Jack Wilson - BIOGRAPHY -- self-titled album
Austin, TX-based Jack Wilson's self-titled, debut full-length bridges the
gap between the folk-rock of Seattle (where he began his career as a
full-time musician) and the acoustic music prevalent in Austin.
"Somewhere, in the blending, is the sound of the record," says Wilson, a
little ambiguous when he talks about his music, but focused on describing
it as best he can. "Whatever you might call it, my sound, well, it's that
Wilson, a songsmith able to pull off his album solo acoustic, or with a
full-on rock band, says that is what he set out to do with this release.
"That's why I decided to go with a self-titled record for my debut,"
Wilson admits. "During the process of making the record, which consisted
of months of pre-recording talks and planning, I opted to steer away from
a concept record. I didn't want to make a rock record, or a folk record,
or a low-fi record, or what have you. I just wanted to sit down and
record the songs the way that they sounded best."
During pre-production for what would become the self-titled album, Wilson
decided to drop his band moniker, Jack Wilson & The Wife Stealers, and
settled solely on Jack Wilson.
"I didn't want to be constrained to limits of alt. country, or rock, or
folk," he reiterates. "It was the greatest hurdle facing the record, just
that idea of, ‘Do we make a rock record? Does every song need to have
drums on it? How do we make an album that settles together and tells one
story?' Through multiple takes and versions, re-cuts and overdubs, some
tracks kept all the complexity of the rock that they were recorded with.
Some tracks, like the album's only cover, 'Clean,' were stripped of
everything - that’s what the song needed to come out and be heard."
The result is the eleven tracks that comprise the album. Jumping from the
nineteen electric guitars found on "The Cure," a full-on rock number
complete with a horn section, or the subdued, late-night folk of "The
Truth," fleshed out by Wilson's Austin picker friends laying down mellow,
yet gripping acoustic lines, the album is as schizophrenic as one could
come, without sounding out-of-place, sloppy, or without direction.
"I just wanted the record to reflect exactly what I was hearing in my
head," comments Wilson. "The album's producer, Alex Kostelnik, helped
translate what was in my head and was a great editorial voice to get it
down real nice."
Traveling from the album opener, "Valhalla," a love song about dreaming
and keeping watch over a sleeping loved one, through "I'll Do the Same,"
about meeting an old flame many years down the line. Or the chilling
indie-folk of "Red Feather," haunting you with a slow melody, about a
winter night in Seattle, seeing the good-luck bringing Red-feathered
Cardinals. To the country-rock of "Black Hills Fiction," a three-part
narrative about the huge humanitarian disaster that was the Black Hills
Gold Rush, told by a native, a prospector, and a soldier. Wilson is able
to tell stories, sing about his love and life lessons, all while giving
the listener a musical journey that is anything but predictable.
One of the album's strongest songs is the alt. country kicker "Paying for
Misery (Thanks to You)," a song Wilson wrote as a homage to a train
hopper, and two folk singers, that helped show him that working a menial
job and squandering his musical career was never going to satisfy him.
Suffice to say, Wilson quit his job, wrote this song, and hit the road,
putting everything on the line.
Thankfully Wilson did this, putting his faith in his own music, and what
would become the self-titled full-length.
"The record came out basically as I had planned," Wilson says without
hesitation. "Certainly, the songs remain the best choices for the record.
The length is appropriate. The dynamics are good; the album starts
strong, takes you down, brings you back. It’s an engaging record."
One of Wilson's favorite songs on the record is album opener "Valhalla," a
song he doesn't even remember writing.
"It's the song I play the most," he remarks. "The funny thing is that I
don’t remember writing it, at all. I don’t remember any point during the
writing process. I do remember my ex, reading 'The Mists of Avalon,' and
loving it and reading bits of it to me every night. I suppose that’s why
it’s my favorite, it’s like someone gave it to me to play. As a gift."
Proud of his debut full-length, Wilson doesn't take the sole credit. He
is quickly eager to thank, and show appreciation, for all the players that
made the record a reality.
"So many friends helped this record come together," he says. "The horn
sections are something that I felt we used sparingly and with great
impact. In the last chorus of 'Valhalla,' Alex Kostelnik and I spent hours
finding ways to mix in the vocal lines, the pedal steel swells, the
ecstatic drumming, and those four horns. Through that cacophony, came such
a sweet feeling, like a tipsy stumble sidewalk, following a marching band
through the streets of the French Quarter at 9 o'clock in the morning."
Looking back at it all, and discussing prior records he's released and
recorded with prior bands, Wilson is glad he finally came into his own.
"I was trying to be many different people before I made this record. This
record is me being Jack Wilson. Hopefully the next record will also be
Jack Wilson, we just have to give [the album] a different name."
He pauses and then laughs, "It’s too bad my name is not Prine. Then we
could come up with a sweet play on words like Prime Prine for the second
Now the only thing left for Wilson to do is continue touring in support of
the album he put his heart and soul into.
"When people who have heard me live take home the record, I always tell
them that they’re getting a lot of music for their money. The live show
can take many forms. In an acoustic setting, I tell people that they’re
going to get all the songs they heard, with more accompaniment, more band.
After one of our rock band shows, I send people home with records and tell
them that now they’re going to get to hear all those words a lot clearer.
The record marries the electric and acoustic show. If they liked the show,
then there’s something for everyone."
When discussing people's reactions to the record, Wilson just hopes that
"when people put on the record, that they listen to the words, that they
allow themselves to get swept up in the sound, and follow it through the
different shapes that it takes on the record. I want people to put on
'Valhalla' in the morning while they’re making breakfast, or put on 'I’ll
Do the Same' or 'Red Feather' while they’re going through a breakup. Or
having to deal with a fucking long cold winter."
That is Jack Wilson. In a nutshell.