IF YOU GO
■ What: William Fitzsimmons and Ben Sollee.
■ When: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26.
■ Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
■ Admission: $15 in advance, $18 at the door.
■ Phone: 423-624-5347.
■ Website: www.barkinglegs.org.
2005: "Until When We Are Ghosts"
2008: "The Sparrow and the Crow"
2009: "Live From the Downtown Studios"
2011: "Gold in the Shadows"
Emotional wounds can be some of the hardest to endure. Left alone, they can become septic and fester. In time, they can cripple.
Sometimes, says singer/songwriter William Fitzsimmons, the only cure is to rip off the bandage and expose the wound to the open air. In 2007, he did just that when he trained his writer's eye on the gash left behind by his divorce.
The resulting songs of his third album and first studio album, "The Sparrow and the Crow," communicated a world of hurt -- like a voyeuristic recording from the therapist's couch -- but the process proved to be as cathartic as it was agonizing.
"As someone who studied and worked and has been a patient in therapy, I have a very foundational belief that confession -- expunging shameful and secretive and dark things from inside -- has value," says Fitzsimmons, who was a mental health therapist before he joined the singer/songwriter ranks.
"Going into the past and bringing up regrets and mistakes and hurts and things like that actually has worth. The road to health is paved with precisely those experiences."
The album's lush melodies and hushed vocals belied its emotionally taut songs, but it got critics' attention. Popmatters described it as "effortlessly beautiful and subtly chilling." The Washington Post called it "doleful but delicately lovely."
Now, the Pittsburgh-based singer is in a better place. He's remarried. He and his wife have adopted two children.
Fitzsimmons' work has received high-profile references by the likes of Rolling Stone, Billboard, Spin and Paste and has been tapped for several TV shows, including "Grey's Anatomy," "Army Wives" and "Burn Notice." He has been favorably compared to artists such as Iron and Wine and Bon Iver.
"It think it's one of those things that you are aware if you're leaving the path of honesty.
A little voice starts speaking in your ear louder and louder. I just do my thing and try to be honest."
-- William Fitzsimmons
Nevertheless, he says, the need to wield his pen with honesty, occasionally of the brutal variety, is as strong as ever.
The combination of emotionally charged songs, hushed, understated vocals and delicate finger-style guitar playing make Fitzsimmons' performances feel as much like a trip to the confessional as a concert.
"I think the audience and I take turns," he says. "I think sometimes the audience is the therapist -- the listening wall, so to speak -- and I'm the patient. Sometimes I think it's the other way around, that the music can be an invitation for people to enter into and have a cathartic experience."
Saturday, April 26, Fitzsimmons will take the stage at Barking Legs Theater as part of a tour with indie cellist and singer/songwriter Ben Sollee. And if all goes as planned, he says, the experience should be as therapeutic as it is entertaining.
"I want people to leave feeling like they've had some kind of encounter with themselves or an insight even," Fitzsimmons says. "I don't want them to leave just thinking, 'That was a great show.' I want them to leave feeling affected by the evening."
Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...