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ARTIST OF THE MONTH: William Elliott Whitmore

Jun 3, 2013

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: William Elliott Whitmore

William Elliott Whitmore’s sound takes you back to a simpler time.  His minimalist strumming and gravelly voice create a feeling of nostalgia for an America that no longer exists, except between the imagination of the listener and the sound of his notes.  The experience is what Whitmore refers to as nostalgie de la boue… or a fond yearning for the mud.

Recently, David Dye of NPR’s World Cafe called Whitmore’s last album, Field Songs, one of the most overlooked and underrated albums of 2011.  And rightly so.  Not only do William’s recordings carry a weight that belies his 34 years, but his live performances capture the room and turn the crowd into a frenzy, as evidenced by his last appearance in LA at the Troubadour when opening for Trampled by Turtles (a testament to his punk-rock induction to the music scene).  No small feat for a solo performer with only a guitar and old-time banjo on hand.

And so, for our inaugural Artists of the Month, we give you William Elliott Whitmore, in his own words… 

BEGINNINGS…

“I was pretty lucky, growing up in a musical family in Lee County, Iowa.  I actually still live on the same farm I grew up on.  It was a pretty isolated place to grow up… everyone around me was playing an instrument, and I was hearing lots of country and folk.

As soon as I was old enough to put my hands around the neck of an acoustic guitar, I started learning and writing tunes.  By age 19 or 20 I had some friends playing in a punk band that were going on tour and they let me tag along, even though the music I was writing was nothing like theirs.

I really came in to the music scene through the back door, via the punk and indie scene.  I was just out there, playing my bluegrass and folk in front of a bunch of kids in Misfits t-shirts.”

INFLUENCES…

“I like to think of what I play as bluegrass rustic soul music…

I mean, the biggest influences on my sound are Ray Charles, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson — that dude is a huge inspiration.  I can’t even imagine what it would be to pick like that.  Of course, Ralph Stanley.  He really taught me about singing what you know — I actually just read his autobiography, which is pretty amazing.

Always have liked people like Mike Watt of The Minutemen, who always wrote about San Pedro.  You listen to his songs and they make you feel like you’re IN San Pedro, like you know that place.  And now I’ve been to California plenty of times — and specifically San Pedro — and Mike captured it perfectly.  That’s what I aim to do with my own music: try to capture life in Iowa, because it’s what I know best.

Also, I gotta give a shoutout to Bad Religion.  They have been such a big influence on my songwriting.  I mean, you wouldn’t think it [based on the genre], but really what I do is just take all the stuff that I love and put my own spin on it.  It’s bluegrass style music with soul style vocals.  It’s nothing new.  Just gotta make it your own.”

PLANS…

“Well I’m just always writing and working on new material.  Just got off tour so I’m taking a little time, then it’s back on the road.  There’s not a lot of stuff in Lee County, Iowa that most people can relate to, but I’m just writing about what I know.  But I think people connect with it because of what the French call nostalgie de la boue… a fond yearning for the mud.

As for my next record, I think it’s good to have a perimeter on what you create.  Constraints can be more freeing than absolute freedom.  But we’ll see.”

 

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ARTIST OF THE MONTH: William Elliott Whitmore
ARTIST OF THE MONTH: William Elliott Whitmore