Wilson Marks Finds Beauty in the Random
Seela serves up whimsical illustration in “Only a Train” clip
By Doug Freeman,
10:00AM, Fri. Sep. 11, 2020
The end of summer looks doubly stressful for Wilson Marks. As the local songwriter preps the release of his third album, October’s True Beauty is in the Random, he’s also facing the start of an uncertain and uprooted school year in his day job as a teacher.
Maybe because of the jazz background that informs his psych-touched pop and folk, Marks seems to find a certain comfort in leaning into nimble improvisation required these days.
“As much insanity as has been unleashed, there have been some silver linings or blessings,” he acknowledges. “I’m grateful for a roof over my head and to still have my day job as a teacher – as complicated as that has been and as ‘nuanced’ as returning to the classroom is.
“These songs were recorded pre-pandemic,” he continues. “I believe in the beauty of making things and letting them go so you’re free to make more. And I like making things. The physical manifestation of an album in record/vinyl form is a bucket list item for me, and I hope folks can connect to the tunes and want to order a copy so I can mail it to them.
“Getting something in the mail is magic. I’m sad we can’t do an album release and hang in person, but I’m ready to let these go.”
Prepping the album release, Marks teamed up with fellow songwriter Seela to create a video for “Only a Train.” The tune wanders gorgeously with a nostalgia that steeps even more poignant given the current lockdown. Echoes of Robyn Hitchcock weave in the jazzy guitar of Marks’ trio, which also features Daniel Durham on bass and Aaron Parks on drums. The album was recorded with Justin Douglas at King Electric Studios, and Seela’s video animation for the song follows in the style of her own recent releases.
“Seela is sweet people,” Marks says. “I’ve been a fan of hers since I first saw her with the Jazz Pharaohs a lifetime long ago. I’ve been doing some live and studio work with Matt the Electrician here or there, so Seela and I have been occasional bandmates and she was trusting enough to have me track guitar on few tunes from her latest album Cool.
“She made beautiful videos to accompany each tune on her album and the tone of ‘Only a Train’ seemed like a good match for her playful animations. I love what she did with it.”
As the title to the album suggests, Marks is trying to keep beauty at the forefront amid the random chaos that envelopes us. In that respect, the LP plays as salve to the times, thoughtful and optimistic.
“The album cover was based on a pic my grandfather took of John Glenn when he was a Navy photographer, and my friend Dan Grissom turned it into a painting,” he reveals. “My grandfather met his future wife after seeing her picture on the side of an adjacent locker on the ship, struck up a penpalship, and 50 years later they were still married with five kids and heaps of grandkids.
“The randomness of the locker assignment, the seemingly infinite variables that had to stack just so to facilitate any given moment, I’m trying not to take them for granted. I’m trying to enjoy each taco. And be kind and present despite all the distractions and the ease with which one can be otherwise.
“I’ve been mountain biking and getting lost in nearby state parks in my off time. I’m finding beauty in writing, seeing it in my kids, and trying to enable and facilitate it in my teaching.”
Pre-order True Beauty is the Random here and enjoy the video premiere of “Only a Train.”
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Wilson Marks, Robyn Hitchcock, Daniel Durham, Aaron Parks, Justin Douglas, King Electric Studios, Seela, Jazz Pharaohs, Matt the Electrician, John Glenn, Dan Grissom