The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Iowa country artist James Wilson spoke to Noisey about his new album, the Walmart yodeling boy, and the ruckus Little Big Town's "Girl Crush" caused in country music.
Paisley Fields played their first show at a country kegger in the basement of a Brooklyn church on New Year's Eve 2013. The Brooklyn country band released their first EP, Oh These Urban Fences, in 2015 and are finally, in the year of our lord 2018, releasing a brand new full-length album, Glitter & Sawdust.
"It took me awhile to find my footing and figure out who I am as an artist," the band's vocalist and ringleader James Wilson says of the gap between the release of Oh These Urban Fences and Glitter & Sawdust. He was dealing with the loss of his grandmother, while also making big strides in his career and trying to figure out who he is as a person. "She was my biggest supporter and the one person who always allowed me to be myself," he says. "She bought me a pair of clip-on earrings when I was 5 years old because I loved trying on her jewelry. I was very lucky to have her in my life, and I wish that every queer kid would be lucky enough to have someone like her in their life." Wilson calls the songwriting he did for the album "introspective." "I was thinking about the two sides of me; the masculine and the feminine. And how those two sides exist at the same time."
Wilson grew up in rural Iowa where "there was no escaping country music." His grandparents owned a farm, and in true country fashion, always had the radio tuned to the classic country station where Wilson heard artists like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline (he relates deeply to the Walmart yodeling kid "When I first saw that I did a double take because I thought; holy shit is that me?")
"I loved that music but I never really felt like there was a place for me as a gay person," he says of the notoriously straight-laced genre and its often ultra-conservative politics. "For a while I rebelled against it. When I was living in Japan I reconnected with my country roots and knew that this was the type of music I was meant to play, whether I was accepted in the genre or not. Eventually I discovered Lavender Country and Karen & the Sorrows who opened this whole world of queer country music."
Glitter & Sawdust is gorgeous Nashville pop with a honky tonk heart, from the hillbilly jam "Winchester's Gun" to a phenomenal cover of Little Big Town's 2015 pot-stirrer "Girl Crush." "It’s a brilliantly written song," Wilson says of "Girl Crush," which only made his album because they had a little extra time in the studio. Little Big Town caused a ruckus among conservative country listeners in 2015 when the song became a radio single, causing many promoters to pull it over accusations that it "promoted the gay agenda." Wilson, like many, thought the outrage was almost comical. "I thought 'Oh honey, you think that’s a gay song? I’ll show you a gay song'. "
Glitter & Sawdust is out Friday, April 13. Pre-order it here and listen below!