Hear Will Johnson's New Old Single, “Cornelius”

Singer-songwriter revives shelved song for upcoming Wire Mountain LP

Will Johnson (Photo by Sean Dunn)

Will Johnson’s got no problem shelving a great song. To him, “the ride” of a record is so paramount that outliers – even if they’re superb – are sent to purgatory. Such had been the case with “Cornelius.”

“That damn song,” he says. “I thought it was gonna go by the wayside. It’d been hanging around for about 10 years and I could never find the right collection of songs to tuck it into. It finally found a home.”

At last, the pounding and melodic four-and-a-half minute track slots into Wire Mountain, his newly announced seventh solo LP arriving Sept. 27 on Keeled Scales.

The stains of small-town life – loneliness, nosiness, and dysfunction – factor heavily into “Cornelius.” It’s, in fact, a remnant of time Johnson spent in Bastrop, which inspired the characters and settings in the song. The singer, painter, and multi-instrumentalist contends the lyrics aren’t autobiographical at all, but there are coincidences.

“There’s the line: ‘Tell them all about the tricks you pulled/ Seven years in Luling dodging truth,’ which is what I was doing… but in Bastrop,” he chuckles.

The track, reimagined from an old demo, thrives with a primal rack and floor-tom beat from fellow cult favorite Thor Harris and an inspired unison vocal from Little Mazarn’s Lindsey Verrill. Another Austinite, veteran underground hero Jon Dee Graham, contributes some lap steel and slide guitar alchemy to the mix.

“To have all their personalities and fingerprints on that song means so much to me,” enthuses Johnson, who remembers waking up a year and a half ago just knowing that he wanted Harris and Verrill to be heavily involved in his next record.

The one-time Centro-matic frontman stands among central Texas’ most prolific artists. His rich solo discography stands adjacent to work with South San Gabriel, Molina and Johnson, New Multitudes, Overseas, Monsters of Folk, and Marie/Lepanto. The 10-track Wire Mountain marks Johnson’s first album with the Austin-based Keeled Scales label, which is known for its carefully crafted catalog of indie folk and indie rock releases.

“I was taken with the roster – to be alongside those folks feels like a good fit, artistically,” explains Johnson. “I was also taken with [label owner] Tony [Presley]. He’s welcoming to some of the musical adventures I’m wanting to take.”

“Cornelius” streams here:

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Will Johnson, Keeled Scales, Thor Harris, Lindsey Verrill, Little Mazarn, Centro-matic, Tony Presley, Wire Mountain

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