Wilcox is back with new feelings and just as many gigs
Since releasing his debut album, The Nightshift Watchman, in 1987, David Wilcox has put out some 20 records. And the prolific WNC singer/songwriter has toured far and wide, bringing his thoughtful, lyrically rich folk to stages across the country and beyond.
Even his pandemic “break” was busy. “I learned how to cook,” he says, “and now I can cook anything.” And in between preparing meals, he composed some music. “I wrote lots of songs — probably 50.”
While the time away from stages paid creative dividends for Wilcox, it also served to underscore how much he missed being out on the road. “I was still enjoying that ‘introvert’ time,” he admits, “but I started to notice the long-term effects of crowd deprivation.” He hastens to add that, in this context, he doesn’t equate crowd with audience. He refers instead to the experience of “being part of the crowd,” explaining, “There’s something powerful about that — something we don’t even have language for.”
But Wilcox is a master of language, so the songs he wrote during his extended home stay keenly reflect his ruminations on big ideas. “I was having a lot more philosophical time,” he says, “kind of pondering all the things I’m really grateful for.” Some of the new songs he has composed — none of which have found their way onto release recordings yet — concern themselves with topics that are sure to resonate with admirers of his music.
Wilcox takes a moment to look over his recent songwriting notes. “There are songs that question the sense of productivity and achievement that has always been a driving force in my life,” he observes. Some of the new songs have a meta quality: “There are songs about my understanding of how I tell the story of who I am,” he says. “In other words, not songs about who I am, but songs about how I interpret that, how I tell that story.”
An old bit of wisdom holds that while we can’t control our surroundings, we do have the power to control our responses. Wilcox subscribes to that philosophy, and — in true fashion — he writes about that, as well. “There’s a new song about emotional autonomy,” he says, “about not being blown around by the ‘emotional weather’ that surrounds me but [instead] having a sense of my own choice about how I react to things.” He says that the last couple of years have taught him a great deal about that idea. “And that’s been really cool,” he says.
Some warmly familiar themes and approaches crop up in that new batch of 50-plus songs, too. “There are a lot of songs about trying to enjoy the present moment, and then there are comical songs about spending too much time looking at a screen,” Wilcox says, grabbing a furtive glance at his own computer monitor.
With such a bounty of new material, it seems inevitable that Wilcox would have another album in development. It’s especially likely given the uncharacteristic pause in his output, with nothing new since 2018’s The View from the Edge.
In fact, Wilcox says that he is currently working on not one album but several. One of his tasks involves sorting the songs into categories. “They fit in different groups in my imagination, so there are three different piles of songs that are percolating,” he says. One of those piles features music destined for an orchestral collaboration. “I’m working with the Asheville Symphony,” Wilcox says, “and it’s really interesting.”
But for David Wilcox, 2022 also marks the return of live music and time spent in the crowd. In addition to a run of live dates, he’s busy planning an August Ireland retreat event with Gareth Higgins and Brian Ammons. And this year sees the return of the celebrated Wilcox Weekend mini-music festival. All that means that those awaiting the actual release of new records from the man might have to wait a bit longer. Returning to a favorite theme, Wilcox says, “There are so many factors that are out of my control, so I just keep working at it and see what happens.”
David Wilcox plays Fletcher United Methodist Church (50 Library Road, Fletcher) Friday, Aug. 5, 7:30-9pm (call 828-684-7155 or see fletcherumc.org/artist-series for more information). “Wilcox Weekend 12” happens Thursday, Sept. 15 through Sunday, Sept. 18 at Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville (kanuga.org). For more information, see davidwilcox.com.