Will Quinlan: Riding high on divine inspiration
Who they are: Will Quinlan (vocals, guitar; above center) and the Diviners: Scott Anderson (guitar), Soraya Zaumeyer (keyboards), Brian Lane (bass), Jesse Martin (percussion), Alex Spoto (fiddle and mandolin).
Their story: Tampa scene veteran Will Quinlan came to local prominence with the Pagan Saints from ‚Äô93 to 2003, but has performed consistently with the Diviners in 2005. In late 2007, the group released the critically acclaimed album Navasota, a lustrous and evocative folk- and country-pop record that created a kaleidoscope of religious and mystical imagery, honest storytelling and social consciousness. Multilayered in meaning, Quinlan's songs hit home with piercing moments of personal confession.
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When introspection, the enjoyment of music and life‚Äôs tribulations converge, the outcome can be brilliant if done right. Case in point: Will Quinlan and his latest CD, Navasota.
Done wrong, the record could have been a heavy downer, but Quinlan‚Äôs knack for balancing subtlety and strength made it an artful and appealing collection of songs.
The singer, guitarist and harmonica player spent the better part of this decade completing Navasota, named for his mother‚Äôs hometown in Texas, drawing on real-life struggles with her illness, death and other family memories.
Much credit goes, of course, to his backup band: Scott Anderson, electric and lap-steel guitars; Soraya Zaumeyer, keyboards and vocals; Brian Lane, upright bass and vocals; Jesse Martin, percussion; and Alex Spoto, fiddle and mandolin. Their chemistry with Quinlan comes through both live and in their recordings.
Quinlan came to local prominence during his stint with the Pagan Saints from ‚Äô93 to 2003. He took somewhat of a hiatus mid-decade and started performing consistently with the Diviners in 2005.
He and the band released Navasota to critical acclaim in late 2007. The lustrous and evocative folk- and country-pop record not only made profits locally, but nationally and internationally through online outlets. It tied for No. 1 for most adds to playlists on the Americana Radio Network in December 2007.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm glad to see the main thrust of the record is coming through to people,‚Äù Quinlan says. ‚ÄúIn some of the reviews, the (critics) mentioned ‚Äî it‚Äôs hard for me to quote them because I feel like I‚Äôm blowing my own horn ‚Äî but they just have been really complimentary in how they describe how the songs are written.‚Äù
Quinlan comes at listeners with an indirect approach. He creates a kaleidoscope of religious and mystical imagery, honest storytelling and social consciousness. Multilayered in meaning, his songs hit home with piercing moments of personal confession.
The album‚Äôs second track, Remember the Beatitudes, touches on the altruistic roots of Christianity and his frustrations with the corruption of power, all in an elegy to his older brother and cousin, casualties of the Vietnam War.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt write things too literally,‚Äù he says. ‚ÄúI smear things a bit, make them slightly vague. That‚Äôs always been my style. I prefer the aesthetic of suggestion ‚Äî something a little ghostly, a little cloudy, instead of something hard and cut in stone.‚Äù
Diviners performances over the past year have poignantly conveyed the veiled urgency of Quinlan‚Äôs songs, composing a template of Quinlan‚Äôs growth as a musician, performer, heck, human being. He‚Äôs more comfortable onstage. He connects with the audience and bandmates much more so than in previous years.
‚ÄúIn past reviews, there would be a mention of how I was static and I would just stand there and hug the mike and didn‚Äôt move around much,‚Äù Quinlan admits. ‚ÄúYeah, I‚Äôm more relaxed. ‚Äù
-- Story by Julie Garisto; photo by Lance Aram Rothstein