Would you do me the honour of introducing yourself?
My name is James Nicolas Wilson.
What project are you affiliated with?
It’s a project called Painful Shivers.
Tell me a little more about Painful Shivers – How did that come together?
It’s just there so I don’t have to call myself Nic Wilson. It’s just a solo project. It’s anything I write that I deem worthy of public consumption.
There’s no fixed members?
No, but there are people I gravitate toward – I have a Montreal and a Sackville outfit.
What brought you back to Sackville?
I just wanted to visit everyone. And It’s just been too long.
Today you performed the song “Participation.” Can you tell us a little about that song?
The lyrical content of that song is based on a friend recounting the life of Gram Parsons, on a very long drive.
What are some highlights of his life?
I think that he worked with Emmylou is probably a big one. This was her thesis: that no one would have given a shit about Gram Parsons if he hadn’t discovered Emmylou Harris. and I suppose the best factoid about his life is that when he died his friends stole his body from the morgue and attempted to burn it in Joshua Tree National Park but they were just drunken hippies and poured gas on his body and burned away his skin and nothing else.
and now there’s an unmarked concrete slab in honour of him in Joshua Tree.
The spot where the whole thing went down?
So you took this crazy story and used it as inspiration for the song?
I think it was a lot more about what this person was saying about him and I thought she was painting a very lonely picture of a man who was always trying to keep up with the Rolling Stones. He was always just trying to do as many drugs as Keith Richards and be as rock and roll while making Alt-Country? I don’t know how that part factors in but…I just like that idea of always feeling like you know what’s happening but you can’t get there. I like that a lot.
Was is your personal songwriting method? Are there topics or inspirations that make songwriting easier for you?
I usually start by trying to emulate a song I’m really into. And then it just goes off the rails. I think that I’m writing…oh I don’t know, I don’t really have one. I don’t really know how I write songs. It’s not something that I try to think about.
Do you have to force yourself to write songs?
No, the exact opposite. I don’t really write unless I feel compelled to. I’m really lazy about it. But not lazy, I’m just doing other things. Music is turned into much more, I would never put pressure on myself to make music unless it was for other people – I love playing with other people. I put pressure on myself to do that. If it’s for Painful Shivers..if it’s not easy or cheap then I won’t do it.
I recently heard that Elvis Costello in the 80’s and 70’s would just watch a movie with a guitar in his hands and would strums and make melodies and would develop his songs that way. Do you kind of take a similar approach?
It’s usually a distraction tactic – when i’m doing something terrible like cleaning. Usually when I’m cooking I find myself bumping into things with a guitar strapped around me. But usually it’s distracting me from whatever I’m doing. If I’m bored while cleaning the house or want to annoy my roommate or putting off making art, then I’ll pick up a guitar.
Any final words on the project?
Is this the end? I felt we were just getting into it…
You just made me feel like a bad interviewer!
I thought it was going to go on for 6 hours.
We’ve got other things to do.
Final words on a project…
I guess it kind of silly to ask for final words on a project.
[laughs] – yeah – It’ll be new for a long time. I do, sort of, have album aspirations.
but you’re not placing expectations on yourself?
No, maybe when I have ten good songs, because I have three right now. Maybe in a year I’ll have another seven and make an album out of those.
Three great songs!
Where can people find these songs?
One hasn’t been recorded yet, the other is on a compilation put out by Poncho Records and the other one is on my bandcamp (painfulshivers.bandcamp.com). And there’s another one on there which is a b-side.
I would file that under “A Great Song” as well.
Thank you Scott.