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The Cowboy Philosopher: An Interview with Wilson Dixon

20 June 2018 | Emily May

Originally from Cripple Creek, Colorado, Wilson Dixon is renowned for telling hilarious stories of his personal life through the medium of folk music. After a nine-year absence from the UK, Dixon is returning for a summer tour of London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff, with his show “For the First Time. Again.” We caught up with him to discuss what it means to be a “Cowboy Philosopher”, his musical influences, and his judgemental horse Andrew.

Culture Calling: You call yourself a “cowboy philosopher”. What does this mean to you? Are you a fan of Will Rodgers, the famous actor and writer who also went by the name?
Wilson Dixon: To me the term "cowboy philosopher" means a cowboy who is a philosopher, not someone who philosophises about cowboys. There's only so much thinking you can do about cowboys - how do they feel about cows, their theories about rope tying, lasso techniques, saddle issues, relationships to horses. However, as a "cowboy philosopher," I can think about anything I want from the standpoint of a cowboy. It's limitless. Regarding Will Rodgers, I guess I'm a fan as much as the next person. That being said, if the next person was his Mamma, I wouldn't be as much of a fan as her. She loved her boy and was justifiably very proud.  

Image Credit: Wilson Dixon via his website
 
CC: What was it that got you into folk/country music? How old were you? 
WD: When I was growing up I didn't realise I was playing country music, I was just in the country... playing music. It wasn't 'til later when I heard other kinds of music that I realised what I was doing. And when I say other kinds of music I mean city music, or the broader term "wider metropolitan area" music. My grandma Old Ma Ruggescrugger was the person who initially introduced me to folk music. She'd play traditional Dutch folk songs to me on her fiddle when I was a kid. Songs like "The Sea Is Getting Closer - Let's Emigrate," "Tulips Are Nice But Not To Be Eaten" and my favourite "Windmills are Everywhere."  
 
CC: To what extent does your background growing up in Colorado influence your music? 
WD: Very much so. When I was a teenager I wrote a whole album worth of songs about mountains. They were never recorded but some of them weren't too bad. "I Think That Mountain Is Following Me" was probably the pick of the bunch, but "Mountains Are Land Too" and "Erosion Ain't a Mountain's Friend" were good also. Now I write about the people of Colorado and that seems to resonate with my audience a little more.   

Image Credit: Show And Tell via Twitter
 
CC: You reference your family a lot in your online biography. Are they a big influence on you as an artist?
WD: Firstly, that online biography is about as old as the internet and needs updating, but it is still true that they are a big influence on me. Not always a positive influence. At my first ever gig, as a 12-year-old playing Hank Williams songs on the back porch for my family, someone threw a bottle. No one has ever owned up but I'm pretty sure I know who the culprit was. My Dad.

CC: You’ve been on the touring circuit for about 12 years now, and have performed in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and of course the UK. Does it feel different performing your work in different countries? Do you have a favourite gig/ place you’ve played?
WD: There are little differences between countries. Canada is always a weird one. No matter how much they convey their enthusiasm to you, it always feels like it could have been better, and would have been if a Canadian had done the show. My favourite place to play is the UK and Ireland. That sounds like I'm pissing in your pocket, but it's true.

Image Credit: Wilson Dixon via his website

CC: The songs in your upcoming show are about your “life falling apart at the seams”, trying to find true love, and worrying about how your aggressive horse Andrew will react to any romantic developments. To what extent are these stories based on your own life, or are they developed for comic effect?
WD: They're based entirely on my own life. My horse Andrew is an extremely aggressive animal. And he's moody, judgemental and unpredictable. I guess you could interpret the stories in a funny way, but they're not designed to be like that. It's just what's happened.

CC: As well as personal anecdotes, you say you also try to tackle terrorism and neoliberal monetary policy through country music. How do you approach this?
WD: Very carefully. I don't dig too deep into the detail - no one wants to hear an economic manifesto put to music, well, no one that isn't insane does. I suppose I try to make both those fairly weighty issues fun by being melodic and with sing along elements.
 
Wilson Dixon’s For the First Time. Again. is showing at the Soho Theatre, London 25-30 June, The Stand in Glasgow and Edinburgh 1 & 3 July, and The Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff on 4 July.


 
 
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