five questions: william fitzsimmons

The Pittsburgh native dishes on his latest album…

by Christian Lavery

Sporting his signature beard and a nicely worn denim jacket, William Fitzsimmons has no illusions about who he is or what type of music he makes. “If you listen to ‘Happy’ by Pharrell, my music isn’t exactly uplifting,” he says with a laugh. “But I think the feeling this album gives is a real positive one,” he continues, of course speaking on his recently released record Lions.

Now, the Pittsburgh-raised, singer-songwriter who curently resides in Illinois is out on a coinciding tour (check the dates, HERE), which consists of more than 40 shows. Kicking it off just over a week ago, here in New York, we had the pleasure to sit down with Fitzsimmons himself, and it’s safe to say that his goal is to do more than just entertain.

Continue reading below:

So, you're originally from Pittsburgh?Yeah, I grew up in Pittsburgh, but I live in Illinois.

Did growing up in Pittsburgh play a role wanting to become a musician?Well, Pittsburgh isn’t much of an artistic powerhouse. It’s a very proud, hardworking city. My family was a big part of it. We were a tight knit musical family. Both my parents are recreational musicians. It's just a hobby for them, but it takes up the bulk of their free time.

Can you talk a little bit about Lions?I wrote it after going through the process of my adopting my first daughter. I have two adopted daughters. It’s not a record about being a parent though, because that would be boring as hell. If you’re a parent, you don’t need someone to sing about it, and if you’re not, you don’t give a shit about it anyway.

My music is fairly depressing--especially up to this point--and there was a need for me to make an album that had more than just this “life is shit” kind of vibe. If you listen to ‘Happy’ by Pharrell, my music isn’t uplifting [laughs]. But I think the feeling this album gives is a positive one.

Where did the name of the album come from? Well, it was an image I had in my head before I even wrote any of the songs. I didn’t quite know why, but it sort of made sense later. It was a neat metaphor for the two sides of a person. Lions kind of represent this royal creature, but there is also this very animalistic side…a flawed side if you will. It's just been interesting to start to learn even at this late age how to appreciate people for both of those reason, not in spite of one

So you're just beginning your tour. How do you find touring? I love it man. It takes a lot out of you, though. I mean I’m not a rockstar for many different reasons. I’m very calm. I have no interest in getting super fucked up, and people don’t come to my show to be entertained. They come because they want to have some sort of emotional experience. You can watch TBS reruns and that’d be a lot more fun than coming to my show [laughs]. But if you connect with this music, it’s a really special experience. With every show I play, the only thing I shoot for is getting everyone in the room to experience catharsis.

What would you want people to get out of this album? I suppose it's tolerance…I think. We spend a lot of time trying to be understood as artists and as human beings. But I think the biggest thing I learned prior to and during the writing process is that I have a long way to go before I appreciate people for the full spectrum. Not just what they can do for me or what they can do for my career, but for just being them.

What was your first car?A Mercury Mystique. It was a piece of shit. It died at 400,000 miles and I think we sold it to a junk yard for like $100 or something.

What was the first album you bought?Bad by Michel Jackson on tape. My grandmother took it away when she found it because rock 'n' roll music was the devil as far as she was concerned. I had it for one day. It was a great record. I bought it again later.

What about the first live show you went to?Lynyrd Skynyrd with Ted Nugent opening.

What was the best or worst advice you ever received?I think the best advice I've ever gotten was from my dad when I was going through my divorce. He said just make sure you keep waking up every morning and it’ll be a little better. And it really didn’t make any sense. It seemed like a lot of bullshit at the time, but I kind of stuck it out and things eventually got better.

Did you have any posters hanging on your bedroom wall in High School?Zero, actually. My parents are both blind. We had no pictures or artwork, so even at that age the idea of representing something visually didn’t make much sense. My brother and I got really used to living in the dark, because, you know, you don’t turn the light on when your blind.

Did that help shape your love for music?Yeah, definitely. In the blind community music is a really important thing because it communicates on a emotional level in a different way than anything else does. That was passed along to me and they’re the reason why I’m playing music. Eye contact is a hard thing to give up with someone you care about, so music kind of bridged the gap a little bit.