There’s something fun finding a song that people don’t take to be that serious …
is actually kind of heartbreaking and sweet and poignant. (William Fitzsimmons, 2009)
Pittsburg-bred artist William Fitzsimmons became an easy posterchild of the sensitive indiefolk movement in 2005 with a home-recorded debut that brought him MySpace popularity, early blog recognition from the hushfolk crowd, and tours with fellow social media-driven folkstars Cary Brothers and Ingrid Michaelson. But in many ways, his music was made for the loneliness and disconnectedness of the kitchen-table digital age: his performances are heartbreak incarnate, and a history of coveted soundtrack spots on indiefolk touchstones such as One Tree Hill and Gray’s Anatomy speak to the essence of quiet honesty in his work.
And Fitzsimmons – a gentle giant with a majestic hipster beard and a comfortably self-effacing demeanor on stage – comes by his heartbreak honestly. A multi-instrumentalist born to blind parents whose marriage fell apart in his adolescence, his 2006 sophomore effort explored their divorce, and his 2008 release The Sparrow and the Crow, which was lauded by critics, is an intensely personal exploration of his own.
Fitzsimmons knows emotion by trade, too, having left a budding career as a mental health specialist to pursue his music; if anything, his songs are an extension of the therapeutic urge, healing as they expose the pain. Add in his distinctive husky voice and pulsing, shimmery style, and the result is a constant comfort, reverent and hushed, as he caresses each song, offering little adornment and great reserve.
We’ve shared most of Fitzsimmons’ covers here in one mix or another; most recently, his take on Cat Stevens, recorded for last year’s tribute to the films of Wes Anderson, topped our Best Coverfolk of 2014 list. His take on James Taylor’s lullaby You Can Close Your Eyes is an oft-resurrected addition to our kidfolk compilations. And we highly recommend his original work, most especially 2014 release Lions, and The Sparrow and The Crow, both of which delve deep into introspection, and unsettles the soul.
But while the short arrangements Fitzsimmons prefers in performance makes each song a fleeting moment of quietude and respect, gathering his coverage in together allows for a steeping perfect for the first real snow outside, and the hush of winter. Click through for an EP-length compilation of our favorite studio covers, and then stick around for a trio of live-in-concert video covers, including a sublime take on Wonderwall, and a Tom Petty cover that will have you checking his tour schedule for more.
- William Fitzsimmons: Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (orig. The Smiths) 
William Fitzsimmons: Wonderwall (orig. Oasis)
William Fitzsimmons ft. Gungor: Wildflowers (orig. Tom Petty)
William Fitzsimmons, David Bazan, Abby & Noah Gundersen, Chris Carraba: I Shall Be Released (orig. Bob Dylan)
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