Song of the Day: Gabriel Mintz – Desert Sky

photo by Christopher Nelson

photo by Christopher Nelson

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Midday Show Host Cheryl Waters, is “Desert Sky” by Gabriel Mintz from his debut self-released full-length album Volume One.

Gabriel Mintz – Desert Sky (mp3)

It’s always interesting when an artist hits the scene that’s a little bit unclassifiable. Seattle import Gabriel Mintz is one of these artists. Part roots, part Americana, part Tom Petty, part something else maybe not yet defined. For the last few years, Mintz has been a drifter and has recently put down roots in our fair city to the delight of many. He along with band mates Trent Moorman (Head Like a Kite, Fresh Espresso, etc.) and Geoff Stanfield (Sun Kill Moon, producer) have been playing some really great shows around town and were part of the GIVE compilation before they even had their album out. Volume One is a collection of songs Mintz has written over the years during his travels across the US and include the hauntingly beautiful “Western Days” as well as the percussion-laden “Desert Sky.”

Mintz took a few minutes to share some of his inspirations for the move, the album, and of course today’s Song of the Day.

I understand you’ve lived quite the nomadic life, what drew you to Seattle?

Seattle was this beautiful, mysterious place at the top corner of the map, and I always wound up here on trips I used to do around the states during the summer… meeting up with and supporting other acts that were traveling, visiting projects my friends were involved in, doing my own shows. My friend Bradford Button (Whalebones/Curious Mystery) was living here as well, and he and I have done a lot of work together over the years, so I eventually moved out here, and into his studio in the beginning.

Your debut album, Volume One, is a collection of songs you’ve been writing over the years right? Does that mean you’re also considering a Volume Two?

I’ve got more volumes of songs to do than I may have the chance to do in my lifetime, but I will try.

What is your songwriting process?

It is somewhat different each time. I have some patterns and routines, but it varies quite a lot. I like to challenge myself by switching it up constantly.

Are your songs pretty autobiographical in nature or where do you get your narrative style of lyrics?

The songs on Volume One are largely autobiographical, but there are many that are not. I wound up with a more autobiographical collection of songs for this particular release… a few deeply personal topics in there, but I’ve got a lot of songs and writings and such that address other issues in the world. This first collection gets a little more into life stories

How did you hook up with Trent Moorman and Geoff Stanfield?

I met Trent and Geoff through my dear friend Bob Brunner, who has been supporting and helping my music for the last three years or so. Trent and Geoff are both a huge pleasure to work with. I love them both and find them both fascinating to work with in different ways. I’ve been conducting experiments on them in secret to try and figure out what makes them tick – don’t tell anybody.

What is the story behind “Desert Sky?”

I was on my way out here, passing through the Badlands in South Dakota where it is vast and silent, I began writing it there, sitting on a rock in the middle of nothing. “Do you like the sound of the sound at night?” was a question I asked my travel companion at the time when we arrived in Seattle. It was about leaving everything behind for something new and unknown. This journey out of one world and into another in a crappy Chevy van with a crazy companion… rebelling and discovering… trippin’ out on rocks in the desert.

What inspired the almost tribal percussion on this song?

Trent really nailed the feeling/space I feel like I’m in when I play it… I’d have to credit him on that. I also gravitate toward those kinds of beats and sounds anyway, but that is a good example of Trent’s knack for tapping into the sounds of the universe just right.

Do YOU like the sound of the sound at night?

Yes. So far, little kids that are exposed to that song have had an annoying habit of repeating that line over and over again, and I am getting used to answering “yes” just to make them stop.

Gabriel Mintz and company will be at Folklife Festival this weekend playing on the Alki Court stage on May 30th at 7:30 pm. If you haven’t seen them play live yet, be prepared for an emotionally gripping performance smattered with several of Mintz’s non sequiturs and observations that only endear you to him more. Their sets can swing between having an alt-country feel to pure rocking depending on who they’re playing with, or even where they’re playing. Keep an eye on their MySpace page and website for future dates.

In the meantime, check out these videos from his recent live performance recorded at KEXP earlier this month:

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