William Elliott Whitmore’s calling card is his hardworking, whiskey-drenched voice. It’s dirty, dusty and downright soulful paired against the banjo or guitar. But outside of Montrose, Iowa --- the small town off the Mississippi Whitmore lives by -- his calling card might be the shotgun blasts echoing from his property. To relive a hard day’s work, Whitmore has taken to shooting up his old worthless guitars, empty beer cans and rusted auto parts.
“I’ve never hunted and I wouldn’t harm a soul,” says Whitmore, speaking from home, “but I do own a lot of guns. Really, I see them more as sculptures.”
His father hunted, but he never picked up the sport. Instead, the 33-year-old singer songwriter took on the other family trait -- music. Whitmore’s grandparents passed it down to his mother (accordion) and father (guitar). Eventually, it trickled down to him. Toss in a family record collection that boasted everything from Ray Charles to Willie Nelson and you start to hear the influences.
But Whitmore made a name for himself early in his career by pairing his folk songs with the world of hardcore and punk music. It’s not an obvious coupling to the average eardrum, but on paper, Whitmore could see the comparisons. Growing up on a labor-intensive farm in Iowa, he was already embracing a DIY lifestyle that was bubbling over in the mosh pits. Both promoted respect, hard work and making your way on your own terms.
Field Songs Album
This week, Whitmore releases “Field Songs,” the stripped down sophomore release for ANTI- (a subsidiary of legendary punk label Epitaph). The album is a skeletal effort that sees Whitmore focusing heavily on his songwriting ability, often steering towards ideals of abandoning regret and the realities of a blue-collar lifestyle. Each track is fluid and honest, like they were plucked out of the ether and recorded in one take.
And on the upcoming tour for the record, Whitmore continues the march to his own drummer (or, really, the lack thereof.) No tour manager, no tour bus and no handlers. Instead, Whitmore loads in and out his own equipment and drives himself around the country in a “soccer mom mini-van,” a non-descript mobile command center that he hopes skirts by the interstate police with no hassle.
To Whitmore, it’s an opportunity to see the country -- which he proudly claims to know every road. He doesn’t talk about the tiring late night drives or being exhausted the following day at whatever venue he happens to be playing, but goes on to describe the satisfaction in seeing the fog roll off the mountains or the industrial outskirts of a city. It also gives Whitmore a chance to indulge in his extremely eclectic love of music, whether it be the latest Dead Milkmen record (who happen to be performing at Riot Fest East this year) to the “conscious and positive” Lupe Fiasco or the indie weirdness of the tUnE-yArDs.
On a recent tour, Whitmore’s DIY approach to touring was a bit of an inside joke.
“I just wrapped up a tour with Chris Cornell about a month ago,” recalls Whitmore. “He was doing this solo acoustic tour with a big bus and a whole crew. They sort of chuckled at me in my little mini-van, unloading my own stuff (laughs). They got a big kick out of that.”
Whitmore is firing up the mini-van this weekend for two-week jaunt throughout the East Coast. For tour dates and to purchase “Field Songs,” check out his official site.
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