Fifteen years and nine albums into his career, Denison Witmer is familiar with the unexpected and often quixotic intersections that can take place between life and musical career. His newest album, The Ones Who Wait, is a reflection of this understanding of self and the growth that comes through life experience. It is an intimate reflection on the meandering path of life, on family and friendships, on death balanced with new life, on endings and beginnings. In Denison’s own words, The Ones Who Wait is about “patience and reverence. Being mindful and open to what you’re experiencing. A desire to take hold of what’s happening in your life, yet trusting the mystery of it enough to let go and participate rather than dictate.”
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Denison’s albums have always been markedly personal, each one a significant milestone in his life. But The Ones Who Wait marks a whole new level of intimacy with listeners. Getting married, starting a business, and watching his dad close the final chapter on his life have helped Denison tell his own story better, to be more delicate, and confident. Bringing things full circle, as he wrapped up post-production on The Ones Who Wait, Denison found out he was going to be a father too. The sound of The Ones Who Wait indicates a new maturity in Denison’s musical career, a subtle sense of confidence in his voice and music. His guitar and voice sit front and center in the sound, evoking a melodic warmth reminiscent of 70s-era singer-songwriters like Paul Simon and Jackson Browne. Denison reined in his well-established network of musicians to fill out the sound of the record, including CJ Camerieri (Bon Iver, Rufus Wainwright), Devin Greenwood (Norah Jones, Amos Lee), James McAlister (Sufjan Stevens), Charles Staub (Melody Gardot), and Rosie Thomas.
A Lancaster, PA native, Denison first picked up the guitar at age 16, and was writing his own songs shortly after. Mentored by Don Peris (Innocence Mission) and influenced by Neil Young, Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen, Denison forged a compelling ambient folk sound that CMJ called “deceptively powerful” and Pitchfork said was “lavish but restrained.” Rollingstone.com called Denison their “favorite underrated singer-songwriter.” The Ones Who Wait is also Denison’s first release for Asthmatic Kitty Records, whose employees and much of its roster have been long-time fans and collaborators with Denison. Put all together, the album marks a big change for Denison: a life without his dad, a new label, a new worldview as a parent. As Witmer looks forward to the next phase of “the cyclical life” of writing-recording-touring, he is philosophical, as always, but confident about releasing an album in an overcrowded marketplace. “I don’t really have an agenda when I release my records,” he says. “I just feel like I want to share something and give back to the creative community that I’ve taken from as a listener. My hope is that people can experience the music and it touches them in some way. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that you can’t pick your fans. Your fans pick you. My biggest concern is I want people to feel like I’m being honest with them, and for me, to know that I’ve created something that I really believe in.”