Queer country at its best is audaciously represented by recording stars Paisley Fields, a Brooklyn-based country and western band headed by frontman James Wilson. About to drop their newest album, “Glitter and Sawdust,” this band has created a strong buzz in the country music industry.
Wilson not only sings and writes country music and is a multi-instrumentalist, but he is also the pianist at Uncle Charlie’s and The Monster Bar in New York City, where he provides an entrancing singalong several nights a week.
I spoke with Wilson and found him to be an incredibly authentic and genuine person, both creative and fun.
How did you get into country music?
I always grew up around it. I grew up in a one-stoplight town in Iowa. I just really love to play it; it comes naturally. I never really felt tied to country music, because I don’t feel tied to any genre, really. I think that the song is the boss, and however the song should go, that’s the genre it will be. But for now, I really like playing country music. It’s just what I enjoy doing.
You write the songs, correct?
I write the songs, and I also co-write some of them. On this album we have a couple of cover songs, but yes, I’m the primary songwriter.
What inspires your songs?
Whatever is going on in my life is really what inspires my songs. I just sit down, I’ll start playing with a melody, then play with some chord progressions, and sort of see what comes out. I sort of let the song lead, and it writes itself, and I just really get out of the way and become a conduit for it.
What was it like growing up in a small town in Iowa?
Growing up in Iowa, it was good, but I had to be cautious, because being gay from a very small town… I’m still very close with my best friend. We were talking the other day about high school, and I said, “I was such a nerd in high school.” And she said, “No, you weren’t a nerd. You were just gay.” I was like an outsider, because I was different from everyone, but I was lucky to have a little group of weirdos around me as friends.
If you could have your ultimate stage fantasy, what would you need to happen?
My ultimate stage fantasy would be a huge show like in Madison Square Garden. I like to dream big, but I’d love to do a really big show with a grand piano and have a big production. It would be so much fun. But, I’m happy playing in small pubs for anybody. I just love performing, anywhere.
How many members are there in the band?
So, it depends on the show. When we tour we can tour as a trio or a quartet. On the album we had about nine people recording. It varies.
So you play piano at The Monster? When?
I play at The Monster Thursday [for] happy hour and [on] Friday and Sunday late night. We get a really a fun crowd. I sing with them.
Have you actually toured outside New York?
Yeah, we toured quite a bit. Last year we played Lexington Pride, and the year before that we did a Pride tour, so we played Nashville, Louisville. We toured the south quite a bit. We also toured through the Midwest and will be doing the West Coast in May this year.
What do you enjoy most about playing live?
I would say that the thing I like best is really connecting with an audience. When everybody is really engaged, and you are sharing the energy, it’s sort of like a group effort, and the audience gives back as much as you give out. When they are really engaged, that’s the most fun.
Where did you get the name Paisley Fields?
I got it from the conversation I had with one of my friends. We were trying to come up with the name, and she lives in Minneapolis, and Paisley Park is there, and I love Prince. So she suggested Paisley Fields. I thought that actually really fit.
If you could say anything to your fans and followers, what would you say?
I would say just be you. Don’t worry about what other people think or say. The best thing you could be is yourself and love yourself.
Is there anything that you want to tell me that we haven’t spoke about?
Our new album is coming out, and we’re really excited. Do you know who Eric Bazilian is from The Hooters?
OMG, of course.
We’re covering a song that he wrote called “Where Do the Children Go?” on the album. I actually had the good fortune of meeting Eric about a year ago, and we became friends and started working together. So he’s playing mandolin on that. I thought that was really cool. I really look up to him as an artist. So that will be coming out in the spring. It’s a full-length album, and we have a single coming out later this month called “The Door.” The album is called “Glitter and Sawdust.” We just finished recording the video with Mikhail Torich. There’s a Iot of glitter. We need a lot of glitter.
I love that title. There’s nothing more fun than glitter, and lots of it.
We also have a residency at Hanks Saloon in Brooklyn on Sundays in March. We will be playing there every Sunday in March from 6 to 8. It’s one of my favorite places, and they are closing. I said, “We’ve got to get in before they close,” and then they offered us a residency.
What nights do you play piano at Uncle Charlie’s?
My regular nights are Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Is it a sing-a-long type event? What goes on?
It’s an open mic. I play my own music, take requests and play for folks who want to sing.
What kind of atmosphere is it?
It’s a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. As long as everyone is having fun I’m happy.
Are there regulars that enjoy regular songs?
Yes! There are a few songs I always have reserved for my friends who come in regularly.