Wilkerson to celebrate pre-release of new CD with hometown show at Hoots
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
The song with the least commercial appeal on Amarillo singer-songwriter Zac Wilkerson's new CD is the one that makes it a success.
That's how Wilkerson feels about "Scar," the harrowing final track on his about-to-drop album Dustbowl Soul — and, after getting a preview of the album myself, I have to agree.
"For me, emotionally, that song is the whole record," Wilkerson said.
Fans will get a chance to judge for themselves when the album is released Nov. 4 — or when they pick it up at a pre-release party at 10 p.m. Friday at Hoots Pub, 2424 Hobbs Road; cover is $10.
"Scar" was written in the wake of the January 2013 death of Amarillo musician A.J. Swope, a close friend and collaborator of Wilkerson's and many others on the Amarillo music scene. (A longtime friend of mine, too, in interests of full disclosure.)
"I started writing that song the day he died," Wilkerson said, though he couldn't finish it then: "I had about 80 percent, and then it just sat there. As much as I tried to finish it, it would not budge."
More than a year after he last worked on it, he tried again, this time with just 10 days to go before heading into the studio with producer Walt Wilkins.
"I sat on my back porch, and it just came — it allowed itself to be written," Wilkerson said. "It was one of the (songs) I was most worried about. I didn't want to write anything that didn't honor him, but I also needed to tell this story.
"Every other personal story on the record is fine; I didn't even bat an eye," he continued. "But making sure he was honored and not taken advantage of is heavy."
It worked. Not only did Wilkins push for it to be on the album, but Swope's widow, Wendi Swope, gave her approval, as did Swope's old bandmate, Josh Duggan.
Other listeners, too, gave a thumb's up.
"My new drummer ... joined right after we finished the record," Wilkerson said. "He said, 'I didn't even know him, and by the end, I was depressed. My kids are very emotionally aware, and my 9 year old said, 'Daddy, I can really tell how much you miss AJ with this song.'"
The rest of Dustbowl Soul offers a melting pot of sounds from the honey-voiced singer.
"We joked after we finished it that instead of one record, we had EPs of various genres — bluesy, country and a weird one, just a big question mark," Wilkerson said. "(But) that's the way I write. When I begin to write a song, I dont start off with the idea that this is going to be a country song, a folk song, whatever. I chase the idea ... and most of the time — no, all of the time — the song tells me what it is."
The album was recorded in three days at Jumping Dog Studio in Austin and features such tracks as "Tell the Truth," a driving song about a failing relationship that's the lead-off single; "The Only One," a country love song; "Stand Up Seven," a rocking cover of one of Wilkins' songs; "Cinderella," a track written when Wilkerson was 16 years old; "Amarillo Funk," an instrumental track that depicts Wilkerson's joy about hitting the road; and "Love Me Like You're Losing Me," a bluesy ballad featuring backup vocals by Wilkerson's wife, Courtney.
"That's the (song) Courtney hates, so me and Walt made her sing on it," Wilkerson joked. "We've been married for 15 years, and some couples we came up with haven't made it. ... A friend said she wished she had known (before the divorce was inevitable), that she wished he had told (her that she) was losing him. So this song is what would someone say if the relationship was dying but they didn't want it to."
In the process of making the record, Wilkerson said he thinks he's conquered any vestiges of self-doubt.
"When I was a kid and daydreamed about making records and doing shows, I thought it couldn't be that simple, that you could show up and play songs and meet people and hopefully sell a CD," Wilkerson said. "My big lesson (from the album) is don't doubt myself, don't let fear stop me from trying something new, be it a new verse, a new song, new band members."
"Middle of the Night," Zac Wilkerson