Getting to Know Connor Garvey
Connor Garvey continues to surprise me. That’s a good thing. A very good thing. There is no chance that his shows will be repetitive or suffer in a dull sameness. Connor’s got the spark: a creative spark that literally shines all around him when he’s on stage. His recordings are equally charming. He has a way of turning a phrase or skewing a song scenario so that it makes the listener take note. That’s a real talent. Connor was chosen as one of twenty-four Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artists.
Falcon Ridge is celebrating its 25th anniversary the first weekend in August and the Emerging Artist showcase is always one of the highlights of the festival. The musicians are chosen by a three-member jury and are given the opportunity to perform two songs (not to exceed ten minutes).* The audience votes for their favorites and three or four acts are asked to return to the main stage the following year.
To learn more about Connor Garvey, visit his website.
Let’s get the obligatory question out of the way: When did you first pick up a guitar?
I first picked up guitar in 7th grade. My dad is a musician and had guitars around the house but I started off as a drummer. My best friend and I were both drummers and used to spend hours blasting Smashing Pumpkins, They Might Be Giants, and REM and beating on the drums. Eventually we realized that if one of us picked up guitar we could form our own band…so since I had a guitar to learn on I picked it up. Plus, he was a much better drummer then I was! We formed a band called Electric Haz?ard (yes the ? is supposed to be there) and were together through graduating high school! He and the bass player are still in a successfully gigging band Super Frog.
Your style is pretty funky and not your typical strum, strum, pick style, if you know what I mean. Who or what inspired you to play the way you do?
We are all products of inspirations and interesting decisions. I have always loved acoustic music in the folk tradition but have also loved soul, funk, rock, and hip-hop. In college I formed a funk band called Officer Funk and those shows were some of the most fun I’ve ever had with music even to this day. There is freedom in a groove and we tapped into it! I still have groove in my core and am drawn to writing and performing songs that tap into who I am not just what I think people are used to hearing.
What kind of music did you listen to when you were growing up? When did you seriously start thinking about music as a career?
I grew up listening to many types of music but singer songwriters like David Wilcox, John Gorka, Shawn Colvin, Catie Curtis and many others formed a glue that held all of my early musical memories together. I continue to pinch myself that I now get to play with these people. My father is also a great musician and was a part of a local group of musicians in Southern Maine and New Hampshire called Salmon Falls Friends of Music who continue to inspire me.
For better or worse I was always serious about my music. I recorded an album with my band and a solo album before I graduated high school and actively sought out opportunities to play and grow through TV, Radio, and live stage. I have always enjoyed sharing my music with the world and feel that through sharing it it validates my need to get it out. I slowly gained my chops through my school days and early days after and in 2008 I decided to give in whole-heartedly and pursue a career in music. The tipping points were very important. I was working at an outdoor education center doing amazing and inspiring work (work I still try to stay connected to) and at that job we were provided a life coach. Through our conversations I became aware of my need to get my music out there and looked for access points to enter the world through.
On a whim I emailed Catie Curtis (whom I have social circle overlap with) and asked her if I could take her out to coffee and pick her brain about life as a touring singer-songwriter and see if that would help steer my decision-making. She said yes AND offered up an alternative option to join her on the road for a three day run of shows as her merchandise man and general helper. I was blown away and took her up on the option. Long hours in the car, introductions to other great musicians, and insight into her life all led me to know this was a path I wanted to walk on and I am, to this day, extremely appreciative of that opportunity. I also learned a lot about the logistics of touring when I was partially responsible for Meg Hutchinson’s car getting towed and I picked up a parking ticket on Catie’s car that I was 100% responsible and paid it before she saw it…I don’t think she knows about that…
Kindhearted people continually affirm me in this path and for that I am fulfilled!
Your story based songs like “Pencil Frame” and “The Bird” really seem to resonate with your audiences. The characters in your songs live and breathe for us. Have you ever considered writing fiction as well as songs?
Well I have now! I suppose I have thought about writing fiction though it would be a leap into the unknown…but that’s exactly what the song The Bird is trying to tell us, so I suppose maybe I should try my hat at it!
One of the producers at XM’s The Village heard 1 minute of one of my songs at a music conference and suggested I send it in to The Coffeehouse. Months later the song was on heavy rotation spinning some 5-6 times a day for 6 months. I garnered a spot in their top 6 new singer songwriters of 2010 and came in to their NYC studio for a live in-studio performance on the same day as Adele, Florence and the Machine, Slash, and Ace of Base! It was all a bit of a whirlwind and I had people connecting to my music around the country. Beyond the very beneficial boost in sales and royalties the exposure blasted open a large base of fans and connections that have lead to shows, songwriting workshop teaching, and continued support. Truly it was an awesome swing of time that continues to shine light on my career now. I sure do hope for another blast like that!
I was totally blown away by your live looping at the recent Club Passim show. Have you been using a looper (or is there a more accurate or technical term) long? Do you do many songs with it?
I’ve been using a loop station for a little while. I try to use it for moments of grandeur and break from the norm…it can be very dangerous to over-use. There are some extremely talented loopers out there who use it as an amazing instrument and form of expression…I suppose I use it as a window into more depth of what I enjoy about performing music!
Tell us about the CD you’re working on right now. Am I understanding it correctly that you recorded the whole record live but you’ve also recorded all the songs in the studio?
Yes, I thought it would be a cool way to share the songs and highlight the differences between taking a song to people and take a song to a studio can be. Songs are not static things and I love the idea of sharing a bit of the fluidity with my audience. What I think is unique about this (and a bit risky too) is that I recorded the live version first…while the songs were fresh and new and new to the guys I was playing with. It isn’t slick and smooth and well polished like a live album after years of touring…it is exciting and at times on edge because it is exploratory. If that is known I think it makes the project cooler because you then hear the studio version as a resolve…which feels really nice! The two albums also highlight where I spend time in the world and with whom. I recorded in Montana for the live album with a Mandolin player and Dobro player who I’ve played with for years…then the studio version in Portland, ME with my band who I recorded the last album with and play out with in New England…we’re more of a rock set up. So you’ve got East-West, Bluegrass-Rock, Live-Studio…lots of duality!
Were you surprised by the results?
Well we aren’t at complete “results” just yet but I’ve been amazed by the musicians every step of the way and in particular the two engineers I work with! Pete Morse in Portland and Chris Cunningham in Bozeman, MT are AMAZING and deserve recognition!
**Falcon Ridge is celebrating its 25th anniversary the first weekend in August and the Emerging Artist showcase is always one of the highlights of the festival. The musicians are chosen by a three-member jury and are given the opportunity to perform two songs (not to exceed ten minutes).* The audience votes for their favorites and three or four acts are asked to return to the main stage the following year.