This has been a big year for Sterling and Samantha Wilson, a.k.a. NWLYWD. After recording their first album, the husband and wife duo hit the road to play their tunes and promote themselves. On June 21, during Fullerton's Day of Music festival, they performed one set at Share & Do Good and another at the Plummer Auditorium. Since then, the Wilsons have been making their way up and down the West Coast, and on Friday they returned to Fullerton to perform a delightful two hour set at McClain's Coffeehouse.
To hear the sound of NWLYWD [that's Newlywed with no E's, pilgrim] performing from around a corner, one would imagine a band consisting of more than two performers. However, the versatile musicians create their full sound by playing multiple instruments at the same time. Sterling keeps the beat through electronic drum pedals, strums rhythm guitar, and sings; and while Samantha principally plays keys and sings, she also picks up a guitar for a number or two. Before each song, she dials up her midi keyboard presets on an Apple notebook, and the two are able to recreate the exact sound of their first CD, Tidepooling. For their album, they essentially used the same instrumentation; yet, the high quality of their relatively DIY production value belies the fact that it was literally recorded in their closet.
As for the music, their indie/folk/pop songs are catchy and reflect their life experiences. One example, as revealed by Sterling's cordial concert banter, is their song "Alice." "Alice" is based on Alice in Wonderland, a book which Sterling claims his mother gradually read to him two times through, as part of his bedtime storytime, and fostered in him an appreciation for imaginative imagery. Samantha wrote "Time Traveler" ten years ago, when she was 13. The song demonstrates not only her early knack for writing well-constructed material but her ability to use creativity in coping with loss -- the bittersweet song's lyrics include an appeal for a time traveler to take her back in time to visit with her deceased grandfather.
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In addition to being an accomplished, self-contained, touring couple, NWLYWD are the embodiment of artists living the dream. Not long ago, Samantha and Sterling worked long hours performing non-artistic jobs for a construction company. They played music when they could, but essentially they worked exhaustively for the man. When the company downsized them, they used their severance pay to equip themselves with the instruments necessary to perform / record their music and take their act on the road. Since then, they have been hitting big and small venues up and down the coast; more often than not, they have been relying on the hospitality of relatives, friends, and strangers to put them up at night. Sterling told the Weekly that at one venue, a big and burly fellow invited them to stay the night with him -- claiming he had references. Two nearby women chimed in that their potential host was, in fact, a good person. Sterling claimed that invitations like this, coming from fans born of coffeehouse performances, are what it's all about -- being on the road, making friends, spreading the music, and collaborating with other artists.
There are many factors which determine the financial success of a band: talent, promotion, timing, luck, etc. NWLWD currently has just as much a chance at making it as any great band. They've got the talent, their hearts are in the game, and they are going for broke. Whether or not they make the big time, they are poetry incarnate. Their show at McClain's demonstrated that they can turn a cute coffeehouse space into an imaginative and entrancing little world. Their act is highly recommended. For information on their music and to find out when they'll return to Orange County, visit their website.