Jonathan Wilson plays by his own music rules
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When it comes to creating music, singer-songwriter and producer Jonathan Wilson plays by his own set of rules. He not afraid to live dangerously and try new things however complex they may be, always aiming to get the most out of a song. That is certainly true with his latest album “Rare Birds,” a sprawling 78-minute long player. Some songs required him to record 120 to 150 different sonic parts, such as strings and synths.
When: 9 p.m. March 2
Where: Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln
“You’ll never hear me making a small sound,” Wilson said. “You’ll never hear me making a simple song. If you go back and listen to things I’ve done, you’ll hear that this is what I always do. It’s expansive and there’s a lot involved.”
His dedication is one reason he is such an in-demand musician and producer, having recently produced Father John Misty’s Grammy Award-nominated album “Pure Comedy,” and contributed guitar and keyboards to Roger Waters’ Grammy-nominated “Is This The Life We Really Want?” Since last year, Wilson has been supporting the Pink Floyd legend on his arena tours across the globe.
The partnership with Waters came to fruition when the album’s producer, Nigel Goldrich, asked him to contribute to a session. It ended up being so successful that he stuck around for the rest of the album’s recording, including doing some of the recording at his home studio.
Working with Waters helped reaffirm his lofty sonic ambition for his own music. For instance, his song, “Me,” may not have ended up the way it did without the singer’s stamp of approval.
“I went to him and said ‘I think this song is too long. What do you think about it?” And he basically gave me the advice to expand it and make it longer,” said Wilson. “That’s his vibe. That’s his style, to sort of shake it up and not to be scared.”
“In the days of [Pink Floyd], that was pretty much f—— unheard of to make these long, drawn-out songs that seem to go on forever,” Wilson continued. “It’s given me confidence for things like that. And not to be scared and expand on an idea and make a really long song and things like that.”
Wilson had several other allies in accomplishing his goal for the album. Backing vocals come from Lana Del Rey, Josh Tillman (Father John Misty), fellow Roger Waters bandmates Lucius, and Brian Eno collaborator Laraaji. Wilson first met Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, the singing duo of Lucius, at Desert Trip in 2016 where Waters was performing. Since then they’ve all become some of his best friends.
He noted its easier working with a close friend than a stranger hired to fill a certain part on an album project. For example, with Tillman, he said there’s a “feeling that you’re with your bro and it’s just the most fun thing.”
Lana Del Rey also is one of his favorite people. “She’s got really great musical intuition.”
Ultimately, Wilson hopes the songs have a healing and hopeful effect on listeners.
“One of the primary purposes to even making an album is to appeal to somebody or a weary soul especially in this day and time in this atrocious country,” he said. “[The album has a] peaceful feeling and something you can drift away into and can be like, ‘wow, I came away from that and was like ‘that guy gets it’ or ‘that guy gets my soul.’’ I’d rather do that than talk about me, me, me or my experience on earth and preach to you about something.”
Joshua Miller is a local freelance writer.