Checking in with James Wilson

What were you doing when we called?
Picking up flyers for our Jefferson Theater show on September 24…you’ve got to do it yourself.

What are you working on right now?

James Wilson is the songwriter behind Sons of Bill. The band plays at The Jefferson Theater with The Hill and Wood on September 24.

We’ve been on tour for the last month and a half, but we had a week off in Charleston. We set up a home recording gig and did some demoing for the third record. We’ve got about 10 songs down. The last four years we’ve been touring as a band, we’ve been figuring out the different influences with the three different brothers. There can really be so much monotony to the touring life. In certain ways, it’s a big adventure and in other ways—the clubs, the hotel rooms and Waffle Houses—they’re all the same thing. It’s easy to lose touch with why you got into music in the first place, which is to make great records and great songs.

Tell us about your day job.
I do random tractor jobs, build fences, manual labor—whatever I can get.

What is your first artistic memory?
I’ve been writing songs since I was little, but my first truly artistic memory was, honestly, reading Crime and Punishment… A lot of being a good writer is being able to see an artistic turn when it happens in someone else’s writing. When there’s a specific artistic turn that happens, and it’s really great, you have to see that and feed off it. Crime and Punishment was the first time I was able to do that and I really fed off it. Without trying to sound like a turd, Faulkner says the reason why you would write stories or songs as opposed to philosophy—why writing is an important vocation—is because you’re trying to write about the human spirit in conflict with itself. That’s something you can only tackle with songs, or literature, or drama—all kinds of writing. Good books and good songs try to address that conflict.

What do you make if you’re cooking for one?
An egg burrito. I’ve got my diet down to a nutritional and economic science. I eat an egg burrito once a day—it’s so cheap, it comes out to, like, 36 cents—and I eat a lot of kale and collard greens. Sometimes I blend it up into a smoothie. I can have two meals for two dollars.

What music are you listening to lately?
I went through a phase where I was trying to find more and more obscure bands, really trying to seek out something new and really trying to find something but I just came up dry so many times. The last six months I made a rule: If you made a billion dollars last year, I’m not going to listen to you.

If you could have dinner with any per-son, living or dead, who would it be?
William Faulkner. I’m just fascinated by him, by what he was able to do. He never graduated from high school and he was still able to write some of the greatest American novels. As much as he tried to efface himself from public life, it makes people want to know who he was more. He’s so flippant and ironic in his interviews, I’d really just like to sit down and level with him. There are so many misconceptions about him.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
That’s a hard question. Maybe farm. I used to be really ideological, into agrarianism and farming. It’s fallen by the wayside in the last couple years, but I’d love to do it eventually. I love cows, man. I get along with cows better than people. They’re shy and awkward and fat. They’re awesome. I spent a lot of time out west playing cowboy. It’s one part of my life that I really love that I just don’t get to do right now.


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