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A PERIOD OF TRANSITION

Jack Wilson taps bygone ways for "Spare Key"

Jack Wilson_photo by Jen Hellow.jpg

Growing up in Austin, Texas, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jack Wilson says he “couldn’t help but be influenced” by Austin’s rock, folk and country artists.

“[But] from the beginning of my musical consciousness, I was mixing pop rock with the Austin sound,” he adds. “As a young kid, like as young as 6, I was hanging with guys in their 20s — my counselors at this horseback riding camp. I remember hearing Stone Temple PilotsCore, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Weezer’s blue album as they were being released.”

In his own music, Wilson’s style leans more toward textbook singer-songwriter: think Neil Young and Elliott Smith, who is among his favorites. The now-sober Wilson describes Spare Key, his recently released second album, as “possibly the last will and testament” of the since-retired “desperate character” version of himself.

In concert, “I try to introduce the [Spare Key] songs honestly, based on the character who wrote them, and why he did,” Wilson explains. “It’s not hard to put myself back there, to be honest about where I was — it’s important to remember.

“The shows are naturally more energetic than the record. We have a large band, made up of some of the best musicians in Austin. The live show is a marriage of who I was when I made the record and who I am becoming.”

In the past, Wilson did a lot of shows with no band — and his only touring companion was his dog, Finn. One of Wilson’s most memorable moments with Finn took place at a “super-fancy” hotel in downtown Chicago, a city that “does not tolerate dogs,” he says.

“I wasn’t even leashing Finn at this point,” Wilson recalls. “I think I found a bungee cord in the back of my car and hooked it onto his collar and strolled through the five-star lobby to the elevators. I was wearing sandals, an undershirt and mid-thigh length shorts — high as a Georgia pine. Eyes forward, straight up the elevator and into the room. No one said a word. After that, it was in and out, all weekend — not a word. It was beautiful.”

— By Chris M. Junior

Jack Wilson on tour (schedule subject to change):

* July 15, 22 and 29: Cactus Café — Austin, Texas
* Aug. 24: Pianos — New York
* Aug. 26: Herzfest — Newton, N.J.

Photo by Jen Hellow