Patrick Fitzsimmons’ moving and euphoric sixth album is aptly titled Hope Is (Malletts Bay Records). The title is directly inspired by the Emily Dickinson poem, “Hope Is The Thing With Feathers,” but the albums emotional content is grounded in powerful real life events. The upcoming release is the singer-songwriter’s definitive statement after a brave and victorious two-and-a-half-year battle with a very deadly form of cancer.
“This album and the Dickinson poem reflect the thing in your soul that keep you going when you you're afraid you might not make it . That fighter instinct inside is hope, and we tap into it to keep going,” Patrick Fitzsimmons says.
The critically acclaimed songwriter has been called “one of the most captivating songwriters around today” (Relix Magazine). WFUV Radio’s John Platt has said: “Patrick has such a melodic gift and crystal clear voice...a singer-songwriter of the first rank.” The Vermont-based artist is a three-time Plowshares Songwriting Contest finalist, and has had his songs placed in several independent films. Fitzsimmons has been a top-charting artist at Folk DJ, Americana Radio, and Roots Music Report. His song “The Girl With the Sad Eyes” was nominated for Nashville’s Just Plain Folks Music Awards. He’s also a two-time finalist at SolarFest – 2011 and 2012. Fitzsimmons has shared the stage with Bob Dylan, The Dave Matthews Band, Ellis Paul, Lucy Kaplansky, Joan Osborne, Dar Williams and Shawn Colvin. Dar Williams remarked of Fitzsimmons’ talents: “It's really not fair that Patrick writes such beautiful songs and is such a fine guitarist.”
Fitzsimmons began writing Hope Is in winter 2011. He was cancer free but creatively blocked, so he forced himself into a “song a day” regimen. He made an agreement with his long-distance girlfriend that, at end of each day, he would debut a song to her via Skype. The two called these “Skype Dates.” Being that the relationship was bi-coastal—him east in Vermont, her west in Washington State—he had until 3:00 AM each night to come up with a tune. “I got tired of complaining about being blocked, so I just jumped in with a song a day for a week. Regardless if it was a piece of garbage or a masterpiece, it just had to be finished before I called her at 12:00 AM her time,” Fitzsimmons details.
One of the first tunes to come was the shimmering and jangly “I Found You,” a charming and uplifting pop-rock tune. “That was particularly rewarding because it's a catchy little tune, and a love letter to my girlfriend. I delivered the goods and let her know how I was feeling about her."
The pastorally beautiful “Mountaintops” is a warm and candid snapshot from this period of creative rebuilding. Fitzsimmons sings: There is grace in places we don't see/Don't be afraid to say you do not know/And if it's time to leave it's all right, don't fright/Just come and say goodbye before you go. The song’s inspiration came from a conversation about the songwriting process Fitzsimmons perfected on his previous five albums, and how that wasn’t working anymore.
“I realized I don’t have to be the same. It's ok to do it differently. Things just aren’t happening the way they used to happen,” he explains. “The other inspiration was someone close to me getting sick and, while recovering, he was feeling like he had to hold it all together, as he always had, for his family and business. This is me trying to suggest to him that if he let some of this go, it will be ok, and the world will adjust. So I saw it as both of us having an opportunity to learn that it's ok to change the way we do things as we change as human beings.”
The album ends with the winsome and hypnotic title track. “Hope Is” is a stunning mantra-like composition referencing the Dickinson poem and reflecting the inner peace achieved after deep, soulful struggle.
The buoyant drive of the album marks a compositional breakthrough for Fitzsimmons. “I purposely wrote with drum machines this time. I wanted the songs to be as strong and meaningful as I could make them but also wanted to make, overall, a rhythmically upbeat album,” he reveals.
Hope Is was tracked in New Jersey at Mixolydian Studios, Dirt Floor Studios, and Balsam Studio. It was produced by Fitzsimmons along with engineer/co-producers Tom Askin and Grammy nominee Dan Myers. Myers and Fitzsimmons were both in the esteemed folk-rock band From Good Homes, signed to RCA in the late 1990s. Myers sits in on keyboards and saxophones. Grammy nominee Brady Rymer, also From Good Homes, adds bass and electric guitar. Tom Askin from The Samples fills in with piano and backing vocals. John Ginty from Jewel, Santana, Sheryl Crow, and Ryan Adams is on Hammond organ. Railroad Earth violinist Tim Carbone is highlighted Fitzsimmons' cover of Bob Dylan's Sara.
Hope Is affirms the power of positivity. "I truly believe that outlook has a lot to do with survival,” Fitzsimmons says. “When I was thinking ‘Where does hope come from?’ and I saw this Emily Dickinson poem, it helped me visualize this thing with feathers, there inside us, perched and ready to take flight."
Artists On Vermont Relief CompilationFor writer/publisher info visit Bluebird Promotions.
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Casey Lynn Dubie/Malletts Bay Records
Patrick Fitzsimmons/Malletts Bay Records
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Gregory Douglass/Emote Records
Hotels & Highways/CO-OP