Local Musician Check-in: Sons of Bill

Posted on April 17, 2013 by


This month we had the pleasure of sitting down with “self-renounced” rock star, James Wilson of Sons of Bill.

Sons of Bill is a Rock/Country/Americana band formed right here in Charlottesville by three of the four sons of retired UVa Professor Bill Wilson – James, Sam, and Abe. James shared about the benefits and blessings of sharing a stage with and being in a real ‘band of brothers.’

sons of bill

What’s it like being in a band with your brothers?

James Wilson

James Wilson

J: Great! There’s a reason why family bands work… there is a special bond that comes with knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance, on the road they won’t let me drive cause I’m a terrible driver, Sam does all the late night drives, and Abe is the one who always takes care of the money. Also having your band-mates be your brothers keeps your egos in check, which makes for a healthy band.

What sort of words of wisdom has your father passed on to you boys to make you some of the kindest, most humble people in Charlottesville and the music industry?

J: My dad’s a great guy. He’s old school, and we were raised that way.  He always said “Hold no quarter in your life for anything but the truth.” Its something you have to remember when you’re in the music industry– with so much pressure to posture, to put up a front. Honestly,  Its one of the nice things about the current music industry– there is less and less of a need to be a mythic “Rock Star” and more room to just be honest. I don’t need to pretend to be a rock star, I don’t feel that pressure… I’m not. I’m a boring guy… I hang out in my sweatpants and drink Diet Coke while playing guitar all day.

The New Record: Bad Dancer

After talking a little bit about his family life and how that translates to the road, we starting learning some about the new record, Bad Dancer: the sound, new direction, and their work with new vinyl producers, Warren Parker and Michael Hennigar over at WarHen records.

Sons of Bill have been described as Rock, Country, Americana or Folk Rock. So we asked James to describe their sound in his own words and where it’s headed.

He described it as “heartfelt” yet “changing all the time,” not sticking to one specific concept or sound, but merely writing in whatever style comes out.

James loves true, honest Country music, which he believes cannot be faked. Growing up on that, he and brother Abe “each come up with the germ of something good,” no matter the sound. From there, they “fall back on” each member to “make it a band song” – Sam contributing a nice riff, Todd Wellons with a beat, and Seth Green lays the foundation on bass.

Bad Dancer AlbumIn Bad Dancer you reference southern culture with “Once southern boys they all loved R.E. Lee, Once southern girls loved R.E.M.” Can you explain this comparison?

J: I think every outsider, the kind of person that just can’t seem to fit into the world, has some dream in his head of a time where it would all make sense– where he could get out of his head and move into the world. Sometime in the past maybe.  The character in the song is standing on the outskirts of the dance– unable to participate and dreaming of this i guess.  Of course, as you grow older you realize this isn’t true.

In Bad Dancer you reference The Odyssey and you are frequently seen hanging on the Downtown Mall with a book. Are there certain go-to authors that influence your songwriting?

J: The writing that I love – books, music – all has a certain selflessness and earnestness and obligation to your fellow man. That’s something they all have and what I aspire to.

Bad Dancer Vinyl Release and Record Store Day

With this new vinyl release comes more touring. While visiting favorite spots like New York, Chicago, and Austin, they are going back for their sophomore European tour fall 2013. “Bad Dancer” and “Higher Than Mine” are the A and B sides of the record released to coincide with celebrating Record Store Day on April 20th at Sidetracks. James Wilson and the rest of Sons of Bill will be playing an acoustic set at Sidetracks at 3pm to celebrate the release of the new Bad Dancer 45’s.

So go on out to Sidetracks on Water Street or Melody Supreme off of the Downtown Mall on 4th street, and celebrate how blessed we are, here in Charlottesville, with such amazing local music!