Delving into the essence
SILVERTHORNE –Some people take music lessons. David Wilcox takes his lessons from music.
“I sing about the stuff I’m learning about,” Wilcox said. “If I really understood what the song was about, there would be no need to write it. The music has always been my teacher. It’s always smarter than me.”
For Wilcox, music is sacred ground –a place to distill the essence of joy and life mysteries, and share it with his listeners.
“The best thing I hope music can do –and I get this out of listening to music and hope to give it to listeners –is to remind us of how good our hearts can feel, to appreciate our own quirky selves and this particular life we’re given, not get bogged down with comparing ourselves and the “shoulds,’ “coulds’ and “woulds,'” he said. “It’s about renewing the joy and determination to find that real, true spark of joy in your heart. That’s what music has done for me.”
In short, it has changed his life.
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“If it weren’t for music, I don’t think I’d be alive,” he said. “It was the first place my heart felt at home and alive. I got my life in order because I found out how good life could feel. It set a standard for how good my heart could feel. I’m willing to do things I would otherwise not be willing to do for the sake of music. I have what appears to be a spiritual discipline because of it.”
His discipline includes introspection, in order to offer audiences the best part of himself.
“I’m trying to live a life that makes my music feel really good and intense,” Wilcox said. “It’s been a simple process to me. It’s like following a compass. It lines itself up. I just follow these silly little songs, and the rest of my life lines up.”
Wilcox makes it sound simple, but he works diligently to write honest, succinct songs.
“My favorite thing is to make songs that don’t just tell people what I think, but to make songs that are gift wrapped, where the meaning is sort of hidden so the listener has to tear off the gift wrap,” he said. “It tells a story, and the idea they draw from it feels like the listeners’, rather than mine.”
Wilcox penned about 20 new songs since he played at the Silverthorne Pavilion last January, but only about half will appear on his next album. He’ll post the remainder on his Web site for fans to download.
“It feels like in some ways the music has become simpler,” he said.
Instead of trying to fit a large, ponderous idea into a little song, he now focuses on distilling the essence of the message.
“It’s more direct and more playful,” he said.
In addition to writing new songs, Wilcox, in collaboration with his wife, is writing music to accompany ancient, mystical poetry. He plans to release the album this spring.
Back to the beginning
Wilcox never imagined becoming a musician—until he picked up a guitar in college. Within six months, he began writing songs. Within two years, he began teaching guitar at summer camps.
From the moment he wrote his first song, he infused his lyrics with meaning.
“When I started, I assumed I needed some lesson or meaning the listener could take back – that my sound was not enough,” he said. “The life lessons justified me standing up in front of people.”
Since then, he has released 11 albums, weaving his uninhibited guitar playing, spirited voice and life-affirming stories together in his uniquely warm and honest style.
“Over the years, I can see (my past albums) with this slightly embarrassed smile,” he said. “I see my first records as sending out a call, “Is there anyone who feels this way?’ I was trying to find my tribe.”
Indeed, he found his tribe and took it through different journeys, wrestling with big issues in “Turning Point” (1996) and taking a heart-centered approach to celebrating joy in “What You Whispered” (2000). His latest album, “Into the Mystery,” released last year, balances joy and the painful events of the world.
“I don’t take it lightly when I ask people to listen to me,” he said. “I want to offer them the best I’ve been able to come up with – the best I’ve seen.”
He boils down his well-crafted songs to their essence, recording only a quarter of what he writes and at times spending a month clarifying his thoughts.
“I just want something that really stirs my heart when I sing it – a song that speaks truth,” he said. “For me, music is not so much something to listen to but a way to get my life’s lessons (across).”
And it isn’t just the audience Wilcox wants to impart his message to –he needs to hear it too.
“I start playing with my mind all full of distractions, and by the time I play a couple of songs, I change,” he said. “It’s where I get my joy, where I get my awe and sense of appreciation. Music stirs my heart so deeply. It brought me to life.”
And, his spirited banter between songs stirs audiences.
“When you feel deeply, it translates to the audience,” he said. “I love hearing live music. To me, it’s a real unique thing where people can get right to the point and talk about what matters most between strangers. If it’s live, there’s going to be some real communication that happens. It’s big. It’s ancient. It’s tribal.”
Wilcox connects with the audience at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Silverthorne Pavilion.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.