Talking Deep Blues with William Elliott Whitmore

By Elliott Morehardt
October 2011

Elliott Morehardt - First of all, I would like to thank you for coming out Boston way. Have you played here before?

William Elliott Whitmore - I’ve played in Boston a handful of times. Once in the basement of a church, a couple times at the Berklee School of Music, the Southpaw, and the Middle East (upstairs with Tim Barry and downstairs with Lucero).

Elliott Morehardt -You had the lights shut off part way through the show, and you were very comfortable playing in utter darkness. I imagined you playing on your farmer’s porch to the night creatures. Did our Boston creatures fill in nicely?

William Elliott Whitmore - The darkness just seemed right, made it more intimate. Plus it was hot as shit that day. The folks in Boston made a good soundscape to go along with the music. Hospitable with the drinks too.

Elliott Morehardt - I first heard you on the excellent Hiram and Huddie compilation CD. “Mother is Gone” and “Gallows Pole” were truly beautiful. Did you pick those and are you doing any for the Burnside/Cash cover?

William Elliott Whitmore - Hank and Lead Belly are two of the greats. I wanted to do an HW song that people don’t hear often. I chose “Mother is Gone” off his first record. A lot of people have covered “Gallows Pole” but I wanted to do my take on it. I haven’t been asked to do the Burnside/Cash album, yet.

Elliott Morehardt - Have you always pursued the life of a musician or were there distractions along the way...do you have a core musical inspiration?

William Elliott Whitmore - My musical influences are wide in scope. I was raised on country/soul/blues but later discovered punk rock and hip hop. My apocalypse jukebox would contain Willie Nelson, Charlie Pride, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, the Dead Milkmen, Fugazi, Minutemen, and Public Enemy.

Elliott Morehardt - You grew up around punk and hardcore—Isn’t there a folk element even in those styles?

William Elliott Whitmore - There’s a folk element to punk. When done with purity of heart, they can both be poignant. They can learn from each other too.

Elliott Morehardt - I really appreciate your willingness to step on some toes, especially the political kind. Is there a backlash or is it all worth it?

William Elliott Whitmore - When it comes to politics I definitely have my opinions. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind, just giving folks something to think about. I’ve always believed that diverse viewpoints should be welcome.

Elliott Morehardt - Your new recording Field Songs is pretty stripped down. Is this coming full circle for you or just another step to where you want to go...any particular favorites of yours on Field Songs?

William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs is stripped down to the bone. I wanted the songs to stand there like a skeleton. I wanted to showcase the natural sounds as well. I’m proud of all the songs but my favorite to play is called “Don’t Need It.”

Elliott Morehardt - Are you mostly doing small venues or are you doing any of the larger festivals?

William Elliott Whitmore - I’ll play anywhere they’ll let me. I’ve performed on baseball fields, in an abandoned railroad depot, festivals, countless basements, every type of bar you can imagine, record stores, vaudeville theaters, carnivals, and anywhere else with the will to listen.

Elliott Morehardt - So much of this generation’s so-called deep-blues folk revival credits the veterans that have gone and the few still with us. Any particular favorites that are still with us and playing so we can support them?

William Elliott Whitmore - We do have a rich musical past but it’s important to remember the folks working hard at it right now: Tim Barry, Chuck Ragan, Lucero, Ted Leo, Frank Turner, Billy Bragg, Murder By Death, Scott H. Biram, Against Me!, and so many others

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