Songwriting brings happiness

Staff writer

Singer-songwriter Annie Wilson of Elmdale will be among 20 musicians performing Sunday at Emma Chase Music Hall in Cottonwood Falls for the CD release of “Kansas Cowboy.”

Wilson contributed a solo track as well as a track performed with her Tallgrass Express String Band, for the compilation album being released by the Kansas Chapter of the Western Music Association. She and her band are members.

Words and music are a big part of Wilson’s livelihood. An English teacher at Emporia High School, she talks about song writing when she teaches poetry to her students.

“I think creativity or creative hobbies are largely connected to happiness, especially later in life,” Wilson said. “I am going to retire soon and feel so alive when I am making something like a song or an idea to share.”

She and her band are currently recording a double CD of their own, “Sky and Water / Wind and Grass,” for which she wrote much of the music and lyrics.

“I record demos; they’re just horrible,” she said. “The band members listen to them in their cars while they commute, and they all come up with their own parts. Our mandolin player, Jim Versch, is from Marion. He has a gift for improvising.”

Wilson gets her lyrical ideas when she walks with her dogs in the Flint Hills. The rhythm in her step helps her form lines that match meter found in her poetry.

“I go for the words first and then I find melody and music that fits the mood,” Wilson said. “It’s a troubled world, and I feel so lucky to live here. I try to stay really positive in what I write.”

She uses her music to express her appreciation for nature, small-town, and cowboy culture, which she considers part of the good things in America.

Gov. Sam Brownback named Wilson as a Flint Hills Balladeer in 2013 for her efforts to celebrate the Flint Hills in her song writing.

“He gave me a beautiful plaque in front of a lot of people,” Wilson said. “Since then I have written a lot more songs.”

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