What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
Music was always around growing up, and my parents were always singing, so, naturally my sisters and I were as well. We listened to the pop and rock classics mostly, and we were in that beautiful liminal time where vinyl was still around but cassettes were the popular format, things were tactile, tangible. As a young boy I actually thought that there was a small version of the band inside the cassette player generating the sound. We grew up in a household where we went to church on Sunday: whatever one’s idea of organized religion is, the image of a community of people choosing to set aside time to singing songs together is beautiful in its vulnerability. Singing was a way to enrich life.
At the age of 14 I was given a Peavey bass guitar by a gentleman that was a sound technician at the school I attended. Because I had a bass, I was invited to join a fledgling pop punk band by my best friend – it didn’t really matter if I could play or not. He had something to say about the way he perceived reality and his place int he world, just like the bands we idolized. I fell in love with this idea that you can make a sound, and the sound can say something beyond what you could say with just words, and you could take others with you on that sojourn, and that they would assimilate it and make it their own. I’m still in love with that idea twenty years later.
I took on the moniker Gutter Sparrow in 2012 after my band Holler Wild Rose stopped playing together. In fact the name Gutter Sparrow is from a lyric of a song we never released:
en huddled masse / holly hides the gutter sparrows
stray pebbles cast / out into the morning sky
I put the electric guitar away and began to find a way to translate my ideas acoustically. That transition began to change the way I used my voice, and through my time on the road as a band member of different artists, I continued to refine that sound at home. Then my friend Anthony LaMarca (The War On Drugs, The Building) invited me to make a record of some of my songs with him, which became my 2017 debut album The Fear of Forgottenness.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
The Waker Dreams is my second full-length LP, and it is structured in a way that the songs move from waking to falling back into dream, from confronting consciousness to allowing it to slip away. It wasn’t at all the initial idea behind the record but something that revealed itself when I sat down to finalize the track listing. I’ll be releasing a limited edition of 200 vinyl copies on my imprint Meadowlands Records.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
Musically, I am not shy in saying that I think Low is the greatest living American band. Non-musically, Carl Jung and David Lynch who explore the power of dreams within the psyche as a means of revelation and transformation.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
Allow me to paraphrase my onetime tour mate and dear friend Andrew Carlson (Names of War) who describes my sound as a place where space is created. I want to make music where I feel the space between the strings of the instrument and sense the reverberations of the hollow spaces within my chest and head where the sound is generated from: that’s what excites me in the process of songwriting. I want to see the space between words and the letters of those words and then unite all that multiplicity in a melody that opens the door to another world. If those images intrigue you, you should listen.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Since I have no power supply on my island I’ll just list the books.
Annals Of The Former World : John McPhee
Se Questo È Uomo (If This Is Man): Primo Levi
Just Kids: Patti Smith
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
I prefer the studio. I deal with a lot of fear live, which is funny since I fronted a band for seven years and then did stints as a touring musician, but in those instances you have support: playing solo is difficult for me. Conversely, the studio feels like a refuge where it’s okay to make mistakes, and I make a lot! I have so much respect for those who can go out on their own into vulnerable spaces and share their songs.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
In 2010, I was playing bass for the Sounds Familyre artists Ben + Vesper. We went down to Miner Street Recording in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA, to do one of the Shaking Through sessions with the extraordinary producer Brian McTear. When we arrived, we met a kind and soft-spoken songwriter who like us was originally from New Jersey, and had just finished recording her second full length album there. She had left to go get a coffee, and we went into the control room with Brian: he sat down and invited us to hear some of what they had just tracked. He proceeded to play us two songs from Sharon Van Etten’s Epic, which cemented her beautiful songwriting voice in the minds of the public and would become the stepping stone towards an ever-blossoming career. We were slack-jawed, and being the first to hear it outside of the band — that was a a special moment.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
Well, each song has it’s own unique voice and story: they are sort of like children, you’re not supposed to say who your favorite is! Perhaps Lost Highway would be a personal highlight.
In 2014 I scored a dance duet for my immensely talented friends Christina Robson and Simon Thomas-Train (you can see Simon perform in the music video for my song Clear Light of Morning). The entire score was generated from cassette tapes made by Christina and her family in 1990: as I was monitoring the hours of tapes I came across an improvised song that a young Christina had sung, and I was so struck by the gravity of her words and the directness of the melody that I crafted the final theme as an accompaniment of my voice and guitar to her original recording. I knew that one day I would flesh it out and make a whole song of it, and that’s what you hear on Lost Highway: Christina’s verse melody and lyrics, with my own extended exploration. It’s the first co-write of my solo career and it spans 25 years.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
I’ll be back in studio to record my next full-length record in December.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Question: If you died, what idea would you want to say you left to the world that made it a richer place?
Answer: Dreams are as real as the real world.
Photo credits: Sant’Ivo Stairwell
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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