by Josh Matthews
photo: Wes Frazer
Declared as “one of the top 10 artists you must know in 2018,” by Rolling Stone Magazine, local musican Will Stewart exploded onto the music scene with his release County Seat on Cornelius Chapel Records. It just doesn’t feel that way in his home of Birmingham, AL, but that’s alright. Because Will prefers it that way. Since the release of County Seat, Will’s purchased a van. He’s toured a lot more. A whole heck of a lot more. And he wears a mustache. That’s also new. Everything else, though, is just business as usual. You may have seen Will perform recently at Seasick Records, Sloss Music & Art’s Festival or Secret Stages, but if you weren’t looking for him, his quiet and modest demeanor could easily give cause to missing him. But if you were listening, then you would understand why everyone who listens to Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton or Nathaniel Ratelief has County Seat in their record collection.
Here’s what was written recently about County Seat:
“Released in 2017, County Seat is a guitar-fueled Americana record, caught somewhere between the worlds of country and electrified rock. The songs are roomy and lush, the result of an inspired — led by Stewart, who handles singing and guitar-playing duties — whose members recorded all nine tracks in two short days. There are swirls of swooning pedal steel, layers of vocal harmony, and the pastoral punch of a songwriter looking to turn the landscape of his home state into music. Close your eyes while playing songs like “Brush Arbor,” whose title references Dennis Covington’s Salvation on Sand Mountain, and you’ll hear Stewart’s Alabama home.
County Seat is also a record about time. On the album’s title track, Stewart sings about a lonely man in his twilight years, hoping to find some sort of transcendence from an otherwise mundane, day-to-day life. During the nostalgic “Sipsey,” Stewart longs for the wonder and innocence of young adulthood. And with “Heaven Knows Why,” he takes a look at his own vices, realizing the hour has come to leave some of those habits behind. Like Stewart’s own move back to Birmingham, County Seat finds its narrator in constant motion, hoping to weather the mysteries and murkiness of the 21st century South by holding on to a shred of hope.
Co-produced with Les Nuby (who also engineered and mixed the album) and recorded in a series of live takes, County Seat nods to a number of songwriters who sing about the beauty of their homeland without glossing over its imperfections. There are electrified moments influenced by Neil Young, guitar arpeggios suited for R.E.M., turns-of-phrase worthy of Bob Dylan, and the modern-day folksy charm of Hiss Golden Messenger. On an album that evokes some heavy starpower, though, Will Stewart shines the brightest. This is his first full-length release as a solo artist: a rallying cry from a Son of the South who, having returned home after a long trip, looks at his birthplace with renewed eyes.” – Andrew Leahy
In a collaboration between MusicBham and Magic City Weekend, MusicBham’s Josh Matthews recently sat down with Will to discuss his music. You can see that here in this Artist Spotlight: Will Stewart.
All Rights Reserved. Magic City Weekend.
Produced by Magic City Weekend and MusicBham.
Produced by Ryan Denley & Josh Matthews.
Videography and Editing by Ryan Denley.
Featuring Will Stewart and Janet Simpson.
Special thanks to Dan Seasick and Seasick records.
Will Stewart in the Press:
WILL STEWART BRINGS HIS OWN MELANCHOLY TO JUSTIN TUBB’S “MINE IS A LONELY LIFE” (PREMIERE) – POPMATTERS