Steve Gunn - Way Out Weather
Music is more than sound, it is feeling, it is environment, you are in it, you are there, in that place. Steve Gunn’s “Way Out Weather” ( on Paradise of Bachelors) is a record indicative of this idea. As much as there are songs, there are places, there is the imagery of scenery, there are the characters and the plot, but it begins with the setting. Wide open, wind blowing through trees, distant sounds, solitude, all things established in the first two songs (“waves crashing calm and free”), which set the tone for the album. They are the opening credits, if you will-the expanding wide shot.
“I kind of knew that I wanted the record to kind of revolve around a theme,” notes Gunn. “The last record I did before Way Out Weather, Time Off, was pretty specific about a location and my environment. After this album I am beginning to realize that a lot of the songs are usually just about my immediate environment. They’re definitely sentimental, but I try not to make them overly personal, so this album was more about me dealing with being away from home, rather than looking around where I live, and kind Of dealing with that, and I think even the idea for the song “Way Out Weather” kind of came to me as I was relating to people within my travels and I kind of had a lot of time to think about stuff, a lot of records to stare out of.”
I heard this record and connected with it as I was far from home in the mountains of Mexico. It was the only album downloaded on my phone, so there were these ideas of relating to yourself in an environment unfamiliar. “Wildwood” speaks of the black river: “its flow will help you listen” and “a different stop a day, move and make your way,” all lyrics that speak of movement while evoking a sense of becoming grounded in the place, looking inward despite a changing landscape physically and metaphorically. These are the themes that run through the album, truly beginning with fiction that transitions from the outer to the inner. The story unfolds as the character begins to see himself not only in relation to, but also beyond the surroundings, the removal of the familiar creating a new space for the personal.
“It’s funny how narratives sort of pan out, it’s sort of clear to me after the fact. You kind of put [the album] all together and then take a long step away from it, and look back at it. The record took on more meaning to me after it was done, and I kind of looked back at it. The first half of the record is kind of about a place, and the second half… well, ‘Tommy’s Congo’ is about something specific to me, but the intentions are not to be something so specific; I guess a lot of the songs that I write, I am sort of obviously citing certain things in my life, but I’m not using the word ‘I’ too much.”
Steve Gunn is a guitarist first, I would say, and that manifests itself in a lot of ways in songwriting. There are songs that are more traditional, the guitar as a song accompaniment, and there are songs in which the lyrics are a vocal transition to what could essentially just be a guitar piece.
“I have been guitar player for a long time, and I didn’t start singing until fairly recently. I play guitar a lot, and I try to come up with certain things, guitar lines. I’m pretty self- taught, I’m no virtuoso by any means, and I have my own unique take on trying to play guitar and trying to get things out of it that might not necessarily be traditional. I do a lot of playing and try to just compile things and I go back to them. At the same time I’m scribbling in notebooks and thinking of what I want to sing about, so I have all these ideas, and when it comes time to start fleshing out ideas a record or a song, I meditate on the words and just pick and choose what goes into the music.”
March 19th Steve Gunn will play at Walter’s downtown. Chosen by many as a guitarist to watch, you will have a chance to watch him, and I expect excellence.
“For me, I feel like, I play with a band and I also play solo. The songs are set up in a way that we can take them where we want. As far as creating it in a way that sounds like the record, we try to get close to it, but we also leave it open to see what else can happen and sometimes the songs change from show to show or depending on how we’re feeling. If we’re playing sort of nice venue, like a meeting hall kind of place, it might be like ‘Hey, let’s do a quieter set’ or if we’re playing a rock club and sort of rowdy, it may be like ‘OK, let’s do our louder thing,’ so it really kind of adapts to where we’re at and what we’re feeling. Also, we get tighter on the road, like when we start having more gigs under our belt, we start loosening up and taking risks, just kind of having fun with it.”
[EDIT: This article has been updated to correct an earlier version which said the show on March 19 is at Fitzgerald’s. The show is actually being held at Walter’s.]