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William Fitzsimmons - The Sparrow and The Crow



Illinois-based singing psychotherapist releases iTunes’ ‘No. 1 folk album’ and announces gig at London’s Bush Hall on November 12, 2009

THE divorce of William Fitzsimmons’ blind parents was so traumatic he wrote an album about it. The recording of that album, Goodnight, in turn proved so harrowing it precipitated the break-up of his own marriage, which the ex-psychotherapist has now documented on new album The Sparrow And The Crow.

Described as ‘a near masterpiece’ by the Boston Herald, The Sparrow And The Crow is bathed in similar autumnal hues to Goodnight. It even starts with a version of the song that closed its predecessor – Afterall was the final track on Goodnight; After Afterall opens The Sparrow... “I intentionally connected the two records,” William explains, “because they’re different chapters of a similar book.”

The differences lay in the ‘surface-level stuff’ – The Sparrow... is the first record he’s made in a proper studio. With regard to the songwriting, William says he’d “learned how to write songs which could communicate things I couldn't even suggest with words. I tried to be as honest as possible with The Sparrow... On Goodnight I was still hiding behind metaphors and clever analogies, which is fine and can be entertaining. But I wanted The Sparrow... to be as plainly communicative as possible. All the way down to the bone.”

The titles – I Don’t Feel It Anymore (Song Of The Sparrow), We Feel Alone, If You Would Come Back Home, Please Forgive Me (Song Of The Crow), Further From You, Just Not Each Other, You Still Hurt Me – leave no doubt as to how he was feeling when he wrote the songs. “I felt like going for poeticism for its own sake would have been a waste of time,” he says.

The Sparrow... was recorded mostly with friends – Priscilla Ahn and Caitlin Crosby – and a few musicians brought in by the producer. “We recorded it piecemeal and wanted to keep it small,” William says. “It was meant to be quiet and sombre.”

There was nothing sombre about the way it was received on its release in the US. iTunes called it ‘The best singer-songwriter album of 2008’. He’s also delighted with the comparisons made between The Sparrow... and the Bon Iver record For Emma, Forever Ago. “I have a huge amount of respect for Justin (Vernon), so it’s really an honour,” he says. “I always think people need to be careful with comparisons, however, because both of these stories are very real and extremely personal and idiosyncratic. But as long as people realise that going in, the comparison is a brilliant compliment.”

Even before William had a manager or label, his music had become a staple of hit US shows including Grey’s Anatomy and General Hospital, thanks to a small TV and film agency who “believed in the music and truly thought it was something others should hear”, according to William. Now the artist of choice for many influential TV supervisors, he has a worldwide fan base. “Most people play for several years before they build an audience,” he says. “It happened much quicker for me.”

William will be touring for two months this winter where he’ll be performing his songs to audiences across Europe, including Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, London on November 12 (tickets available from / 08444 771 000).

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