Wes Tirey, a Black Mountain based musician, is taking his music overseas for the first time this coming January. He arrives in Italy on the 12th for an 11-day tour of playing songs and experiencing a country he’s not been to before. Wes has been playing music for 13 years, writing for 12 of them, and releasing music, both solo and with a band, for nearly a decade now. He plans to use the profits from his name-your-price EP, False Idols, available on Bandcamp, to fund his trip.
Xpress: Your music has a certain old-time feel to it. What would you say has shaped your style of writing and playing the most?
Tirey: Well, I listened to a lot of old music. The Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music has been a really fundamental influence. Some of the oldest recordings in American folk music history. I listen to a lot of musicians who are, themselves, influenced by a lot of old music. There’s the direct influence from listening to those old recordings and then the indirect influence of listening to musicians who are inspired by that music as well.
The songs on this EP seem to have a very spiritual undertone. Where would you say that comes from?
A lot of the music I listen to has a lot of biblical imagery in it. I find that imagery to be really beautiful and bizarre and fascinating and intense. I saw an interview with Leonard Cohen where he said something along the lines of songwriting, for him, was self-exploration without self-indulgence, which I think songwriting is for me. Grappling with certain spiritual questions is just … you can use songwriting to approach that stuff. Confront it. Think about it. I think it comes up in my songs over and over again. It’s something I keep thinking about.
I’m curious. What’s driving you to Italy, specifically?
Prosciutto (laughs). What happened was, my previous EP got reviewed on a UK music blog and this gentleman who’s really connected to the music scene over there read the blog, got my EP, and got in touch with me. He got me on a radio show out of Rome, which I’ll have a spot on when I go over there. He got my songs on a new internet radio in Italy called Stereo Mood. All of that together got a lot of traction and I thought it’d be a smart move to go play live shows over there. I got in touch with some friends who put me in touch with a promo group and within a few days I had about 10 shows booked.
Do you have any ideas as to where you’ll play?
I know I’ll be in Rome at a venue called The Black Market which looks like a wicked cool venue. They’re setting me up in pretty intimate smaller venues. There are a couple DIY art places which I’m really excited about. Those are really the coolest places to play. Most of the shows will be in Northern Italy. And then I think there are two shows in Southern Italy.
What inspired you to use the profits from your EP to take you there?
It seemed like a really pragmatic way of putting it together. It’s not just profits from this EP. It’s kind of anything related to my music and income from it. I also did an Indiegogo campaign and that raised a lot towards my plane ticket. Once I get over there, I’ll be pretty taken care of, but I really needed financial help paying for my plane ticket.
What’s the plan for your music once you return home from Italy?
I really want to get a full-length recorded when I come back. And then try to play more in Asheville. I played on Wednesday at One Stop Deli, at the Brown Bag Songwriter’s Competition, and ended up advancing to the final round. The date for that is Thursday, Dec. 5. Hopefully that will create more opportunities. I have a guitar piece that will be on a compilation. Just other various projects, but the big thing will be getting the full-length recorded and out. The songs are still pretty fresh, but I’m already looking forward to what the next project will be.
Check out Tirey’s music and grab a copy of his EP, False Idols, at westirey.bandcamp.com. His album, I Stood Among Trees, recorded at Echo Mountain, is available at Harvest Records with a European re-release at dyingforbadmusic.com.
Photo by Emma Master