Premiere: Van William, ‘The Country’

Van William (Photo by Silvia Grav)
Van William (Photo by Silvia Grav)

The latest music from Van Pierszalowski — now doing business as Van William — is the sound of a man turning the page, classic songwriting ferrying yesterday’s melancholy and tomorrow’s hopes on vessels of indelible melodies and poignant lyrics. Having put his bands WATERS (two albums, two EPs) on hold and Port O’Brien (three albums) behind him, William stakes out intensely personal territory on his first solo album, “Countries,” arriving Jan. 19 via Fantasy Records.

File under: Life changes. William spent the summers of his youth working on his father’s commercial fishing boat off Kodiak Island, Alaska, but earlier this year his father decided to retire and sell the boat. It was a jolt, because in the back of his head William thought he’d someday take over the boat. “Music has always been my passion,” William says, “but as a realist who also loves the physical labor and intensity of commercial fishing, I could never really know which career path would be more fulfilling or what I would be better at.” About the same time, the songwriter’s six-year relationship ended. “I was freaked out, but part of that freak-out was this renewed sense of drive and purpose,” he says. “My previous projects no longer felt honest in their pursuit and style. This cataclysm of events shook me back into feeling present with what I want to do and who I want to be as an artist.”

William’s new direction was charted during a writing session last year in the remote Sierra Nevada, and he recorded “Countries” at Stinson Beach in Marin County with Brian Phillips (who co-produces), Dawes drummer Griffin Goldsmith, Pop Etc bassist Chris Chu and keyboardist Tam Visher. He debuted the project in the summer of 2016 with the exuberant single “Fourth of July,” following it with the heartstrings-tugger “Revolution,” which featured backing vocals from the Soderberg sisters of First Aid Kit.

The acoustic guitar-driven single “The Country” starts off like a campfire song, with the weary-voiced singer staring into the still-glowing embers of his recent past, then summoning the grit to stoke the flames and move forward with an affecting chorus. It’s the kind of song that invites the listener to move along with him.

||| Stream: “The Country”