Q & A with Graven

Graven live at Irene's April 1st.

Graven + Ali McCormik + Doug Wallace @ Pressed August 12, 9 pm

Delicate picking gives way to powerful strumming. Melodic whispers ascend into a booming chorus.  Songs about lasting friendships end, memories of fleeting moments begin.  Songs that invite you for the ride down the highways of the prairies. Songs that paint a picture in your mind that go well with a full glass and your mates by your side. Canadiana folk rock, your son is calling.

What is your earliest musical memory?

My story is that of a pretty normal, classically Canadian 1970s born kid. My dad played a lot of records and I heard them through the floor of my childhood Nepean home. I’d stay awake and glue my ear to the parkay, wondering how long I’d have to wait until I could stay up that late and be a part of the late night, cool and secret fun. Floaty tropical notes of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” would drift through the floor boards. Anne Murray’s “Snowbirds” (how Canadian is that?) along with some Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers for good measure.

When did you pick up a guitar for the first time? How did you go about learning?

I only really started doodling on guitar when I was 14-15 or so, and it was all by ear, but I had a musical background. I took piano until about grade 2, then sax in Junior High.  I actually played bass and drums before I ever knew how to play a lick of six string. I had no earthly idea how to play chords, so I would sort of slide one finger around on the fret board on the low E string and try to get the main notes. After a while, and after listening to a lot of Yes (tough band to start with, I know), I found myself learning G, C and D.  My supersonic skills skyrocketed from there.

For those who aren’t familiar with your music, what song would you suggest they start with?

Oh man, that’s tough. To think of people outside of my family or friends who aren’t forced to listen to me is hard! I’d say “Hwy 5” is a good one. It’s from a few years back. Kinda gives a picture of what I’m about musically. Lots of landscape imagery, lost youth, self-reflection, driving guitars, moon-pining and all of the ‘strangely-high-for-a-big-man’ vocal range you can handle. For a new one, I’d say “Blaze Of Saturdaze” is a good childhood yearning rocker that could be a billion dollar hit song. I could easily see Beyoncé or Kayne doing a remix…

You’ve done your fair share of touring around the country and those experiences have made their way into the songs.  What inspires you most as a songwriter?

I think the open highway is probably the penultimate inspiration for myself and many musicians. The openness and the feel of a path unraveling before you, making new friends, prairies giving way to mountain ranges – you can’t help but get outside of your own tiny head in those moments. It’s also inspiring to play a tiny bar in Osoyoos BC and get heckled by a chicken finger chomping cowboy in a ten gallon hat all night. But that’s another story.

What’s the creative process behind your songwriting?

Usually, I have ideas for songs rolling around in my head and I think my best songs are the ones that start with a melody I’m humming. The odd time, I’ll have lyrics first, but that’s rare and feels a bit more forced to me. I remember Billy Corgan saying that his best songs are the ones that just come out organically. Even if they sound too catchy or simple or maybe not as artsy as you want, they come from a real place of not rushing the song. The other part of the creative process involves a stuffed giraffe, some whistles, yo-yos, a nose flute, and an organ grinder monkey. I’ll spare you the details.

What are you working on right now?

I have a new album coming out called Jaybird sometime.  In … the summer …fall… winter. It’s a labour of love. It’s dedicated to the memory of Jay Smith, one of Matt Mays’ guitarists, who passed away when I was shooting video for the band in 2013.  It’s about being a sort of outsider to an event that was a tough blow for many friends. But it’s not so much solely about him, but about the people that come and go from our lives in a moment of intensity and colour. I’m working on it with a collective of friends known as Tractor Records out in Kemptville, but it’ll be pretty rock and roll.  Steve Gaw and Tom Brown, who has worked with Kathleen Edwards and Jim Bryson, is doing some production on it. I’ve folked around a bit on my last few albums, but this one will be more mainline Tom Petty with a healthy, loud dash of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. on the side.

If you could jam with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be?

Living? Springsteen – hands down. My first ever record was “Born In The U.S.A.” More than even jamming I just want to hang out with him. Just to smell his scent and laugh at his Jersey-based automotive jokes.

Jam with the dead? Johnny Cash, for sure. Just to hear his stories, first hand. I read “Man In Black” many years ago and it had a profound effect on me. I feel like his voice would make me cry.

Graven + Ali McCormik + Doug Wallace @ Pressed August 12, 9 pm

Ramsgate & Hackett

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