Q & A With Bobby Fitzgerald Of Whiskey Shivers

Toilet paper roll over or under?

Bobby Fitzgerald: The over way, every time. Like a civilized human. [The under way] is a pain in the neck.

Water, wine, whiskey, or beer?

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BF: How about tequila? Tequila, whiskey, and wine? In a smoothie? Let’s just throw it all in a smoothie. Throw some protein powder in there, y’know? Ya gotta take care of yourself.

Who would be in your ideal super group?

BF: Captain America on keys, Batman on sax, Superman on flute, and Catwoman on drums. I feel like Batman could do a “Strangers In The Night” kind of smoky sax. Dark and smoky.

Top five favorite songs currently?

BF: This is one of those questions where, as soon as you ask it, it’s like I’ve never heard a song in my life. Tom Petty is huge for me. Billy Joel, too.

When did you first start identifying with them?

BF: Middle school and high school. It just felt accessible and real. I didn’t feel like there was a lot of show going on around it, I felt like it was just genuine, and it made a big impression on me.

I feel the same way about Bruce Springsteen. People get turned off by the sincerity there.

BF: I kind of like that people have a problem with that. It just means that he’s saying something real. And you don’t have to like everything someone says, or the way that they say it. And that just means that it really is the truth.

How does someone with a rock and roll background pick up the fiddle?

BF: I fell in love with it during a family trip to Ireland when I was young, then I started playing with a neighbor of mine, a retired dairy farmer, who’s been playing fiddle his whole life. I guess I really like the vocal nature of it, it feels really expressive, and I was drawn to that. And [playing] became a way to experience that same kind of genuine-ness I really liked in the music that I was listening to. It’s very right-there and very tangible.

So do you write with the fiddle first and build around that?

BF: It depends on the song. Sometimes, we’ll start off with a line on the fiddle and the lyrics will come afterwards, or vice versa. Sometimes the lyrics come first and dictate what the song is going to be like and I get to go back again and find the fiddle voice in there somewhere. All the songs are organic in that way, in that each of us will bring some piece to the table of varying sizes, and we all collaborate on it [after that].

What made you want to move to Austin?

BF: I didn’t really know much about Austin before I moved here. I went to school in Ohio, graduated, and went home for about a month. And I figured I had to move somewhere

Why did you move to Austin?

BF: Austin is definitely a songwriters’ town, and it’s very encouraging. The difference between Austin and Nashville is that Nashville is more of a players’ town, a pickers’ town, [meaning] you have to be much more proficient. Not that that doesn’t happen here in Austin. But it seems that the focus is a little more heavy on playing in Nashville and a little more heavy on writing in Austin. And Austin is very encouraging. We all recognize that we’re working towards the same goal, and if there’s any way that we can help each other, as opposed to trying to push the other one down to get ahead, y’know that’s just a way to burn bridges. You aren’t going to make very many friends that way. But here you just help each other. If you can help your friend achieve some sort of success, the odds of you making some sort of a name for yourself is right there with it. We’re all kind of tied together and we want to see each other succeed. Here, if you see one of your peers getting ahead, then in a way you’re getting ahead as well, because they represent what you’re trying to do and they represent your community, so it’s a win for all of us.

The self-title record feels really organic, like you guys in a room, hanging out and playing.

BF: For sure. Just figuring it out as we go, realizing that pieces that we thought were done still have a lot more room to grow, or ones that we were afraid just weren’t there yet are [actually] ready. Experimenting and letting [the songs] have room to breathe like that is important, you have to let it become something that maybe you didn’t anticipate at all. We’re actually still in the studio working on our next record which we’re hoping to get out January 1. We’re recording it [in Austin] at The Bubble and Frenchie Smith is producing it for us. It’s been a really fun project. We actually sat down for a little bit the other day with Ben Kweller and worked on a bunch of new songs for that. We’re going back in the studio again at the end of June to knock out the rest of it and hopefully get it out by the New Year.

You bring a lot of energy to your shows. What about the combination of old world style in a new world package?

Photo via Whiskey Shivers
Photo via Whiskey Shivers

BF: It kind of came around naturally. We have bluegrass instrumentation but none of us really are bluegrass players. We call our music “trashgrass” to avoid the confusion. Again, it’s just a natural expression of the sound that we want, the music to be playing, and music that we want to hear, just what brings us satisfaction. And it’s fun. That’s what it’s always all about, just having a good time. Whenever we’re on tour, you’ll go through the most hectic day. You’ll get up super early and drive all day and get stuck in traffic and then show up for sound check and you’ve gotta wait for a few more hours. And it’s just a headache all day long; you’re hungry and you’re hungover. But finally, when you get to get on stage, that’s where it all just melts away and we’re enjoying ourselves again. And all the stress just disappears, and that’s the shared experience that we want to have happen every time. Everybody in the room can go ahead and just forget about whatever you’re worried about, whatever you’ve been stressing over all day, and just take forty-five minutes and have a good time with everybody around you. Dance a little bit, laugh. Just have some fun. Feel that community, at least for a little bit. And then you can go back and freak out about whatever shit you’ve got going on.

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Q & A With Bobby Fitzgerald Of Whiskey Shivers