David Wilcox on the James Taylor Comparisons: A Lot of People Don't Listen to the Words"
Thoughtful and meticulous, the songs of singer/songwriter David Wilcox belie their simple presentation. For the better part of three decades, Wilcox has been touring the States playing just about any coffee house that would have him. Wilcox hit his commercial peak with 1989's How Did You Find Me Here, but he has continued to release quality fare including 2009's wonderful Open Hand.
From his home in Asheville, North Carolina and in anticipation of tonight's show at Uncle Calvin's Coffee House, Wilcox spoke to DC9 about being compared to James Taylor and pretending to be a fortune teller at his merchandise table.
Aren't you originally from Ohio?
Yes, but I got out of there as quick as I could. Do you know anyone who likes it there? You get to speak from a state that has dignity. You are in a state that has been a country before and looks forward to being one again. Ohio was never any of those things. I got to North Carolina in 1980.
Have you played Uncle Calvin's before?
I've been there and it is a good place. I like rooms that have a good focus. There are big rooms that have a great focus and small rooms that have a great focus. Small rooms tend to stand a better chance.
You've been at this for a while. You have probably played in just about every size venue.
There have been big places and little places. They all their challenges and they're all special in their own way.
Are you working on a new album?
There is this new thing coming out in January, a regular CD. It's on a label that's a nice compromise between a large and small company. It's a services-for-hire type thing where they own the masters.
You spent some years on A&M Records. What was your time there like?
There were definitely wonderful things about it. The people who have bad experiences on big labels probably have bad experiences because the company was trying to second guess them musically. That never happened to me. I was never expected to be their cash cow. I got to make the records I wanted to make and it was lovely. I got a really expensive education that they paid for on how to not make records. There were some records that we spent 200 hours making it and the A&R guy would hear it and say, "You know, I really want you to work with this other guy and do the record again." I did meet Herb Albert. Every really cool place that I have been in my life, when I was there, I didn't know it was really cool.
You have been compared to James Taylor throughout your career. Is that a lazy comparison?
It is a good place to start if people haven't heard a lot of songwriters. I like to look at how the writing is different. That is a fascinating thing for me because I take the sound for granted. I look at what's being said. A lot of people don't listen to the words. People wouldn't listen to a politician's speech and say that they really like the way he conjugates his verbs. They wouldn't be listening to what he was really saying, but more of the way that he said it. That's how I feel about categorizing music. People see a guy with an acoustic guitar and say he must be like James Taylor. I think we are speaking about different ideas, but that is a lot more subtle than most people want to think about.
I think there is a much more pronounced Nick Drake influence. Of course, you are much less depressing.
I remember when I first heard Nick Drake in 1980. I thought that I wanted to go as deep as he did and still live. I think so much of my music now is a discipline of refining my ideas and my attitude and my philosophy. Because I get to play these songs every night, I get some shining moments of clarity. I like having music as a way to keep my focus on the kind of person I want to be. I love how that carries over and makes music so much bigger. Going as deep as Drake and living has been a simple way of saying I want to have music take me to a place where my heart is opened up to a lot of things, yet not be cynical or fearful or defeated.