Expansive insights from Monteagle's Justin Giles Wilcox
Brooklyn artist Justin Giles Wilcox, known for his work in the evocative Americana act Nassau, released a solo album under the Monteagle moniker titled Midnight Moon via Fire Talk Records. The organic outing offers warmth like a hearth on a winter’s day with a sound that speaks to the spirit like a humble flickering bonfire that offers heat on a cold evening in mid-December. The tunesmith took the time to talk to share some exclusive reflections about the entire undertaking of the new record, providing insights on the challenges, risks, departures from previous comfort zones and more in the following editorial:
Hola — My name is Justin Giles Wilcox. I’m a singer, songwriter, composer living in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve recently started a new musical project called Monteagle and I am super psyched to speak to what I’ve been working on.
Some of you may be familiar with my past projects, in particular Nassau. While I don’t want to spend too much time on that I am constantly humbled by and genuinely thankful for all of the positivity that I’ve received in regards to the work that I put into that project. Though certain circumstances have made it a little more difficult to actively pursue, I am very excited to take this time in my life to explore some new ideas and to travel into some uncharted creative territory. Which leads us to the new Monteagle record.
Midnight Noon is a very intentional departure from my past work in a lot of ways. It’s my first album with a live band in a very long time. I was trying to get away from all of the synth pads and programmed beats in the name of bringing the songs a little closer to the ground and letting them stand on their own. Everything from the production style to the lyrics to the song names were very intentionally me trying to do something new. I also edited the songs in a way that would make them more straightforward. For instance there was originally a two minute long guitar solo at end of “East LA” but my idea was to streamline the message and get to the root of the song. Everything on Midnight Noon was me making decisions based on how uncomfortable it made me. I’d ask myself, Justin, what would you normally do? and then I’d try and do the opposite. I’ve been making ethereal music for a lot of my life and at this point in time the most experimental thing for me to do as an artist was to make a straightforward album.
The record especially lyrically is pretty self-reflective and a lot of them were written about growing up in rural Tennessee and about specific events in my past. I challenged myself both creatively and emotionally to make the album as personal as possible. I felt like growing and pushing myself to wade in uncharted waters and further into my un-comfort zone helped the songs land in a specific territory.
We had a really hard time picking the singles for the album, mainly because the record wasn’t really made that way. It was made to put on a record player and actively listen to front to back. I’ll spare you my rant on how I believe streaming services are killing true artistry and making people create the songwriters equivalent of elevator music — but my goal here was to make something that had genuine raw personality and emotion and could be enjoyed as an entire body of work in one sitting.
As for the future, finishing something that’s uncomfortable to make is extremely rewarding. I feel like a new person. It’s like a part of me that I’ve neglected was exercised and then let go. It’s bittersweet really. Deep down I know that I’ll never make another album the way I made this one and am very happy for Midnight Noon to stand alone as a unique entity and as the starting point for a very exciting new musical and personal journey.
Justin Giles Wilcox's Monteagle album Midnight Noon is available now from Fire Talk Records.