William Fitzsimmons is set to release his new album ‘Gold in the Shadow’ on 21st March. Many listeners will already be familiar with his quite voice that we first featured in 2008 with his album Sparrow and the Crow. The signs on the horizon such as a flying visit to the UK for the hmv Next Big Thing festival seem to indicate a bigger UK awareness of this FRUK favourite. This album sees a confrontation with personal demons, past mistakes and the spectre of mental illness. The healing process reflects a brighter album than anything he has done before.
William Fitzsimmons previous albums were delicate and often agonising reflections on his life. Gold in the Shadow is very much the light at the end of the tunnel and whatever ghosts were haunting him this album is very much about the healing and the ability to see a brighter side…or the gold in the shadow.
I had reached the point where I was either going to yield to my sicknesses or engage them headlong. In either case, I could no longer continue the way I was.
Fitzsimmons describes the songs on ‘Gold In The Shadow’ as
a real and long-coming confrontation with personal demons, past mistakes and the spectre of mental illness which has hovered over me for the great majority of my life.
Fitzsimmons past songs were woven in a fascinating and often sad past. An unorthodox upbringing and his family’s disintegration in his youth left a mark on him. When I first heard William play, that fragility was so clear and open it was frightening. Music has been a therapy that he has been turning to since he was child.
He was born the youngest child of two blind parents, he was raised in the outskirts of the steel city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Due to the family’s inability to communicate through normal visual means, William’s childhood home was filled with a myriad of sounds to replace what eyes could not see. The house was suffused with pianos, guitars, trombones, talking birds, classical records, family sing-a-longs, bedtime stories, and the bellowing of a pipe organ, which his father built into the house with his own hands. When his father’s orchestral records were not resonating through the walls, his mother would educate him on the folk stylings of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Simon & Garfunkel. By the completion of his youth and schooling, Fitzsimmons had become well-versed at a variety of instruments, at the minor expense of social standing, interactional skills, and a knowledge of proper shaving technique.
During his collegiate and post-graduate years Fitzsimmons left music behind in order to pursue a career in the mental health field; becoming a therapist was a long-held aspiration. Upon completion of a Master’s Degree in counselling he worked as a therapist with the severely mentally ill for several years. It was during the latter part of his training that he began to write songs as both a preparative exercise for his work in the psychiatric field and as a personal catharsis to deal with his own long-standing psychological maladies.
His earlier albums, homemade and self-produced, were expositions on both his unorthodox upbringing and his family’s disintegration during his youth. Their understated presentation and overt descriptions of relational and familial disillusionment met quickly and potently with listeners. Very soon thereafter, still working within psychology, William found his songs spreading broadly and being featured on international television programs including Gray’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill. However, the process of such revelatory writing and rumination was taking a gradual and heavy toll and during the making of the ‘Goodnight’ album Fitzsimmons saw most of the segments of his life begin to tear asunder.
Consequently Fitzsimmons’ 2008 release ‘The Sparrow And The Crow’ was a detailed and affective retelling of the events surrounding his divorce from his wife of nearly ten years. Written as a personal apology to her, the album was a foreboding but genuine tale of misfortune and a reconciling of the darkest point of his life and was named iTunes’ Best Folk Album of 2008. Following the release of ‘Sparrow’, William would take a moratorium from songwriting for over two years.
Gold In The Shadow represents a welcomed musical departure, not from authenticity in writing, but in the field of focus. It is a return to his pre-music therapeutic passions, but with one eye now fixated on actual and optimistic change. It is ripe with personal elements, but also represents his first foray into external perspective taking; examining the lives and psychological struggles of those around him in addition to his own. It is an acknowledgement of the shadow self and the Todestrieb (Freud’s “death instinct”); but, even still and more so, an acceptance of hope.
Listen to whole album
Buy from Amazon: Gold in the Shadow (Amazon Exclusive Edition)