Streaming Cafe

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fitzsimmons Fascinates Fans!

by Malcolm Petch

You can tell when artists do their music simply because they love doing it. There’s a different vibe to their show, a difference in the way they engage the audience, and definitely a difference in the way they act off-stage and out of the public eye.

William Fitzsimmons played Streaming Café this past Saturday. We spent a lot of prep time both in try to book him and in getting ready for the show itself – I believe Michael first spoke to Fitzsimmons’ agent back in June 2010, so the show was almost a year in the making. Tickets sold out in 24 hours, to a large percentage of out-of-town purchasers, and the anticipation grew.

I listened to Fitzsimmons’ newest album a great deal leading up to the show. Other people would hear it in the background and ask, “Hey, who’s this?” Even with its quiet presence, his music has a way of slipping past being unconscious background sound and becoming the thing you’re focused on. His songs are quiet, thoughtful, and based on a lot of psychological areas Fitzsimmons has dealt with in his years as a mental-health therapist.

When it was finally show day, the crew showed up early to make sure everything was set and working before the artist arrived.

Fitzsimmons, in person, was full of dry wit and humour, which is a contrast to the music he writes. We found him very easy to work with, and he was gracious and easy going when sound issues extended the sound-check longer than normal.

In his performance, William chatted easily with the in-house and online crowd (more than 1,200 people watched the show across the globe online, and the café was a sell-out crowd). An online audience member asked Fitzsimmons what he thinks about while he sings, and his answer was laced with pithy side-comments that had everyone laughing. “Because of the type of music I write,” he said, “which is very similar to Kesha and Lady Gaga and things like that [this got the audience chuckling, and throwing out comments], oh, and I’m very similar to Justin Bieber…”. But when the laughter died down and Fitzsimmons spoke his heart, you could tell that everyone appreciated what he had to say.

“Because my music is personal and kind of evocative,” he said, “it can be a little bit deep and kind of challenging (I think ‘depressing’ is the word I’m looking for). I don’t think it’s proper to sing something that I’m not authentically feeling right at the moment. I feel that that would be manipulating, and just greed, really; just doing it for money or something like that. So whenever I sing a song, I put myself emotionally back into the place I was whenever I first wrote it – and if I can’t do that with a song, then I won’t play that song. That, to me, just seems like the right thing to do. I think anything else would just be dishonest.”

Though he is newly-signed to Nettwerk Records, Fitzsimmons is an established indie artist. And true indie, too: his first two albums were recorded at home between school breaks from his graduate studies (he’s got a Masters in Psychology). His third album was done in a studio, and went to #1 on the iTunes charts for Folk music. Number one on iTunes means more people bought that album than they did any other folk album – pretty good when you paid all the bills yourself and receive all the income from those sales. That obviously played a big role in Nettwerk Records wanting to sign him.

And though he is obviously generating an income from his music, it was clear from Fitzsimmons appearance at Streaming Café that he isn’t into music for the money. When the night ended and everyone clapped and asked for more, William left the stage and stood off to the side out of the lights, asking for the live stream to be turned off. Then he came out and did two or three songs just for the people in the café. He didn’t use a mic, and he walked into the middle of the crowd to play directly for the people who were there.

I liked the way William Fitzsimmons interacted with the crowd in the café. He joked with one young couple who had announced they were planning to use one of his songs at their wedding. He stood in the middle of the room to sing his last number, getting as close to the audience as he could, and he even played a special request number outside in the parking lot to another young couple.

All in all, we truly enjoyed having WF at SC this last Saturday. We’re working hard at getting some quality YouTube vids up so everyone can enjoy the music again, and though it will probably be a long time before Fitzsimmons hits small-town Western Canada again, we’d love to have him at Streaming Café for an encore performance!