitude. It feels like I can finally exhale and enjoy it a little more.

SP: When you started writing music, did you know it was going to have the inspiring effect that it's had on people?

William Fitzsimmons: I mean, I figured, because I knew I was really awesome (laughs). No, not at all, I mean, music is a really wonderful thing and it's been a part of my life since I was very young. I guess I had those teenage fantasies of being Jimmy Page or someone like that, getting up on a stage and melting faces and all that. But once I got to the age of what I wanted to do, there was a lot of things that became passions that I felt like I was being directed towards — psychology in particular — so that's some of the stuff I did for awhile. So no, I didn't really have any fixation or any thought, which I guess paradoxically is one of the reasons why it worked, because I was writing about whatever I wanted. I was being very open and honest, and maybe saying stuff that if I thought people would have heard it, I would have maybe held back a little on it. In my mind, it makes it all more special. I'm still surprised when I think about it, that I'm here right now, in a van, driving around the country and playing my music.

SP: How much has your schooling in psychology and therapy affected your music?

William Fitzsimmons: It's even bigger than you'd think. I kind of fought the synchronicity of those two things for a while, because I didn't really spend any time considering how they might actually be wonderful bedfellows, but the main thing I've learned is that the practice and the process of both things is nearly identical. What you're doing with songwriting is almost the kind of thing that you're trying to do with good therapy, to inspire somebody or affect some sort of change. You plant the intellectual seed in somebody, in their head or their heart, and that's what I was doing as a counselor. Just try and move people along at whatever pace they're able to go at, you know, understanding people, being non-judgmental, having empathy for people no matter what they're going through. So it's kind of amazing. I kind of feel like I have a bit of an unfair advantage, having that knowledge base and skill set. It's a part of when I write any song, the top half is wearing the Bill Cosby therapist sweater, and the bottom half has skinny jeans on.

SP: How did you get into music in the capacity that you are?

William Fitzsimmons: Oh man, that's one of the more mysterious parts of the whole thing. The short answer is, I have no idea. I mean, it's kind of crazy. There are two main things that happened. One was just the randomness of the timing of people that found it online. It was on MySpace, actually, back in 2005 or so. With the encouragement of a friend, I posted the songs up there that I had written for an exercise that I took on for myself while I was in school. And for a little bit of fun too, I thought it would be kind of neat to give recording a try. So, it was a really small beginning, but people found it and they were sharing it. If somebody wrote me an email and was like, hey, I really like your music, can I get a CD of it? I would burn them a blank CD-R on my computer and mail it to them. And it just grew like that, with people sharing it. The big step was that somebody found me and wanted to use the songs for television and films, and again, it was just this crazy, kind of random coincidence that they stumbled upon it and liked it. After a few months, I had some songs in a couple big shows, and you know what that can do. It just spreads you out to a bigger audience. So it's kind of grown steadily, but I just have a little bit of a smile in the back of my head when I think about the kind of songs I'm making and the fact that there is a number of people that like it. It's encouraging. I'm not the only person that writes about heartbreak, that's ridiculous. People have been doing that for a long time, thousands of years. But I try to make it pretty open and I think it's cool that people are still willing to take on music that's sometimes dark and in that vein.

SP: Yeah, but that's what draws a lot of people to your music. It's got this sort of visceral feel to it and it's really easy to relate to that. And I feel like more than some artists, you relate to your fans pretty well, so what do they really mean to you?

William Fitzsimmons: Oh man, it's not an understatement, or an overstatement, rather, to say that they're everything, really. I mean, kids come to shows and they're very sincere and eager to know what to do and how to get going, and one of the things I try to always mention is that you have to spend time connecting with people. The best songwriter or singer in the world, even with a lot of luck, if you're not connecting with people, it's going to be very short lived. It started out like that, too. I was having interchanges and dialogues with people from the very beginning, and I still do it today. I like to talk to people, whether it's by Facebook or Twitter or whatever. I try to come out after every single show, and if I'm out there for fifteen minutes or two hours talking to people, it's incredible. It's wonderful. And it's not just that it's a pragmatic thing, because that would be manipulative. But that's the whole point of it, to have a community. Having a universal experience, you know? That's why festivals are so incredible. Things become viral. If someone walks up to me and says, “Hey man, I just want you to know that I just went through this really hard time. My dad was sick. My parents got divorced. I just got divorced. This person died, and your record really helped me get through it.” What kind of bastard would I be if I wasn't watching the way it was actually affecting people. So that's important for me, personally and professionally too. Whenever I'm in my home, writing songs, it reminds me if I'm ever feeling lazy, if I'm ever feeling pissed off, this little voice just tells me that I'm a lucky son of a bitch to do this. And there are people that are listening to this that are going to be moved in some way by it. So, you know, take it seriously and do it the right way. Sorry if that was a long answer, but it's an important thing. I'm very proud that I have that personable reputation, and I intend to keep that for as long as I'm lucky enough to do this.

SP: Definitely. I'll just ask you one more question — since I write for a university newspaper, if you could offer one little anecdote or one little bit of advice to your fans, what would it be?

William Fitzsimmons: Oh man, that's a tough one. My whole thing is on relationships. Spend time really getting to know and fostering good relationships and friendships with people while you have the time and ability to do it, because those ones will last. At the end of the day, if you have relationships, there's not too much that's more important than that, you know? It's the thing that keeps us sane. It keeps us going.

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