Seeing the visual side of songwriter Dan Wilson

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Dan Wilson - portrait - 1
Dan Wilson (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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  • The visual side of songwriter Dan Wilson 12:09
  • Dan Wilson - Never Meant to Love You (Live on The Current) 03:39
  • Dan Wilson - Treacherous (Live on The Current) 03:39
  • Dan Wilson - Disappearing (Live on The Current) 03:19

Minnesota native Dan Wilson is renowned for his songwriting; he has written and performed songs with Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic and as a solo artist, plus he has written acclaimed hits for such acts as the Dixie Chicks and Adele.

Beyond music, Wilson is also an accomplished visual artist, specializing in calligraphy and ink drawing. Wilson's songs and visual art come alive at a show at Mia on Friday, Oct. 16; he tells The Current's Mac Wilson (no relation to Dan) all about it.

The sold-out show is called Words and Music (and Art) by Dan Wilson. "Yes, we keep adding an extra word to that title," Dan says. "Because it's Mia, my manager and I thought it would be fun to show a bunch of the artwork that I've done over the past several years and also from back when I was showing in galleries and stuff. It'll be like a higher resolution, low budget, multimedia performance."

One of the forms Dan works in is something he calls an illuminated setlist. "I make a big drawing that walks you through the things I want to perform and also what I want to talk about, the ideas I've been thinking about," Dan explains. "An illuminated setlist is like an illuminated manuscript from the Dark Ages or something: It's half drawing and half writing."

Mac asks whether the illuminated setlist does something to take away from the spontaneous feel of a Dan Wilson concert. "I print up a nice cardstock print of it and give it to everybody on the way out the door, so … they only see the illuminated setlist at the end of the gig," Dan says. "And then the other trick is that I often change the set anyway! I can't seem to stick to the plan exactly."

Friday's show at Mia will include music performances (Dan will be accompanied by Brad Gordon on piano and backing vocals) and a slideshow of Dan's visual art. Dan thinks Mia is a perfect setting for the gig. "I love Mia," he says. "The past 10 years, it feels like they've revitalized themselves somehow. I'm such a fan. I'm really happy to be doing this show."

Songs Performed


"Disappearing"
"Treacherous"
"Never Meant to Love You"
The song "Disappearing" appears on Dan Wilson's 2014 album, Love Without Fear, available on +180 Records. "Treacherous" was co-written by Dan Wilson and Taylor Swift; "Never Meant to Love You" co-written by Dan Wilson and Corey Chisel. During the in-studio performance, Dan is accompanied by Brad Gordon on piano and backing vocals.

Hosted by Mac Wilson
Produced by Derrick Stevens
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Visuals by Nate Ryan
Web feature by Luke Taylor

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  • The Current's Guitar Collection: Dan Wilson, 1952 Gibson Southern Jumbo While visiting The Current's studio, Dan Wilson took a few minutes to talk about the guitar that has accompanied him on stages and in songwriting sessions since the turn of the century. 'The guitar is sort of a rough and ready, portable songwriting machine,' he says. Check out the full interview.

8 Photos

  • Dan Wilson - portrait - 2
    Dan Wilson (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Dan Wilson strums a G chord. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Dan Wilson (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Dan Wilson (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Dan Wilson (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Dan Wilson (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Dan Wilson (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Dan Wilson (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

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