Stephen Warwick of Ancient Cities Releases First Solo Music in a Decade

'I Got Time' and 'Monsters' are retroactively prescient singles

Stephen Warwick
Stephen Warwick

Like many of us, local musician Stephen Warwick has found himself unable to create much during the pandemic, lacking motivation and inspiration while laying low at home. Luckily for us, he’s been sitting on a back catalog of previously recorded music that he will release on Dec. 17.

We’ve got a sneak peek at two new singles he’s posted to Bandcamp in the lead-up to that release. 

Despite the fact that they were recorded before COVID-19 clamped down on North Carolina, both songs are decidedly relevant at a time when sickness and quarantines have given many folks nothing but time to sit with their inner demons. 

In “I Got Time,” a rock ‘n’ roll tune reminiscent of ’60s era Rolling Stones, Warwick revels in his newfound leisure time. Accidental or not, the opening riffs of the song are an unmistakable call back to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” a fitting foreshadowing for the themes behind Warwick’s second single. 

In “Monsters,” evoking ZZ Top’s Texas blues shuffle, things get a bit darker as Warwick confronts the fact that he has more to kill than time. 

“I Got Time” will be featured on an episode of Showtime’s hit show Shameless on Dec. 20. 

Warwick, best known as the frontman for psych rock band Ancient Cities, hasn’t released new solo music since his 2010 album Talking Machine. He spent much of 2019 touring with guitarist Nicole Atkins, and was gearing up for a more extensive international tour when the novel coronavirus reared its ugly head.

Everything that came after has zapped Warwick’s drive to write new music in 2020, he told Queen City Nerve.

“I would love to claim I’ve been using most of this time to be productive and work on music nonstop, but that hasn’t been the case,” Warwick said. “Mostly 2020 hasn’t been very inspiring, so I’ve been trying to make sense out of things that don’t make sense and finding joy where I can.” 

It’s not that he hasn’t tried to write new music, it’s just that things haven’t come easy. 

“I’ve been in the infancy stages of writing new material during the pandemic, but mainly just instrumentally,” he said. “Lyrically I’ve had a lot of things on my mind, but nothing that has stood out enough to write down in a song yet, it’s still all scattered in my head. I think I’m still too close to my thoughts as well, like looking at something so close-up that it’s blurry. You have to step away from it a bit for it to come into focus … That’s my mind right now.”

Despite the difficulty in getting motivated to make his own music, Warwick has kept himself busy by collaborating with others this year, co-producing a solo album for Ancient Cities bandmate Justin Faircloth, also with Houston Brothers, and getting the band back together for a new song that Ancient Cities performed on Atkins’ Last Waltz At Home live-stream event on Nov. 27.

In late 2019, Warwick also recorded and produced a debut EP for friend Will Davis, aka Rasmus Leon, which will drop sometime next year. 

Moving forward, Warwick said his main goal for 2021 is to continue making, playing and recording music with friends, whatever that looks like. He looks forward to playing live gigs and touring again as soon as it’s safe to do so. Until then, he’s got time. 

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