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Music Interview: Wil Wright + Knoxville

800px-Knoxville_TN_skylineWil Wright loves Knoxville, TN. A lot. And after speaking with him about the city, you have the distinct impression that you may now know more about it than some of its residents. When Wright is not advocating the merits of TN, he’s writing songs, organizing tours, singing his heart out and just generally creating magic for his band Senryu. Senryu’s sound is an eclectic mix of dance beats, pop and twee rock whose lyrics are often saturated with plot-lines from Wright’s dreams of which Daytrotter says: “The sinister things that the Knoxville, TN musician is riddled with when he sleeps are terribly disturbing and they’re just as terribly inspirational and entertaining as we’re welcomed bedside for his seance – an event of great, spectacularly arbitrary sunstance.”
Wright was kind enough to answer some of our questions about his hometown and let us in on a few of its musical secrets. Make sure and check out Senryu’s new album Inkling out on El Deth Records. You can download the title track here.


What should we know before we go to Knoxville?

Knoxville is the perfect size. It’s as small as a city can be or as big as a town can be, and we have 1 of whatever you’re looking for, entertainment wise.

Who are your local musical heroes?

My local musical heroes are probably guitarist Bob Deck, who is not only insanely gifted, but endlessly kind and personal, and Don Coffey (drummer of Superdrag and producer of a lot of my records). Don is a hero for all the reasons. An amazing musician and producer who found a way to stay totally humble, and accrued the smarts along the way to help make countless unique and powerful albums for Knoxville bands.

What bands or musicians should we be listening out for?

Knoxville is always exporting bands and musicians to the national stage. I would more recommend that you keep an ear out for Knoxville, in general. We have a ton of rock and roll, folk, country, and Hip-Hop/DJ artists who are on their way. Knoxville is a sleeping giant.

What are your favorite music venues and where should we eat and drink around there?

Market Square, Gay St., and the Old City (which are all about 2 blocks apart) offer anything you might want for food/drink. A local favorite is Tomatohead, which is vegetarian friendly. For drinks AND food, Patrick Sullivan’s has a pretty fabulous Irish pot-roast.

Any local music festivals or events we should put on our calendar?

Knoxville is home to the Big Ears festival, probably the hottest of all new American festivals. For a weekend, little Knoxville is packed with elite from both the classical/
experimental world AND the world of popular music, collaborating and experiencing our city. This year, the festival was curated by Bryce Dessner from The National, and featured composer Terry Riley as our artist in residence.

Is there a “Knoxville sound”? Is there a community/scene vibe in the city?

The sound of Knoxville bands is impossible to pin down. Our indie scene, folk scene, radio, rock bands, DJ’s are all very unique and strong. As for community/scene vibe, I would say absolutely. Many of our bigger acts share members, there is no competition between venues, there is a strong DIY presence at our venue called The Birdhouse, and The Pilot Light is non-profit, only existing as a venue to keep our musical and performance community strong. There’s a really solid contingent of smart, forward thinking people behind many of the things happening in Knoxville’s music, which is what’s led us to this strong point, regarding bands and shows.

What’s your perfect night out in Knoxville?

Almost all of my perfect night’s in Knoxville include a show at our secret treasure, The Pilot Light. I usually don’t even check the schedule. You might get a media-darling indie band playing to a room smaller than they’re used to, a saw an experimental puppet show their, you might get a film, a crazy dance party or it might just be drunk people listening to records…. The Pilot Light is not to be missed. The pilot Light also owns Hot Horse, next door, which is perfect for buying vinyl, musical instruments, and a new vintage dress or coffee table. And next door to THAT is a late night CEREAL bar that shows vintage cartoons. There is a perfect night, and you only have to walk 20ft. See? Knoxville is the PERFECT SIZE.

Anne Wilson, “Wind-Up: Walking the Warp,” 2008 Photo: Surabhi Ghosh

Knoxville Museum of Art- Anne Wilson, “Wind-Up: Walking the Warp,” 2008 Photo: Surabhi Ghosh

Any other musts to see and do in Knoxville?

The Museum of Art is fantastic, and we have the mountains just outside of town…. and let’s not forget about Dollywood.

What is your favorite city/venue to play on the road and what place has the craziest fans?

Jackson, MS. It might be hard to believe, but those people like to PARTY. And have hosted us in a variety of venues, always filling it with insane party. Bands:

What’s the best roadside food you’ve found?

Popcorn Haven, Calhoun GA. A pornographic number of popcorn flavor options. Just for tour food, we ADORE eating at The Grit in Athens GA. Vegetarian food for carnivores. It’s the best.

Pilot Light
106 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37915 – # (865) 524-8188
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Knoxville Museum of Art
1050 Worlds Fair Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37916-1653 – # (865) 525-6101
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1198 McCarter Hollow Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37862 – # (865) 428-9826
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Popcorn Haven
171 W Belmont Dr Ste: 7., Calhoun, GA 30701. – # (706) 659-4004
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The Grit
199 Prince Avenue, Athens, GA 30601-2400 – # (706) 543-6592
Google Map

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