Jack Wilson: “Cowboy”

Singer-songwriter Jack Wilson has moved back and forth between Seattle and Austin a number of times, but being away from Texas for long stretches of time only makes him long for it that much more. While in Seattle, Wilson chased after a raucous sound that hinted towards his love of Neil Young & Crazy Horse. With his band the Wife Stealers, the singer released one record before deciding to go it alone. 2009 brought his self-titled solo debut, a release that rocketed up the Americana charts thanks to steady air-play on hometown station KEXP.

A move back to Austin in 2011 only furthered Wilson’s love of country and folk, but a tragedy derailed his muse. Four musician friends were shot and killed at the Café Racer in 2012, a venue that Wilson frequently performed at. “I drank really hard,” he says, “and took a lot of whatever was around for most of the last ten years and really fueled this desperate character.” He concedes it was self-destructive behavior, but Wilson poured these emotions into his music. The result is Spare Key, his third solo album.

While a certain Texan twang wafts through Spare Key, the record owes a big debt to his former Pacific Northwest home. Sean Nelson–who’s sung with Death Cab For Cutie–contributed backing vocals, and Mike Coykendall (M. Ward, Blitzen Trapper, Sallie Ford) turned Wilson’s songs from bedroom ballads into full-blown creations. Wilson even brought a little bit of Austin up to Portland while recording the album: Michael McLeod took a break from playing with Good Field and Dana Falconberry to add his signature guitar and bass stamp. Wilson’s focused songwriting has earned him a recent supporting slot with the Lumineers on a cross-country tour, but he’ll be taking a break to celebrate the release of Spare Key with a show on Thursday, June 20 at the Mohawk. In the meantime, we’re sharing “Cowboy”–an ode to Wilson’s own itinerant lifestyle and a nice primer on this rising songwriter.

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