William Fitzsimmons

William Fitzsimmons

Singer-songwriter and music producer William Fitzsimmons’ latest record, Mission Bell is a chronicling of the tumultuous last year of his life, particularly of the separation from his second wife. An initial version of the album was originally recorded in Fitzsimmons’ home studio in the summer of 2017 but was subsequently abandoned during the course of, and as a result of, the separation. In 2018 William traveled to Nashville, TN to start recording the album over from square one. Working with producer Adam Landry (Deer Tick, Los Lobos, k.d. Lang, Vanessa Carlton), Fitzsimmons spent a month’s time rebuilding the lost record, with contributions from friends, including Abby Gundersen and Rosie Thomas. The resulting 11-song album tells the story of a decade-long marriage destroyed and eventually rebuilt from the ground up. The process and the results are both painful and healing, but also respect the complexity of humans, especially at their worst. This is not an exercise in “good-guy, bad-guy” songwriting; rather an attempt to find empathy, even when people are at their most depraved. Mission Bell includes songs about betrayal, but also reconciliation and forgiveness. Choosing to go deeper than mere absolutism and fate, these are stories of people doing their best, but still managing to often destroy each other in the process. “Having to let go of the first version of this record was incredibly strange and something I’ve never done before. But it was the right thing to do. That record was made at a time when nearly all involved, including myself, were living dishonestly and selfishly and poorly, and it was clear in the results. When I was forced to see the truth of how rotten things hadbecome inside and around me, I deleted every note and every word. My dear friend and manager, Rishon, connected me with producer Adam Landry, and together the two of us spent weeks upon weeks breathing back life into a project that I thought was lost for good. By the time we finished, I felt like I had reclaimed something that was taken from me and I remain terribly proud of this work as a result,” says Fitzsimmons. Sonically, Mission Bell is Fitzsimmons’ first analog tape-centric album. The sounds are raw, real, and tangible. The familiar comforts of acoustic guitars are present but now joined generously by synthesizers, electric guitars, drum loopsand violins. “Cutting to tape was new and honestly rather terrifying to me. There’s no “we’ll fix that in post” kind of shit going on. What you play is what you’re gonna hear on the record. But there’s a specialness you get in a performance when you don’t have a parachute. You either play it like it matters to you or you don’t and I think that comes through so clearly in the recordings.”Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Fitzsimmons currently resides in Nashville, TN

Laura Burhenn (of The Mynabirds)

American singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn is a shape-shifter who can't sit still. Since 2010 she's worked under the moniker The Mynabirds, releasing three critically acclaimed and stylistically different albums on Saddle Creek: What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood (2010) and GENERALS (2012), both produced by Richard Swift, and Lovers Know (2015). She has also toured as a member of the Postal Service (2013) and Bright Eyes (2011), helped found Omaha Girls Rock (a non-profit helping young girls find their voices), and in 2013 gave a TED talk based on her "New Revolutionists" portrait project, exploring what it means to be a revolutionary woman in this day and age. Before the Mynabirds, Laura was a member of DC indie band Georgie James with Q And Not U's John Davis, and also put out two self-produced solo albums on the label she founded herself, Laboratory Records.

Through all of her transformations, there's one thing that remains constant: her voice. She's been compared to Cat Power, Fiona Apple and Adele. And while her songs might show up dressed in new ways on each new release, they still very much embody Laura's distinct songwriting style. "I've always been most inspired by the songwriter chameleons," Laura says. "David Bowie, Harry Nilsson, PJ Harvey, Bjork. They play — with their arrangements, their tones, their personas. But when it comes down to it, every song could be strummed on guitar, or played alone at a keyboard. And at the heart of it, they're storytellers." Laura is setting out on a full US solo tour this fall, stripping all of her songs back to bare bones, the way they were originally conceived: just a piano and her voice.

On Lovers Know:

After touring the world as a member of the Postal Service in 2013, Laura Burhenn took a year to get lost. She drove across the US twice, toured South Africa solo, made her first appearance in London (also solo), and trekked all over Europe with William Faulkner's words ringing in her ears: "You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore." Finally she found herself in Los Angeles with a suitcase of songs to fill a whole new album.

Lovers Know, The Mynabirds' third full-length release (released August 7, 2015 on Saddle Creek), was recorded over a yearlong period in Los Angeles, Joshua Tree, Nashville, and Auckland, New Zealand. It's definitely new territory for Burhenn, forging into 80s, 90s and futuristic soundscapes, recalling Kate Bush, Sinead O'Connor, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and even 90s hip hop and R&B. The album may be loaded with a fresh palette of new sounds (swarms of synths, gauzy electric guitars, and electronic drums), but her brooding, unmistakable voice leads the way.

Whereas her last album, GENERALS, watched from a wide angle to understand the world at a distance, Lovers Know pulls in close. "There's something about wandering the world over," Laura says, "that makes you realize how similar we all are – everyone searching for something, so often the same thing: love. It may sound trite, but it's true. Love – or the lack of it – is the thing we all have in common. It can destroy us. It can break us open and let the light in. And it's also the thing that can make us sing."

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