Musician or motivational speaker?
Still others use music to inspire people, and in an effort to make a difference, they get their lives together. David Wilcox is one of those musicians who leads an introspective life in order to offer his audience 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 his commitment to music has changed his entire life.
“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.”
As a child growing up near Cleveland, Wilcox was easily intimidated. He learned to avoid things he wasn’t already good at, so he never imagined he could be a musician. He held onto this erroneous belief until he heard the sound of a guitar echoing through the stairwell in his college dormitory.
“It seemed almost revolutionary,” he said. “This woman was not approximating another musician. She was making her own music. She gave it personal authority, as if it was a language everyone could speak. I was amazed at her audacity. I always thought I wasn’t allowed to speak, and here was this woman saying, “You can speak this language.'”
Inspired, he picked up a guitar, and it took over his life. Within six months, he began writing his own 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 10 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 tyring to find my tribe.”
Indeed, he found his tribe and took it through different journeys, cognitively wrestling with big issues in “Turning Point” (1996) and taking a heart-centered approach to celebrating joy in “What You Whispered” (2000). In his latest album, “Into the Mystery,” scheduled for release in February, he 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 your 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’ve described my music as the headlights on a car,” he said. “The music is past where I am. It has a lot of the things I need to hear that keep me sane. I start playing with my mind all full of distractions, and by the time I play a couple of songs, I change. 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. Music is my teaching tool, not for the audience but for me – for stuff I need to hear.”
Yet, his emotion impacts the audience personally.
“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 his audiences through stories that lead into songs, masterfully orchestrating the emotion of each particular audience for which he performs.
Tickets for his show at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at the Silverthorne Pavilion, are $18 for general admission or $35 for a package, which includes preferred seating and a post-concert reception with Wilcox. Proceeds benefit The Summit Foundation. For more information, call 453-5970.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.