Finding a way to introduce William Fitzsimmons is difficult; it would be so easy to say that he’s ‘not your average singer-songwriter’, although these days I’m not too sure who is. Simply put, William Fitzsimmons is a man whose personality is as fascinating as his music. We caught up with him for a chat on what he’s been up to and my favourite subject • drinking beers in the cornfield.

R13: To those who don't already know you, who is William Fitzsimmons?
WF: Ah, starting off easy I see. Well, I suppose the simplest answer would be a mental health therapist who somehow managed to become a songwriter. There's perhaps a bit more to it than that, but that sums up the main points.

R13: What made you decide to try for a career in music?
WF: I never like to suggest that my ending up a musician was a complete
accident. I mean I did record music on my own after all. But as far as it being a career, that was a pipe dream at best.

I think I made the choice to pursue it full-time, not just as a hobby, whenever people started to ask to have the music I was making, to purchase CD's, to make more of it, etc... Whenever it became something that made more sense to embrace completely, than merely to enjoy on the side, I jumped in.

R13: Did being completely self-produced come about through choice or more from necessity? How do you think it's affected your sound?
WF: It was definitely necessity at the beginning. It didn't have any money to record in a studio, and I wouldn't have even known what that would have meant to make a studio album. I saved up some money from Christmas's and Birthday's and bought some cheap recording gear and made a few songs for fun.

I always wanted to see what it would be like to be able to record more than just a guitar and my voice; to layer in different sounds, instruments, and so forth. It was quite a pain early on, because I sincerely had no idea what I was doing. But I think I came to appreciate the process of creating music all the more from having to work so hard for it. As far as my sound, I think the primary affect would be the "closeness" or "relatable" qualities of the songs and sounds. In other words, the distance which I think people so often feel from a great deal of popular and professional music has to do with the great lengths and efforts that are put into it being pristine and perfect. I've never really enjoyed (or wanted) the luxury of creating something that individuals couldn't relate to on an intimate level.

R13: As a self-releasing, self-reliant artist, how have you found the balance between business and creativity?
WF: Great question and I don't suppose I ever would have realized there's such a tension between those two things before becoming a working musician. I honestly don't know that I've discovered the balance between art and commerce yet, if there really is one to be found. I think it's probably a different equation for every artist. For me, I endeavor to never sacrifice what I feel I must communicate with the songs.

The real issue, however, becomes what form I mediate that communication through. I could, for example, merely read a song's lyrics aloud, without any melody to speak of. That, of course, would be awful and no one (including me) would care to listen to it. But I choose to present the subject matter in such a way that people hopefully find compelling, moving, enjoyable, etc... Up till this point I've never had to water down any of the music or lyrics for the sake of making something more "commercial," and I can only hope that if and when the time comes when I'm faced with that choice, I'll do what most honors the music (while still allowing me to make the next months rent payment, of course).

R13: Has it been a steep learning curve?
WF: Absolutely. Like I alluded to before, I never really knew anything about music as a business or career. I just sort of assumed you write songs, get famous, and then nice people drop by your house every month and deliver bags of money with dollar signs printed on the sides of them. In all seriousness, though, yes, it has been quite the education. I consider myself extremely fortunate, though, that I've had some really generous, kind, and knowledgeable people surrounding me who have helped me through it. Without them, I'm not sure I would even be doing this still.

R13: What do you think being featured on several TV shows has actually done for your career?
WF: There's no doubt that television and movie placements are a powerful means to getting your music heard by countless numbers of folks that might otherwise never find it. I think that has been a big catalyst for giving me the opportunity to tour and actually having fans come out to shows. There's no magic pill to it; meaning even with the best possible features, you have to be able to work hard to become someone who people might enjoy listening for a few seconds on a TV show, to someone who another person seeks out for shows, records, etc... But I gladly and thankful say that without the great placements I've been lucky enough to have, I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today.

R13: You seem to be part of a community of do-it-yourself, highly talented artists. What has it been like, to be part of a supportive music community?
WF: I wouldn't trade it for anything. Besides the fact that we can help each other, and that success ends up being shared, the whole process and journey ends up being so much more rewarding being able to share it with others. It's easily one of the best parts of being able to be doing this for a living.

R13: What helps you to overcome criticism or negative feedback?
WF: Well I've fortunately not had too much of that yet (cue negative feedback). Haha. No, I mean no one is immune to criticism; some of it warranted and constructive, some of it less so. I think I've learned to put more stock into those that know me and what I'm trying to accomplish through my music than those that have no measure of investment in it. That being said, I still take any feedback with seriously consideration, no matter what the source. Often it's a total stranger, who feels no need to filter their responses, who tells you something you need to hear about your work. Even still, as long as I'm saying what I need to say through the music in the best way I possibly can, I'm not going to worry too much either way.

R13: Are you grateful for the inspiration that sad events in life have given you, or would you have preferred they'd never happened, even if that meant missing out on the music they'd inspired you to write?
WF: Ah, it's a tricky question. If I were to trade the struggles I've had to go through, then I probably wouldn't even be a songwriter. And truth be told I don't know that I'd have much to say were it not for the events that have written and write upon. On the other hand, I wouldn't have to deal with the repercussions of those events or the subsequent hard memories they've caused. To be honest it is something that I've thought on before, but it's a dead end line of thought, because the fact is that one can never go back and change what was done. The best I (and we) can do is to move on and try to make the best choices we can in the present. Probably could have gone without the time I wet my pants in elementary school, though. Yeah, I'd trade that one for sure.

R13: You've worked with the mentally ill for some time before now. What power do you think music holds to help all of us, whether suffering a diagnosed illness or just the stresses of daily life?
WF: I've actually put more thought into this question than probably any other one I've considered in the last year or so. And to be frank, I've changed my opinion on the subject more times than I'd care to remember. Can music change us? Can it bring about different emotions, actions, commitments? It's really too big for me (or any individual) to answer, because I can't speak on the truth of the question for someone else. My experiences with music will likely be rather idiosyncratic from another's. That being said, I think music is one of the most important and viable means we have for understanding certain parts of life and even our own experiences. I like to think of it as a different language, something that when understood can change life for the better. I think it can do things that few other things can.

R13: You use many different instruments to create your music; are you able to keep all those different sound present when you perform your songs live?
WF: I actually view the songs in their recorded form as unique from the songs in their live from. I like perform solo or perhaps with another musician, but to keep an intimacy with the songs live. In the times when I've performed with a full band, it just seems like there's more of a small space that exists between the audience and myself. Not that I don't ever perform with a band, of dislike it, but I want to make sure I always am able to have a specific connection with a given audience. As long as that link is there, the exact form or arrangement of a song is secondary to me.

R13: Touring can be a very stressful and demanding experience. Has it been hard to cope with that side of it, and still give of your best night after night?
WF: The most difficult part of touring for me is simply being away from home. I'm very much so a homebody and usually would rather be sitting back in Illinois drinking beers in the cornfield than doing just about anything else. But once I'm in the habit of performing shows during a tour, it's actually pretty easy to be "on" when I'm on a stage. Live music affords one of the coolest experiences I think you can have, so it's not really difficult to have inspiration to do the best I can when it's happening.

R13: Have you had any memorable moments on tour so far?
WF: Even with the short amount of time I've been involved with all of this, I'd say there's already probably too many to remember. One of the best recent ones was being on stage with everybody during the Hotel Cafe Tour. I look up to all those folks, so you have to realize it's very special to actually be performing with them.

R13: Where are you hoping to go with your next tour? Are there any other parts of the world you're aiming to take your music?
WF: There's no where that I'd be opposed to going, if that answers the question. Yeah, I really never left home at all when I was a kid. No vacations, trips, anything like that. So the idea of traveling is pretty wide open for me. I'm definitely excited to get over to the UK and Europe, Australia, etc... But getting to drive around the States, seeing all the cities I never got to when I was younger...I get excited to do that every chance I get.

R13: What's on the cards for the next few months?
WF: All my energy so far this year has been focused on writing and recording the new album, which I'm hoping to release around late September. It's actually finished and the final mixes are being done as we speak. I'm looking forward to putting that one out of my hands, as it's been a lot of work, emotional and otherwise, getting this project done. It's the first one I ever recorded in a studio, and I'm looking forward to seeing how people respond to it partly for that reason. After getting the album out, I'll likely be hitting the road again for a good amount of touring. Maybe I'll even throw in a touch of drinking beer in the cornfield if I get lucky.