Coffee with Ian Fitzgerald
Ian walked into seven stars, denim on denim, brown leather boots, navy blue bandanna wrapped around his neck and the infamous hair stacked high on his head. Our paths haven’t crossed in awhile and it was really nice to catch up with an old friend on his music, songwriting process and his experiences over the last year.
Chrissy: You’re songwriting and chosen words are a centerpiece to your art. When searching for inspiration are there certain people you listen to? Do you ever experience ‘writer’s block’?
Ian : I try to remain positive in circumstances like that and not look at it as ‘writer’s block’. Think of it as ‘the songs come at different times’. When I first started out I intentionally wrote every day, whenever I had free time, even if I didn’t have an idea, just write, but as time has gone on I have done that less. So I’ve gotten used to long intervals of not necessarily writing as much or not finishing songs..
Chrissy: So accepting and treating the silence just as important as when you’re actually writing the song because that could be when you’re gaining the material or life experience?
Ian: Ya exactly, as for people for inspiration – I’m always going to see different shows. Will Houlihan is someone I always like talking to about the process of writing. Luckily, Smith and Weeden have been playing out more. I love going to see them, especially on their last record, their sound is really inspiring to me. So ya, I like to go see friends playing and that helps.
Chrissy: Has anyone just said a sentence to you that stuck and a whole song erupted around it?
Ian: Oh ya, definitely a few times.
Chrissy: What’s a sentence or phrase that might come to mind?
Ian: Hm. I would have to comb through. Those phrases have become so much the lyrics over the years..
Chrissy: and a part of you?
Ian: ha. ya.
Chrissy: Speaking of seeing friends perform, how did ‘Ian and Something Else’ come together?
Ian: Well I did a few shows with Smith and Weeden after recording with them, I knew that wasn’t a permanent thing because they have their own band and even as individuals had projects and Dylan Sevey took off to Nashville to play with Ron Gallo. I still wanted that sound and to have some sort of band to do shows with. I remembered James Maple, who was a big part of the engineering process of our recording sessions, saying to me a few times ‘if I ever wanted to do something he would play drums for me.’ So, I was on the road last fall, I was in Nashville actually and started thinking more about what kind of project I wanted to put together. So I started texting James and said ‘Hey,when you mentioned that – were you serious?’ and he said ‘ya, absolutely who else do you have in mind’ and I mentioned I didn’t want it to be a big thing, maybe just a bass his immediate response was “well, how about MorganEve on bass’ and he recently just started playing with The Huntress and Holder of Hands. I texted MorganEve and she was really enthusiastic about it and having worked with Seamus, who I’ve really liked working with, I message him the same day and they all said yes. They were all excited about it and they were all excited to play with each other too. When Seamus heard James and MorganEve were into it he was thrilled about that. When we finished that run of shows in November we just started rehearsing and it all came together pretty easily.
Chrissy: There’s such a great group of musicians working and collaborating together,bouncing off each other’s energy and creativity in this general area. I love it.
Ian: Ya, all have their own thing going and they’re all creative in their own right so I’m really lucky to be able to group them together and work together.
Chrissy: Where did the title of your most recent album ‘You Won’t Even Know When I’m Gone’ come from?
Ian: There was an old song, that actually just resurfaced a couple years ago called ‘You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone’. I believe it was from The Carter family, it’s almost a 100 years old. I was watching a documentary with John Cohen, one of the founders of The Lost City Ramblers. He was talking about the early missile crisis and the atmosphere at that time in the 60s. ‘How long are we going to be around?’ ya know, that was a real fear at that time. He started thinking about that song ‘you’re going to miss me when when I’m gone” finding the humor in it saying ‘well what if there is no one here to miss me when I’m gone’. I started to look at it that way and so that line and that song kind of stuck with me. A lot of times when I hear a song or a line like that it stays with me. I start to think about it in different ways, perspectives and different angles. And so ‘you’re going to miss me when I’m gone’ sort of became ‘you won’t even know when I’m gone’. I had that phrase in my head, I was wondering if that was going to be a song lyric or name of a song but then when I started to think about album titles that fit the theme of a lot of songs that I wrote and recorded.
Chrissy: You’ve been been apart of the Newport Folk Festival Family for a couple years now. How was being on stage with John Prine?
Ian: I’ve been lucky, I was a part of the Newport Pre-Show at Blues Cafe in 2014. Libby Rose, creator of Wildwood Revival, did a line up 2 years ago at The Museum Stage on Friday. She invited me to be apart of that as well as John Moreland, Margo Price,and others. Looking back at that line up and seeing what those people have done subsequently – its just amazing.
Chrissy: Ya it’s always incredible, sometimes emotional, to look back two or three years and see how far some musicians have come.
Ian: To be apart of the festival – I grew up not too far from here so I’d see it all over the local news but then when I started listening to folk music more seriously and learning the history of the festival it became an absolute dream of mine, in a historical sense but also in a real present time sense. Like a couple years ago I got to be on stage with Gillian Welch and I was at a microphone and turned around and Al Koopper was playing keyboards who played with Bob Dylan in 1965. That was such a moment for me, something I couldn’t even dream up. And to be on stage with John Prine, singing at a mic with Nathaniel Rateliff, Bon Iver and ten feet behind me, Roger Waters. I walked across stage and John Prine just took the guitar pick from his right hand put it in his left just to shake my hand and it’s a small thing to do but it’s huge and he didn’t have to do that.
Chrissy: Was there someone in your life that inspired you to start creating music? Anyone that you first collaborated with in the beginning of your music career?
Ian: I didn’t start playing until kind of late, end of high school, I didn’t even start writing until college, I was always very hesitant about it. There was always music around the house – my dad played drums and guitar and so there were guitars around and I was even given a guitar when I was young but it just sat there. At a certain point I was such a music fan, it was really all I cared about and I thought it was silly I couldn’t just sit in my room and play some songs I liked, so that’s how I came to started playing. In terms of encouragement, my family definitely provided the means for me. They let me take it and run when I was ready for it.
Chrissy: Is it just recent that you’ve started to collaborate with others?
Ian: Ya it really is recent, I was never in a band until this year really, until I started playing with Smith and Weeden, I think that was the first time I was on stage with a band.
Chrissy: Were you surprised with the sound and how it took form?
Ian: Ya, I had a full band sound in mind for the last record and I was trying to think of how to put that together. I don’t really know how to do that and I didn’t want to leave it in someone else’s hands because I had such a specific sound in mind. So, I had a show at Shawn Schillberg’s house..
Chrissy: A lot of magical things happen there.
Ian: Ya it does. It was Zach Schmidt, myself and Smith and Weeden. I just met the Smith and Weeden guys a couple months back and after the show I asked them if they’d be willing to go into the studio and see what we can do with the songs I have and they jumped right on board. After we started working for a little while we did three songs out together, I think the lizard lounge, it was incredibly different and a satisfying experience.
Chrissy: Its wild what other minds can bring to the table. Rhythms you would never think to add to your song.
Ian: Ya, I can play the songs differently on my own if I wanted to but, for instance, Seamus plays something different and being able to bounce off of that – ya that’s something completely different.
Chrissy: Living in Providence now for two years, have you had some ‘Providence nights’
Ian: Well I had my record release show at the Columbus Theatre and everyone after wanted to go to Nolans Pub and hang out. There had been a show at Nick-a-Nees and a lot of people I knew went to that show and that crowd spilled into Nolans with a bunch of other people and it seemed like everyone I knew was in that one room and just anytime I turned around there was someone wishing me well or people who couldn’t make it to my show saying “sorry I couldn’t make it , but congratulations” then we would start talking about how there show went that night and that seems to happen pretty often. There was a night in April where we played a show at Machines with Magnets with friends Ian, Dennis and Chris, then Z-Boys were at Aurora, Ravi Shavi at Columbus and everyone just collides at the end of the night.
Chrissy: Ya that’s Providence – high energy with wild, beautiful and creative humans all in a mile and a half radius.
Ian will be performing at the Songwriters Showcase tomorrow night, October 17th, 2017 at The Black Sheep with Caleb Caudle and Eliott Bronson!
brought to you by pvdlive * 7-9:30 pm * free entry
Interview by : Chrissy Stewart
Edited by: Sarah Goodrich