We've all used music at some point in our lives as a way to get us through hard times but for William Fitzsimmons this goes a little deeper. Fitzsimmons took time out of working as a mental health therapist to get his life back together after a divorce. As any broken singer-songwriter would do he began writing songs with his heart on his sleeve, the result was 2008's The Sparrow and the Crow.

Now in 2016 Fitzsimmons continues to dig into his emotions with his latest release the EP Charleroi. The EP is the second half of the Pittsburgh story, the first part being about his grandmother that he knew, Charleroi is about the absence of a grandmother he didn't. I caught up with William before his gig at the Shakespeare Theatre in Gdansk Poland.

Hey man, you're a few weeks in on a tour of Europe, how's it been going? And what's been the best thing that's happened so far on this tour?

It's been really good, actually. It's a tiring one you know, sometimes you get the luck of the draw, everything is really close to each other and smooth. This time it feels like we've been in the van 98% of the time. I don't want to complain though. I love getting to do what I do.

I don't know about my favorite thing. I try not to have too many high or low points in my life. I'd say overall my favorite moments are when Abby and I are on stage and it's clicking and you look down and you see someone that's been affected by what you're doing. Very cliché but it's the truth I'll never get tired of that and when you don't tour for a while you forget what that feels like. When you see somebody with their eyes closed totally locked in it's like 'oh man' that's really cool.

A lot of your music comes from personal experiences, is it always easy to share these things and has there been a time when you've felt like a song was too personal to share?

No, I haven't found one yet. The longer I do this the more I want to keep going in that direction believe it or not. When I was first writing 10 years ago, I thought I was doing that. You get a little bit older you realise there are ways you can develop your ability to dig stuff out. I think if you practice it, you can get better at it.

I'd like to think that I still have even more potent things in me that I might not have even discovered yet. Sometimes it's just a matter of you have the inspiration at the right time and everything else in your life is working out.

Are you quite open as a person face to face or is it just through music?

I laugh at stuff more than a lot of people think I do. Sometimes tough shit is really funny, if you know what I mean. Probably the most well adjusted people I know find a way to navigate the really good stuff and the really bad stuff in a kind of similar way. Where they don't let it take over their emotions or their thoughts. If stuff is good it's good and if it's not you find a way to ride through it. But I like being open with people. The show thing works well, cause in a sense the performance audience thing is kind of an analogue to a relationship, but yeah I love disclosing personal stuff. That's how you get to know someone that's real intimacy.

Has it been easy transitioning your songs to bigger and bigger venues?

I realised a few years ago when things were going in good direction and we started getting the opportunity to play larger rooms that there's a difference between getting the volume to the back and getting the feelings to the back of the room. You don't think about that, you wouldn't think it matters as much, what's the difference between 500 people and 1,000 people? It's massive. Once you start not being able to reach people at the back it affects the entire energy in the place. There's almost no point in doing it.

For me there actually is a ceiling. Sometimes at festivals you can squeeze it out and make it work and it has but there's been some festivals we played where it didn't work at all. It was just bad news bearers. We did everything we could to inject energy. In general man at some point you have to say 'no that's as big as we can do, with what I have so far'.

Your new EP is about the grandmother you never knew. If you had the chance to talk to her what would you like to know about her?

Boy that's a wonderful question. I probably would be most interested about her childhood and how she was raised, how she viewed the events of her life. Cause she lived a pretty unfortunate life, it was one of addiction and alcoholism, a lot of family problems and there was no happy ending to the story. No judgment, I would just like to understand I guess how it got to that point and how she saw the whole thing.

Are folk musicians intrinsically sad or do they dig for those feelings for inspiration?

The genre probably lends itself to people who are intrinsically melancholic but there's also John Denver, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell they're celebratory they're not super dark.

I think both of those things can happen like a cycle but it's ok. It's not a bad thing to make music about negative stuff, somebody's got to do it and I think people are helped by it. You have to let yourself out every once and a while if it gets a little too dark.

You've talked in the past about the process of making music being cathartic for you and for your fans. Is it easy revisiting your early records and the things you were dealing with back then?

We had a nice debate in the car today about that, about playing old music. We were talking about some artists we know and some we like, speculating what they would do with their hits, do they hate playing them? Do they love it? Is it wrong for them to play it? Is it wrong for them to not play it? It was a really a good discussion and there's no consensus. I think it's a different thing for everybody. For me I'm totally open to playing anything that I've ever written as long as I'm able to connect with it in some way in the present. That means different things. The good example for me is my third record The sparrow and The crow which was about my divorce. I'm long since remarried, I've got kids, I'm happy y'know. So is it strange to go up there and play a song about when you and your wife were torn apart and now she's got a family.

It's not for me because I use these things for little moral guideposts that can help steer me on a continued right direction about decision-making. I can enter that space remember the things I did wrong and use that and say ok let's remember to do that again and keep moving it also helps knowing that there are people in an audience that might be in that place at the moment. I can totally play a song for someone else and have that very inspirational.

You worked as a therapist before getting into music. Do you still see yourself as a therapist be it through music?

Yeah, not totally because it's just music and I say that with a great amount of respect and humility towards music because I adore it, but it's not everything. I use music to help me cope with some things but I also use Prozac. It's a good thing but it's not the whole thing. I like to think I can give people a little bit of peace and calm sometimes.

You've worked on the Say Yes project commemorating Elliot smith. How did this come about and what did working on this project mean to you?

There's a guy named Jim, who has a production company that he uses to make the coolest projects that are complete passion projects. He doesn't talk about like 'how are we going to market this?' He just wants to make things he thinks are cool.

When I first talked to him several years ago, about I think it was a Bob Dylan thing at the time, I was totally on board with that cause it was just like what would be a cool fun thing to do let's get a bunch of artists to do that and then put it out and see if people like it.

I've worked on a couple of things with him, at the moment we are working on a thing that might turn into a movie. Say Yes particularly was special because Elliott's up there pretty high for me and I got pretty deep into listening to him right before I started to write my own songs. I think as a writer he really helped to point me in a direction of honesty not really caring about how acceptable or presentable or commercial the outcome might be. Some of his stuff is super commercial I mean he got a nomination for an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, but I don't think that was ever really the goal he just wanted to make stuff he liked.

You're also a big fan of Nick Drake and I've read that Pink Moon is your desert island disc do you have a favourite track from that LP?

Well it's not going to be 'Road', in fact, I would take that one off. I would never say that to Nick's face if he was still alive. You know what, it probably changes. I'll say 'Place To Be' but on any given day it could be 'Which Will'. It could be 'Pink Moon', I mean that's the first one I ever heard and it was on a Volkswagen commercial a long time ago in the States, all of a sudden he was in movies and everywhere. 'Place To Be' I love the guitar playing, I love the production of the whole record but the actual content of that song is special to me he doesn't have too many bad songs except 'Roads'.

Finally, any tips on how to maintain such a great beard?

You've got to brush and with a deep brush that can get in there. Cause otherwise you get all this awful ingrown hairs and all these things yeah it's kind of brutal man.

I guess the biggest tip I would ever give is: do whatever your significant other is comfortable with. I mean, I recently told my wife I was going to shave my beard, every once in a while I'll cut it pretty short and she said 'don't cut it too short, I don't really like it when it's really short'. I was pretty shocked. I'd never heard her say that before I always assumed that she just put up with it.