Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gregory McIntosh

You actually probably know Greg... ...but do you really know him?

"I've been hiding, essentially," said singer/songwriter Gregory McIntosh.

You've seen him sing and play guitar and perform with Great Lakes Myth Society...or maybe Johnny Headband, or maybe the Victrolas... (or, most recently, with Drunken Barn Dance). "I've been playing solo shows around the Ypsi/Arbor area for several years, but they've been very informal and infrequent affairs; mostly at house shows and such..."

So, forgive me as I indulge a bit of sensationalizing circumstantial meddling of narrative... Michigan ears might get the chance, someday soon, to hear Gregory McIntosh's first "solo album..." To unpack a musical chronicling of this long-time bander's heart and soul.

And this story starts two years ago, finding McIntosh: "in a horrible headspace..." where he "eventually stopped working on the songs, threw away all the mixes I'd taken home and stopped working on music for a while..."

At that point, Great Lakes Myth Society had agreed to go on a hiatus. "I started playing with those guys in 1997," McIntosh said. "That's 13 of my 33 years on this planet."

So, understandably, the feelings surrounding McIntosh's eventual full-departure from the band are "complex..." The progress, McIntosh felt, of the band, had slowed to such a pace, at that point in 09, that "I didn't feel like I could dedicate the time to maintaining it while working with Drunken Barn Dance, or also with Matt Jones & the Reconstruction...and then the solo thing, too!"

Great Lakes Myth Society, in the meantime, have recently re-energized and are working on their third album.

"I love those guys," McIntosh assured, "and I wouldn't be surprised if we worked together in the future."

So McIntosh, perhaps as some form of catharsis, started fleshing out his own songs with Jim Roll at Backseat Studios... ...only to eventually pull back and throw away his own mixes.

It wasn't until Spring 2010 that he felt renewed inspiration to bring more songs out, leading him to start recording with Geoff Michael at Big Sky Recordings. "Geoff and I have known each other for a long time - he's responsible for all the amazing engineering on the GLMS material - and we know how each other works in the studio, so we're very natural around each other in an environment that can, naturally, magnify insecurities."

But in the midst of those sessions, McIntosh lost his day job and had to pull out of the studio, leading him to resort to the humbler environment of his home, with a lo-fi 8-track recorder.

Fatefully, though, he wound up helping Roll out with recording at Backseat. One day, Roll played back some songs that McIntosh had originally laid down, two years ago... "Since I had thrown away everything, previously, everything sounded fresh to me." He was inspired by how good the songs had turned out and, now, follow through...

And make that foretold solo album^.... only now, it's not so much a solo album. Roll, his long time friend (and current band mate in Drunken Barn Dance) is helping, along with the instrumental contributions of singer/songwriter Molly Jean Schoen (on bass) and singer/songwriter Matt Jones (on drums). Ryan Howard (who also plays guitar in Drunken Barn Dance) is present on some of these McIntosh ballads, as well...

Greg McIntosh - The Absentee from Kevin Eder on Vimeo.

He's got a band now... but no name yet. And, he's almost got an album now... with no title yet...

The songs, in terms of sound, mood or texture, have been uniquely influenced by each studio. Roll's set up is spacious, with "lots of room mics on the drums" and bass running through the B-15 amp; guitars are bigger, noisier and looser than his usual strumming with GLMS or Jones. But there's still softer, folk-ish-inflected elements like horn arrangements, piano and pedal steel. Big Sky, meanwhile, is tighter, smaller and clearer sounding.

McIntosh had been listening to lots of Al Green and Wilson Pickett during this period and though the songs themselves are "far from soul numbers, we did cop the tight, close mic'd drms and really work on keeping the guitars reigned in."

Currently, working and recording at Backseat, McIntosh is helping Schoen finish her own solo album. "Molly and I have a great, super-relaxed and mutually supportive working relationship. Since it's so easy to build anxiety and insecurity in the studio, what with constantly evaluating one's own performance, it's really nice to have that kind of balance."

Same with Roll. "I've known Jim since 1998; we're both built in the same way, especially when it

comes to our psychoses. We crack each other up constantly and we both are really empathetic and earnest people...He's got a knack for getting anyone who walks in the door at Backseat to feel immediately relaxed, which is, of course, the best way to capture a great performance."

Reflecting back on all the other songwriters he's collaborated with and who has had considerable impact, "Jamie and Tim Monger..." came to mind first. "We're, all three of us, very different songwriters, but both of those guys have a gift that they've honed and they've taught me a lot."

Also, there's his dual-band-mate, Matt Jones: "One of the great songwriters out there, local or otherwise." Playing in the Reconstruction has showed McIntosh, "how fucking hard he works at it."

With Drunken Barn Dance, "Scott Sellwood has taught me a lot about letting go of my perfectionist inclinations." With DBD, the ethos/mission is: "three takes to get the song right, with everyone playing live in the same room. If the band doesn't get it in three takes, the song is thrown away, no matter what..."


"There's still so much to be done..." McIntosh said, of the album and securing any future for this band or these songs. "Touring is the most likely option, but Jim and I have some pretty curious ideas about the future of Backseat and it's growth." (A 2nd studio is currently being set up next door).

"Ypsilanti," he surmised, of his own personal musical " a very tight-knit-group of players and friends all fighting to make the community grow, and I don't mean just the musical community, but the community-at-large." He nodded with endearments and gratitude to "Bee Mayhew's (Beezy's Cafe) presence and support, as well as Andy Garris' incredible enthusiasm to create and sustain a healthy music scene that's becoming more and more, as much of a destination as it is a way of life for those of us living here..."

1 comment:

Jessica said...

All my love to Greg!!! This video is of a collection of videos he sent to me two years ago, when he asked me to play bass with him for a show. No practices, just this video, and lyrics and chords! I love everything he touches!