How Having Blind Parents Created Empathy in William Fitzsimmons' Music

From the time we are thrust into the world and make an attempt to find our place in it, we have to seek ways to be seen and heard by those around us. The things we say, the words we write, and the clothes we wear help to us to not only differentiate ourselves from others but allow us unique self-expression. For William Fitzsimmons, the bearded singer-songwriter from Jacksonville, Illinois, his attempts to be seen by his parents were musical in nature. His mother and father are blind. Both were struggling musicians, and they passed on their love and knowledge of all things melodic to their son.

"There was no disability with music," Fitzsimmons recalls. "It was something we [all] could share. It was a purely good thing. I don't know if I would ever pick up a guitar if it weren't for my folks."

As Fitzsimmons grew up, his struggle to understand others rather than himself became a prevalent theme. As he started writing his own songs in his 20s, Fitzsimmons was working on a master's degree in the field of counseling. He worked as a mental health therapist but was writing introspective folks songs influenced by the music his mother had exposed him to as a child.

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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil