They say everything is one-part blessing and one-part curse. For Austin, Texas-based songwriter, Kelsey Wilson, who rose to prominence over the years with her band, Wild Child, that is assuredly the case for her relationship to the violin. Wilson, who is set to release her debut solo record, The Bitch EP, under the new moniker, Sir Woman, grew up playing the classical instrument. While she “hated” her lessons and their lack of direction toward self-expression, Wilson grew a proficiency on the violin that would lead her to a 10-year career as a professional artist. But here’s the rub. That time on the road playing an instrument that she never completely bonded with burnt her out. Sir Woman brought her back to life. For evidence of this revival, look no further than her debut single, “Can’t Stay Mad,” which we’re happy to premiere here today.
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“With classical music,” Wilson says, “you’re working your ass off everyday to figure out how to do something, how it’s already been done. It didn’t feel like expression at all, it felt like something I had to do.”
Later, though, Wilson heard violin in popular music, in hip-hop, disco, soul, R&B and funk. This, she says, opened her mind to the idea that she could use her skill on the instrument elsewhere, to fit in with the music and songs she had a passion for. Wilson began collaborating with a number of artists in a number of bands. At one point, at 19-years old, she was playing violin with a Danish psychedelic band. She’d dropped out of college. It was then she met Alexander Beggins and the two formed Wild Child. The two began to write and after a great deal of success, Wilson was at the end of her mental rope.
“I don’t know who told me this or why I had this thought,” she says. “But I’d thought that to be an artist, you have to suffer. You have to be this brooding, dark, sad, mysterious, probably drunk person. That was the image in my mind. I was stuck in this headspace and it wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t serving me.”
So, Wilson took a complete and giant step back. In Wild Child, though she appreciated the music and loved the fans, she found herself singing songs borne from heartache and hardship more than a decade old. To perform, Wilson says, she can’t “phone it in.” She has to embody the music. As such, returning to their subject matter – when it wasn’t who she was – had begun to eat at her mental and physical stability. To help cope, she partied. A small spiral turned into a bigger one. For a person who hadn’t sung in public until her 20s, Wilson, a popular singer now, had to stop.
“I just realized I was too tired to keep going back there,” Wilson says. “I just want to celebrate love, life, me and you and everyone. I don’t want to have to write something sad in order to bring people together.”
The resolution to take a step back from the limelight had been a few years in the making. In that time, Wilson had been writing songs and some of these she’d decided to keep close to her chest, away from anyone or anything else. These are the songs that would become the tracks on the debut Sir Woman record (set for release Oct. 16). These are the songs that helped heal her after her debilitating decade. But just because she had the songs didn’t mean she was ready to record or release them. She had to take time before that. Wilson decided to get sober (a near impossibility when spending nine months a year on the road). She told herself that she would focus on the music and lyrics she connected with. And she “pulled back” from the majority of the outside world, retreating to an Oregon farm to write.
“The song, ‘Can’t Stay Mad,’ was the first one we wrote,” Wilson says. “We wrote it in ten minutes. It’s such a simple and fun song and it’s how Sir Woman started.”
Wilson’s The Bitch EP is the opposite of forlorn. It’s not a spell weeping into the wind. Instead, it frolics, skips and saunters. Wilson is bright. You can tell she smiled while belting the lyrics. She wanted this music in the world. On the EP’s opening track, “Highroad,” Wilson exudes passion and playfulness.
“That was me telling myself, ‘Pull yourself out of this hole and look at what you have. Look at what you’ve done. This is amazing. Look at who you are, you’re so powerful.’”
If Wilson felt, at times, creatively or spiritually broken, in need of a bridge to fuse the sides of herself back together again, whole, then it was music that helped. In the same way she stepped away from it to reexamine her relationship and orientation to the art form, Wilson stepped back forward – gleefully – to endeavor once again to write songs. This time, though, the music is for her first. And while she says there will indeed be another Wild Child record in the future, Sir Woman has, in the meantime, helped mend.
“You don’t have to speak the same language and you can understand what a song is about,” Wilson says. “You can feel the emotions behind it. Definitely the most important aspect of music is its ability to bring people together.”
Preorder the tunes HERE.