By Derek M. Otto
On Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, international renowned folk singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Chris Wilson will provide a concert at the Springville Center for the Arts. Even more interesting is that Chris Wilson is native to the Springville region.
“I grew up on Mehm Road in East Concord and my family stayed in Springville until I was about 10 years old,” Wilson explained. “I went to St. Aloysius School until sixth grade.”
Furthering this I asked if he had studied music in school here. “I studied music at almost every level in my life. There was some influence in Springville at an early age,” Wilson recalled. “The most influential experiences from those years would be going to concerts at Earl’s Drive-In in Chaffee. It was there I remember seeing the great ones, like hall of famer musician Bill Monroe. At one Earl’s concert, Monroe put down his mandolin and took my hat off and signed it.”
When asked about what he remembers from growing up here, Wilson said, “It was the beauty of hills on Mehm Road. When I was growing up, there weren’t many houses. I drove up there passing through about a year ago and could not believe the development.” Asked if that had any influences artistically, Wilson delighted, “It made you feel like you were literally on top of the world.”
After leaving the Springville area, “My family moved to Brockport, NY where I finished high school,” stated Wilson. “I studied for a year at Long Island University and sang in some madrigal groups. In 1999, I left for California.”
What was in California? Wilson said, “Not much but I had my big break there… I ended up on MTV’s The Cut. It was MTV’s version of American Idol. I came in second.”
From there, Wilson recalled that The Cut offered him some breaks and in 2005, he signed to do a six-week gig in Hong Kong. “It became 17 months,” Wilson continued. “From there I went to Beijing, and later on to Croatia.”
Wilson found that people really like the American folk and bluegrass genre in other parts of the world. It was later when Wilson and his wife, Carrie, wanted to start a family that they moved back to the Rochester area.
“I have tried to keep my music intimate,” Wilson said of not being part of larger music groups. “There were a few times in Hong Kong I auditioned different musicians to help create the sound I was looking for. I have tried to keep it around three.”
Wilson plays “the strings associated with folk and bluegrass: guitar, mandolin, ukulele, banjo.”
This will not be Wilson’s first time performing in Springville. “I have performed here before,” he said. “I did some work with Linette Crelly and Fellowship Hill Ministries last year.”
What can the audience expect from Wison’s show on Saturday? “Though there are spiritual elements that always come out in my work, it will be more about bringing the folksy storytelling or ‘front porch’ sound that I have,” explained Wilson. “It will have some Christmas music, some original works and also elements of my John Denver tribute concert that I do once in awhile. Last year, the Denver concert was sold at two performances in the Rochester area. It will go over well with people in Springville.”
According to Wilson, some bigger projects he’s working on include “The Barn. In 2013 we bought a barn. It is called that because it literally is a barn. We are hoping to have it up and running soon. The barn will be the home of Chris Wilson Music. It will be a full functioning performance studio. We will have concerts, but also production, web design and promotion. We hope that this will be not only the future of Chris Wilson music but also as an incubator for other talent.”
Join the Springville Center for the Arts as they welcome Chris Wilson back to his hometown. The concert is Dec. 17, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. at the Carol Morgerson Theater 37 North Buffalo Street Springville, NY. Tickets are $10in advance at the SCA ticket office or $12 at the door. To hear a sampling of Chris Wilson’s Music and more about his Barn project, visit www.chriswilson.us.