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William Fitzsimmons w/Stuart Smith

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Presented by TOC 

Doors at 7pm | All Ages (please see Covid policies) | Bar w/ID | All sales are final. 

Covers, Vol 1 & Vol 2 

You can piece together the life of William Fitzsimmons with the songs he chose to record for Covers, Vol. 1 & 2. For the Illinois-based singer, songwriter, and producer, some tunes recollect joyful moments at home as a kid, and others recall his high school days. A handful of tracks address heartbreak head-on without apology, while a few reflect his inclination to embrace youthful wonder and creativity. No matter what, his voice carries these words straight from the heart.

"I just wanted to do songs that meant a lot to me for varying reasons," he says. "I share some of the songs with other people. Some of the songs remind me of my childhood. Some of the songs are low-key messages to individuals from my past—and they're not necessarily positive. Some of the songs are just pure joy. Ultimately, they are all songs I love and respect from artists I think are incredible."

Music means a lot to everyone, but it means everything to William…

He was born to blind musician parents with an incredible collection of instruments and records. In their house, "music was this level playing field we could experience together because you don't need to be able to see to enjoy it." Dad played the organ and favored baroque and classical, while mom loved folk and sang hymns in a choir. The family would call out favorite chords and bond through sound. Even though dad "wished he did more serious music," William jammed along to everyone from Metallica and The Steve Miller Band to The Beatles. He eventually achieved a Master's Degree in counseling and held down a day job as a mental health therapist, yet music's magnetic pull never let go of him.

Following 2005's Until When We Are Ghosts, he generated hundreds of million streams across fan favorite albums such as Gold In The Shadow [2011], Lions [2014], Pittsburgh [2015], Mission Bell [2018], Ready The Astronaut [2021], and No Promises: The Astronaut's Return [2021]. He landed significant syncs on ABC, NBC, MTV, Lifetime, and The CW. Notably, NPR once dubbed him "A Songwriter With Vision," and he incited the applause of American SongwriterBillboardNYLONPop MattersRolling StoneQ MagazineUncut, and more.

Once the Global Pandemic hit, he found himself at home with time and a basement studio.

"I needed something to work on, so I just started doing covers," he shares. "I didn't even make a list; it was just a way to keep from going crazy. The longer I worked on it, the more excited I got. It was self-therapy so that I wouldn't lose my mind. However, it ended up one of my favorite periods of being a musician."

He initially teased out Vol. 1 with his take on Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart." He strips down this classic to delicate acoustic guitars, the hum of airy keys, and gentle vocals, tapping into its stark emotional core.

"I always thought it was the perfect heartbreak song, and I still do," he says. "It describes a relationship dissolving right in front of you. As I got older and went through my first and second divorce, I started to feel this song even more. It sets the vibe. It's essentially a good prefix to the book."

Joined by Abby Gunderson on vocals, he channels the bliss of one of his most important memories during "Annie's Song," originally by John Denver. Acoustic guitar and mellotron accompany this dreamy duet.

"My mom had a double vinyl for one of John Denver's live albums, and I remember her playing it over and over again," he smiles. "I often held the vinyl as a young kid, and I loved the feeling. To my recollection, 'Annie's Song' is the first song I ever heard. For me, it's instant nostalgia. I go right back to our living room and can feel our house. My mom and I sang John Denver songs together as I got older. What a cool tune to have as a first musical memory."

On the other end of the spectrum, he leans into the breezy energy of Taylor Swift's "the 1" and spikes it with his subtle sense of soul.

"I loved Taylor's last two albums: 'folklore' and 'evermore,'" he goes on. "I respect the hell out of her, but I give a ton of credit to Aaron Dessner from The National. It's a cool wedding of the energy and vitality she brings and the interesting arrangements he comes up with. I love what they did."

Meanwhile, his take on Elton John's "Your Song" forever holds a special place in his heart as it effectively turns the page on the next chapter of his life.

"On Valentine's Day a couple of years ago, I recorded it for my now-wife," he reveals. "She's not a big flowers person, so I cut the cover and sent it to her instead. It became our song. She even walked down the aisle to it. It set the stage for all of these covers."

Elsewhere, he pays homage to "life-changing" artists such as Sufjan Stevens ("Futile Devices") and R.E.M. ("Sweetness Follows") and shows reverence to Gen-Z songsmiths a la Chelsea Cutler ("Please") and Phoebe Bridgers ("Smoke Signals"). Maintaining this spirit, Vol. 2 surveys everything from classic pop to nineties Alternative to 21st-century staples.

In the end, you might get to know William better than ever on Covers, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2.

"Music was always made me feel a little less alone," he leaves off. "I hope people hear this and feel more connected to themselves, their friends, spouses, and children. I chose these songs because of some connection with another person. It's all I really want."



Can you have the same dream twice? Two years later, it still felt like someone else’s life walking into Sun Studio to record. I remember as a kid, obsessed with Johnny Cash and Elvis, seeing those pictures of them recording some of the most important music to ever come from America against the background of those white perforated walls. I wondered what it would be like just to see it. To stand in that room where rock ‘n roll was born.

I wish I could say the second time felt any less surreal. I’d be lying if I did. Practically unchanged since the fifties, this is still their room. You’re only a visitor, a pilgrim. I was nervous on the drive to Memphis. Not because I didn’t know what to expect like last time, but because I knew exactly what to expect. This room makes the rules. It requires a feeling and a performance. It will trip you up if you deviate from that. The more time you spend around this place, the more the gravity of it sets in- Elvis, Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Howlin Wolf, Ike Turner, BB King, even U2.....they changed the landscape of music here. This place doesn’t expect the same of you. It only expects the same thing it did of them- honesty. That rattles the nerves. I thought as we set up the microphones that if you aren’t nervous recording here then maybe you don’t understand what this place is. It’s more than a studio or a museum, it’s a shrine. Maybe my nerves are good. They’re reverent.

As the hiss of the tape started and I saw the thumbs up from the engineer, I simply played. For a small moment in time, I was allowed to share in that sacred space. Listening back to these songs, I think we made something special. At the very least, honest. These recordings are a capsule of that night and they are as raw and real as anything I’ve ever done, a companion to the first EP. Now I get to share this music with you and hope that it invites you into that magical room with me on one hot September night in Memphis.


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