w/ Harper Blynn
Friday, July 30 • Doors 8pm • Show 9pm • $12 Flat • All Ages • $2 minor surcharge • Buy Tickets
Take a Bow both closes and opens another chapter in the California native’s life as a songwriter and a man, with songs of loss and hope recorded in a cabin in Arizona. It’s an album that shows a deep understanding of where he’s been personally and unlike a lot of songwriters he’s also able to poke a little fun at himself. Laying himself on the line and taking chances both musically and lyrically, it’s a collection that deserves attention and wide recognition. I sat down with Greg over coffee to dig a little deeper…
NIC You just moved to Brooklyn, why move now and why Brooklyn?
GREG First time I went there was five years ago, it is the only city I am always sad to leave, something just clicked, something in the air.
NIC Define that.
GREG I can’t. That’s what’s cool about it.
NIC You took a break from your own songs with last year’s Covers EP, was that a palate cleanser for you?
GREG It really was actually, it kind of allowed me to dig into music again. I kinda went through a dry spell there for a while with my own writing and so I ended up using a lot of the textures I used on that project on the new album… An icebreaker so to speak
NIC Nonetheless, you’ve been a busy man these past five years as a songwriter and many of those songs seem to be about an ex who left you devastated. Dude, are you a love addict?
GREG Yes, I don’t know why I keep getting back up and doing it again, but I do and with great ease ironically. I don’t understand it entirely.
NIC Is it writing songs that purges you and leaves you open to something new?
GREG Sometimes I feel like I shoot myself in the foot just so that I can write a song about it. I feel like one begets the other. I’ve gone through two great heartbreaks in my life and said I’d never do it again, but I do.
NIC I’ve spoken to many songwriters through the years who say that their record label A&R guys salivate when they hear of a relationship gone bust, how does the art mix with commerce for you?
GREG It hasn’t really been present with the label I work with but my manager likes the dark songs. There’s actually a few happy songs on this record. A good friend of mine said that my family and friends will be glad, especially about “You, Now” but it’s on the same album as one of the saddest songs I’ve ever written, “Goodbye”. I was terrified to write a song called “Goodbye” because as an artist, it’s dangerous territory; it’s a cliché in and of itself. It took me a while to get around to writing it and I waited a while until I couldn’t help not to. Saying goodbye is more difficult than the actual break up.
NIC When you look at this collection of songs compared with those on your first album Through Toledo, how do you see your evolution as a person and progression as a songwriter?
GREG It’s always difficult for me to talk about progression. On this record, I talked about where I had been as opposed to Through Toledo where I was writing about it as I was going through it. I was still scrambling with that first record to see who I was, now I’m pretty sure about where I want to be and who I am.
NIC How about the process this time, you produced and arranged the tracks yourself?
GREG I did that with the first record and Brandon Walters helped on the second record. With this one, I moved my studio to a cabin in Mountainaire just south of Flagstaff in Arizona, a little town with one restaurant and one convenience store. I wish I could say I went there to find myself creatively, it sounds much cooler but the truth is I wanted to go somewhere pretty. This time I was living and breathing it all day long. With my other two records regular life would intervene, this time it was just me and my dog. It was actually a little maddening; I got a little lonely, but in a good way. It’s like a jog, when you begin it’s a little difficult but by the time you’re reaching the end it feels pretty good.
NIC How did the mixing process affect the finished tracks?
GREG Greg Collins mixed the record and I knew that going into the project and it allowed me to throw the kitchen sink at it by recording lots of tracks for each song and allowing him to deal with it in the mix.
NIC Did you sit in on the mixes?
GREG No, if I was there I would end up wanting to do it myself. And Collins is just a better mixer, plain and simple.
NIC You’ve been very successful with song placements in film and television, what kind of impact do you see from that?
GREG The impact is huge and I’m really grateful. It is rare that I go to a show without several people coming up to me afterwards saying, “I first heard your music on…”
Hi, I’m Cary. First off, I’m just one guy, not a band of brothers. It’s a common mistake, so I don’t take offense. Ok, now that we got that outta the way…
The one thing that I always loved above all else was writing songs, but it felt too personal to bring out of my bedroom. In 2001, I finally decided to face my fears and give it a real shot as a songwriter. I found The Hotel Cafe, a converted coffee shop that had a BYOB policy and a tiny piano room in the back. The room was so small and would get so packed that you were forced to have a conversation with the person next to you. I met a lot of people really fast. I knew I had found my home. I started playing regularly for a few years. Most of the patrons were either newbies like me or artists that had lost their record deals. Those guys were our Yodas. We all went to each others’ shows and drank til we got kicked out in the alley. When the room expanded, it was the regulars that took sledgehammers to the wall at 3am. It was a family, most importantly. It was competitive, but only in that you had to get up and be better than that amazing person who played before you. We all grew up as musicians together on stage.
Soon after, an old friend who I had helped with a script in my movie days finally got that film made. It was a little indie movie, and he asked me if he could put one of my songs in a scene. I couldn’t bear to tell him that I was too broke to afford studio time, so I recorded it on my beat up 10-year-old Tascam 4-track, and no one seemed to notice that it sounded like crap. Or maybe it was the fact that it sounded like me in my room that made it interesting.
Then it happened. The little indie movie came out. The “Garden State” Soundtrack went on to sell a bajillion records and win a Grammy. Suddenly, like magic, enough people knew my music. Enough that I could play shows out of town, tour with a wonderfully diverse group of artists (Imogen Heap, The Fray, KT Tunstall, Brandi Carlile and Matt Nathanson), get asked to play on late night talk shows, have songs on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and play music for kids who lived literally across the world from me. Yet I still felt like I wasn’t ready for it all, like I wasn’t deserving of the luck that had befallen me. I wanted to work my ass off to earn back that luck. So I did. I hit it fast and hard, city to city, anywhere I could play and promote. Beat myself up. To recover, I also drank a lot and sowed the shit out of my last remaining wild oats. I put together The Hotel Cafe Tour to give back to my home base, support young artists, and take our family dynamic on the road. I fell in and out of love. I signed a record deal and made a record piece by piece whenever I was back home for more than a couple weeks and eventually put that out. I stayed on the road for four years, and I ended up back home at the end of it all a much better performer, but I still felt like there was something missing.
So I just pulled the plug. Decided to stay home for a year. Check out. Buy my way out of my record deal and start my own indie label. Live life. Reconnect with my friends and have experiences and feelings that weren’t about getting to the next city by sound check or who hooked up with the girl in the red dress or who did the most shots of Jack Daniels. Observe the world. Fill the well. Take my time. See outside the bubble. Not just be another asshole with a guitar. Grow the fuck up.
In that time, I made a record. It’s called “Under Control.” It’s mostly about finding that peace in the chaos when everything moves so fast. The country was changing a lot, so it’s about that. My friends were changing – finding success and also falling into the same dark places I narrowly escaped – it’s about that. For me, it was about getting back to what I loved doing more than anything – writing music about the world around me. I found a great producing partner in the studio, and for the first time I made a record from beginning to end with a singular focus, with patience, and with a broader scope than just tales of heartbreak, though there is a touch of that for good measure.
So that’s my story. And this is the record. I’m fully recharged and can’t wait to get out and play these songs for whomever will listen. Hopefully, I’ll see you on the road.
Be good, -CB