Magic City Mix: Will Stewart
There may be no bigger breakout star this year on the Birmingham music scene than Will Stewart. Having quietly labored away for years as both a solo artist and member of bands like Timber and Nashville’s Willie and the Giant, for a long time Stewart remained just under the radar of the general population here in town, only to find himself at the center of a recent wave of attention from both local and national media following the release of his excellent new solo album County Seat on local indie label Cornelius Chapel Records.
With articles and mentions everywhere from Rolling Stone to American Songwriter, and spins on both local radio and influential tastemakers like KEXP out of Seattle, the buzz around his earnest and heartfelt songwriting style has been growing swiftly.
Evocative and forthright, with a distinct emotional core that conjures a unique sense of place located deep within the heart of Alabama, Stewart’s lyrical acumen has become a calling card for his newer material, and is reminiscent of The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris or even Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, if he had been born in the Deep South. As he puts it, “With County Seat, I just wanted the songs to be as honest as possible. Nothing flashy, just bare-bones songwriting. I think sincerity can resonate in a deep way with people and I hope that’s one of the reasons behind the increased interest in my music.”
With Stewart’s recent performances at both Sloss Fest and two well-attended sets at Secret Stages in August, it seems that the future for his Americana-influenced “ethereal folk rock,” as he likes to call it, couldn’t be brighter. Backed by a crack team of local musicians including Timber songwriting partner Janet Simpson-Templin on guitar and backing vocals, Robert Wason on bass, Tyler McGuire on drums, and sit-ins from scene veterans like Matt Devine on keyboards, Stewart has assembled an incredible touring band to hit the road with and perform on his second LP, which he plans on recording in December. With a full length debut coming from Timber as well this November, there’s a lot to be thankful for as a member of the Magic City music community.
“I think the music scene here could go toe to toe with any other major city—it’s extremely diverse and vibrant and is growing in a very exciting way,” he says. “Also, we’re lucky to have community minded venues and record stores to help cultivate effective outlets for emerging bands in town. Without that kind of support, the scene couldn’t grow.”
Photography Liesa Cole
Produced by Stan Bedingfield
Shot on location at Studio Goodlight
Hair and make-up by Brittany McNaughton and Team Forecast
Photo styling: Drea Zacharenko
Writer and curator: Lee Shook.
Art direction: robin colter.
Butlery: James Erik Young