ABOVE: VIKESH KAPOOR. PHOTO COURTESY OF PARKER FITZGERALD.
28-year-old Vikesh Kapoor makes folk music. Not ironic, “throw-in-a-banjo-and-a-tambourine” folk music—but sincere, husky ballads of the apathetic, recession-era (or Depression-era) working man.
Due out October 15th, his debut album The Ballad of Willy Robbins recounts the bleak tale of a construction worker—his boss who won’t pay him, his disappointed wife. “It’s not a hopeful record, but I felt like it needed to be written,” Kapoor explains. “I like writing love songs just as much as the next person, but there are other things to sing about.” Although the album is in no way autobiographical or “confessional,” Kapoor insists it is personal: “In narrative, adding elements of fiction or stretching the truth can shed light on greater truths than just recounting something in a journalistic way.”
People are taking note; Kapoor recently played several shows with British folk singer Laura Marling. Three years ago, the self-taught musician was approached to write an original song for social activist and historian Howard Zinn’s memorial service. The organizers had heard one of Kapoor’s songs, “Newspress Scare,” and that was enough. “I guess you could call it a protest song,” says Kapoor. “It was a reaction to becoming controlled by the Internet and losing your own singular voice.”
Born in rural Pennsylvania and currently based in Oregon, Kapoor grew up on punk rock. Then he discovered a Johnny Cash record at a church swap. “It was kind of a joke at first, but then when I listened to it I was kind of intrigued by his voice and the stories—I’d never really listened to something like that before,” he tells us. The song that drew him in: “Big River.”
While we wait for the release of The Ballad of Willy Robbins and Kapoor to go out on tour, we are pleased to premiere the first song, “I Dreamt Blues.” “Nowadays folk music is pretty safe,” Kapoor muses. “I wanted to try to speak about things that maybe Zinn would talk about.”
THE BALLAD OF WILLY ROBBINS COMES OUT OCTOBER 15. FOR MORE ON KAPOOR, VISIT HIS WEBSITE.