You remember the Mayan calendar ended on Dec. 21, and the End of the World Glee Club couldn’t wait for the world to implode?
David Wilcox is such an optimist that he scheduled a one-day End of the World Tour for Dec. 22 in Asheville, N.C., where he lives.
The show opened, as it must, with his song “End of the World.”
“Of course we did it. We had to. My son had already designed the T-shirt,” Wilcox said.
Every song’s a story, and Wilcox sings the stuff of life. Wilcoxville is generally a pretty happy place.
He has been writing songs since he was in college 30 years ago. His songs still come from the same place.
“I get them from the future. I can gradually craft a song that has wisdom I’m gaining. I learn from the person I am becoming,” Wilcox said.
Or sometimes from rocks.
He was in Blue Rock Studios in Austin, Texas, when we talked to him Monday, recording a song he’d written the night before about a giant rock in a bend in the river near the studio.
A big storm hit Austin and they hiked down there later, and the rock was gone.
It probably split apart and is now found among the many rocks downstream. It’s a metaphor for life. Just what kind of metaphor you’ll learn when you hear the song, which you might Sunday at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, if you ask nicely.
Songs are everywhere
Wilcox’s concerts are musical conversations, trading songs and stories with his audience, leaving room for lots of spontaneous reaction and improvisation.
“I have a rare thing in the music world. There’s a lot of my crowd that comes expecting to hear new stuff,” he said.
Other performers tell him how lucky he is because his crowds expect him to play new stuff.
“I get requests for stuff I haven’t even recorded yet,” Wilcox said.
“If I play a bunch of songs for people who’ve never heard me before, the ones they always like best are the new ones,” Wilcox said. “I used to think that every time I finished a huge writing binge that might be the last set of songs that would come out of me. But it’s not that way at all. It’s got to happen. It’s a natural thing. I think that way.”
Then there are a few he plays because people keep asking for them, and they keep asking for them because they’re that good
“Rusty Old American Dream” is about a beige and green 1958 Oldsmobile and Wilcox’s ability to fix things himself.
“I can communicate with automobiles. I’ve saved a lot of money because I replaced the right part first,” Wilcox said.
It looks at the demise of the auto industry in America, about how it didn’t seem to occur to us that cars would be designed to be more efficient, and that people would actually buy those efficient cars.
But it’s also about compassion that those “tail-finned road locomotives” create the 22-foot long, two-door coupes. Or the Dodge Daytona Charger with the hemi engine and the giant spoiler on the back.
“They’re ridiculous, but they’re fun,” he said.
His song “End of the World Again” is a jab at the End of the World Glee Club who has given up because everything is such a mess, they say.
“Accurate predictions all indicate our doom
Things that eluded our detection.
It’ll be an age of truth and beauty
Or at least a big kabloom,
45 days past the election.”
Songs and stories
He likes the road and is better at it than lots of musicians. That’s partly because the world is full of songs, and partly because the road crew is him and a guitar in a rental car.
“I’ve discovered that my attitude on the road is better than most people’s. Most musicians are a bunch of whiners,” — and he pronounces it “whhhhhiiiinersss!”
After three decades, he likes what he’s writing right now.
He released an independent album in 1987, won the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk award in 1988 and by 1989, he had signed with A&M Records. His first release on the label, “How Did You Find Me Here,” sold more than 100,000 copies the first year largely by word of mouth.
Now, he’s 17 albums into his career. His songs have been covered by artists such as k.d. lang and many others. All are tempered by a quick and wry wit.
Click on the interview tab of his website and it opens with a bit about what Jesus means by “neighbor.”
“It’s not songs about who I am. It’s songs about who I might become. That’s what I love about music,” Wilcox said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.