Unfortunately, you’re not going to find Willi Carlisle or artists like him on your radio dial. However, that doesn’t mean that his poetic blend of country and folk music doesn’t reach out and touch a wide and varied audience. One of the things that I love about – and have come to expect from – Carlisle is that he turns over stones that many in the current country music sphere would step over, given their druthers. To be fair, Willi has lived a different life and walked a different path than most artists at the forefront of country and roots music today. In his new single, “Life on the Fence” we see Willi Carlisle exploring a path he knows all too well.
Willi Carlisle’s new single starts much like any good country song. Fiddle and pedal steel intertwine over brushed drums and an acoustic guitar in three-quarter time. However, when the story begins to unfold we see just how different this song is from the established norm. “Life on the Fence” is a love song and a heartache song at the same time. More specifically, it’s the story of a bisexual man who has a brief relationship with another guy. Then, he goes home to his lady, who is unaware of his true orientation, and tries to forget about the connection he felt with the other man.
In the chorus, Carlisle sings, “What happened in Memphis made too much sense. / There’s a part of my life she don’t know exists. / Why is livin’ a lie more easy than life on the fence?”
Willi Carlisle Talks About His New Single
In a recent post, Willi Carlisle opened up about the new single and how his experiences led him to write the song. “I want to make the kind of country music that I needed when I was younger,” he wrote. “I used to bust lips every time I got called a slur, and I didn’t always win. There’s not much place in the world for queer men,” he observed. Carlisle noted that this is especially true for those who are attracted to women as well. Their “fluidity,” he said, allows them to “blend in.”
Carlisle went on to say that there is still a toxic narrative that states that bisexual men don’t exist. “This is even worse in a world where rainbow capitalism absorbs queer stories to make them palatable. I’m not interested in being simple, so here’s something unpalatable, something I’m learning to sing about. I feel more queer sorrow than joy. More peculiar misery than acceptable happiness.”
Willi Carlisle then talked a little about who this new single is for. “This is a country song for everyone (they’re all for everyone) but particularly for queers with bruised knuckles and black eyes, for anyone who sat on the edge of their bed and thought they were sick in the head, for people struggling with freedom in a limiting culture. This is for the ones with no language to describe how they feel.”
The most powerful part of Willi Carlisle’s post says less about the new single and more about him as a person and artist. Also, It’s something I feel like we can all get behind. “I insist on trying to love everyone, and I want that to be a superpower instead of a liability. I won’t stop singing until it is.”
Peculiar, Missouri drops on July 15th on Free Dirt Records. Pre-order your copy now.