After more than a decade of channeling his talents into a variety of eclectic musical pursuits, Gabriel Wilson – a producer, songwriter, touring artist and worship leader – is debuting his solo effort, The McGuire Side, on September 18th. While Wilson has successfully managed the spirit of joining rock and roll with Scripture these past ten years, he has never been as personal, vulnerable and transparent as he is with The McGuire Side.
The songs found on this new project come from a painful, confusing yet ultimately redemptive time in Wilson’s personal life. He shares, “As these songs started to come together, I knew this was going to be a completely different, and somewhat unnerving, project for me.”
Gabriel Wilson crafted one of the more popular mainstream club bands in the Pacific Northwest before an African mission trip changed his life. Helming The Rock & Roll Worship Circus, a multi-Dove Award-nominated, glam and spiritually-focused rock experience with songs designed for congregational worship inspired by The Rolling Stones, Big Star, Cheap Trick and The Who, The Worship Circus then evolved into his more ambient band, The Listening. During his career, Wilson has sold out clubs, headlined European festivals, toured with Delirious, and even became a staff worship pastor at a 3,000 member church in Folsom, California.
Enter The McGuire Side. Wilson was born Gabriel Solomon McGuire to young parents who divorced when he was just a toddler. Not seeing much of his birth father while growing up, Wilson recalls, “My mom remarried a wonderful man and I took his name. He has been a fantastic dad and a close friend to me, but there was always a part of my life that was a question mark. There was an entire side of my identity I had never really embraced and experienced.”
As a young adult he found out that through his biological father, Wilson was kin to some of the most influential and celebrated artists and songwriters in Gospel music history. His grandfather was a traveling minister, singer and songwriter who has had several Southern Gospel groups cover his songs, and Wilson’s Uncle Donny and his wife Reba, along with Reba’s parents Buck and Dottie Rambo, were Grammy Award winning Southern Gospel legends. “Here I was, this rock and roll kid up in Oregon with no idea at all where all of this music in me had come from,” he explains.
Two years ago at the largely-attended funeral for his biological grandfather, Wilson heard about his grandfather’s life story, and even more so, learned about his own. “Even though I had never known the McGuire side of my family, I had been giving my entire life to the same things all of the McGuire’s had: ministry and music. It all started making sense. For the first time in my life, I was proud to have been born a McGuire.”
Wilson crafted The McGuire Side with all of his feelings of missed opportunities and abandonment, of hope and belonging into his own family tree. “I started to see this story emerging,” he adds. “It was like a tapestry, with pieces from me, my dad and my grandfather. It was all about redemption, reconciliation, and embracing a lost family heritage.”
The McGuire Side encompasses a unique country, blues, rock and gospel hybrid style, joined by its analog vibe, acoustic guitars, old tube amps, strings, drums, vintage organs, piano and raw vocals. In many ways, the project is something that could have been in his father’s and grandfather’s record collections from years ago, yet also feels right at home to stations playing music from The Decemeberists or Ryan Adams, for example.
Unlike many introspective concept albums, the personal nature of Wilson’s songs on this collection is nearly universal in its tone and spirit. “I know I’m not the only one out there from a broken family,” Wilson concludes. “We all can identify with these feelings in one way or another. But I really wanted to explore this in a different way than I have heard before. Instead of focusing on the pain I really took it to a joyful, hopeful and healing place. I hope and pray this record will inspire reconciliation–fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and beyond. And I hope that anyone dealing with feelings of loss or abandonment will hear that good old fashioned Gospel message here; God is real, His love is perfect and when we find our identity and peace in Him we can then extend grace and mercy to those around us – even as they extend the same to us.”
Gabriel Wilson is releasing The McGuire Side independently and will be performing limited live appearances this summer and fall in support of its release. A limited run of deluxe 12” vinyl with extensive liner notes will also be available. He continues to work as a producer, an engineer, a songwriter and worship leader, and currently resides in Redding, California with his wife and daughters.