When Will Sheff was a baby, he had a life-threatening illness that required him to have a tracheotomy. From that moment, he was always aware of being fragile and somewhat out of place in his body. He never quite fit in with the New England prep school culture he grew up in. His childhood was full of magic, however. He spent a lot of time in the woods, and when he looked up at the sky he felt the presence of the divine more deeply than he ever did in church.
A lot of people dream of forming a band with their high school buddies and making it big. Will and his friends actually did it. Folk rock outfit Okkervil River released nine critically acclaimed albums and traveled the world together. You can read all about them elsewhere. I was most interested in how being the frontman of Okkervil River made Will into the performer and writer he is today.
One of the most interesting questions that Will explores on his new solo album, Nothing Special, is how to remove ego from the album-making process, even as he puts his own name front and center for the first time. This question led us down paths of meditation and consciousness, drugs and religion, power and acceptance. This record creates impressionistic scenes as much as it tells stories. It is an expression of Will’s higher self, tempered with humility. Nothing Special is bound to be a blessing.
Editor’s Note: Basic Folk is currently running their annual fall fundraiser! Visit basicfolk.com/donate for a message from hosts Cindy Howes and Lizzie No, and to support this listener-funded podcast.
Photo Credit: Bret Curry