JV: So in the before times, with all the touring you’d do, did you have a lot of time to work on your own material?
KG: No, not really. Especially 2019 in particular, I toured with five different bands, and at the end of it all I was like “wow, brains are nuts, man! I can retain a lot of shit, and that’s wild to me.” But I did find that I had little motifs bouncing around in my head. So voice memos on my phone were the best things for me. I think on the Frank Turner tour at the end of 2019 – where I was actually playing my music, but it was the first time in a long time where I’d been able to just play my music. I remember having the voice memo — and I remember it was in an elevator, I remember hearing the dings — and I was singing “It’s not like it wasn’t enough, we’re just a little too much, we’re just a little overambitious.” And then I didn’t have anything else, but I was like “That’s a bop, I gotta remember that!”
And that’s kind of where a lot of my songs came from. I found that I was really inspired constantly playing other people’s music. I was constantly having ideas but not enough time to flesh them out. But also, I watched a Johnny Cash interview or documentary where he was basically saying that if you had a lick or a melody line and it didn’t get stuck in your head, and you forgot about it, it wasn’t good enough in the first place. So I kind of rode with that mentality where the longer it stuck around, the more I was like “okay, this is worth pursuing.” And when I could finally sit down, it just flowed out of me because it was something that had been in there for so long.
JV: So in that sense of having ideas but needing time, was having all that forced free time we had in 2020-2021 helpful at all for you?
KG: [sighs] Not at all. Maybe slightly after six to eight months. I had recorded an EP that I thought was going to be this record on January 2nd of 2020, with Will. And I thought that was it. So once everything happened, I was like, this is supposed to be the time that I’m happy that I did the work. Look at these shiny new songs I created, and now no one’s going to be able to hear them until I don’t know when, I’m not going to be able to play them, and everybody’s now also saying everyone’s going to be writing great records. And I know I’m not alone in having anxiety and depression but that threw me for a loop and it took six to eight months for me to realize this is the reality we’re in.
Also, I didn’t want to write when all that shit was going down. I really didn’t. I was not in the mood, I was scared, I was thinking that as a white person I should just shut up because of all the other things that had been going on in the world. I needed to figure out why I wanted to play music in the first place all over again. So once I came out on the other side of that and I realized there is always going to be a need for people to escape, there’s always going to be a need for people to wallow in their feelings, even if their feelings seem invalid because there are larger issues going on in the world. We always need to have that musical community. That’s when I was able to start writing music again, and it took a long time, but I’m grateful for it because it also helped round out what I thought was this EP and turned it into a full length.
JV: Let’s talk about working with Will! Obviously he’s great. How was your experience with this project?
KG: So great! First, working with Will was always a dream of mine. And the fact that he’s local is insane. I still can’t kind of comprehend that that is the local studio! First I talked to him, I booked studio time like any paying, non-label person would, and I paid for my EP, and was like “OK, cool, let’s do this.” And the more that time went on, the more we started building this friendship and realizing like it really clicked working together.
So after a few months – cause for a long time, he wasn’t up to much, you couldn’t do anything – he talked to me about putting the record out on Memory and making it a full length. And from that, the second we got more studio time, it was like “go!” We work so well together. The first three songs on the record were recorded with Joe Godino from The Menzingers on drums, Aaron Garitillo who was in my first band ever, I got him out, he lives outside of Allentown, so I was like you, let’s come play bass, it’ll be great. And the rest of the record is just me and Will. Like, he did drums and bass and all of the programming. And then I did all the rest of the extra guitar, strings, synth. Will even sang harmonies on the record. We worked so well together, it’s nuts. I listen to the record and I’m like shit, we’re a fuckin great two-piece band. It’s amazing.
JV: This idea of a sense of place and a sense of home seems to be a recurring theme in your songs, sometimes it’s more literal, sometimes it’s more metaphorical. As someone who’s lived in Syracuse and Cali and Philly and on the road, what does this idea of home and a place to come home to mean to you as a writer and as a generally creative person?
KG: I think inevitably with the way my life has been, and my job, and experiences, travel will always play a part of my songwriting and my life story. But I think that I’ve done a lot of digging within myself, especially with the creation of this record. And one, it feels nice to be actually settling into something that feels good, but I think that that doesn’t necessarily have to be a place. And it really is just, I don’t know how many times I’m going to say this and it’s going to sound cliché every time, but it really is just the act of learning to be happy. And learning to settle into yourself and learning to come to find you have a lot more stability around you and it doesn’t have to be a standalone thing.
I’ve done a lot of work in therapy, I adopted a dog, all of these things that have kind of grounded me a little bit more, but I think that idea of then having all those experiences and being able to watch them pass you by has been cathartic for me as well. Instead of being the one in the moving car, I’m watching it drive by, and I’m trying to take a step back and write from that perspective a little bit more.
JV: I imagine that can be more of a challenging place to write from, too.
KG: It’s a different muscle to flex, I think. Sometimes when I first started writing my own music, and I had a publishing deal really early one when I was in high school and I’d be getting emails like “Avril Lavigne is looking for a pop song!” And then I’d be like “I know I’m not gonna get it, but I’m gonna try!” And then I’d put on what I think of as my screenwriters’ hat and think “If I were so-and-so, how would I write this song?” Because that’s been a cool exercise. But it definitely feels a little disorienting to write that kind of way, at first.