A Conversation with Gill Landry – HuffPost 3.3.15

Mike Ragogna: Gill, first off, congratulations on the Grammy for Best Folk Album.

Gill Landry: Thanks, Mike!

MR: You have a new solo self-titled album. Rumor has it you mostly recorded it in a ramshackle, shanty-ass apartment on the south side of Nashville. What? And how of the that ramshackle, shanty-assness made it onto the recordings?

GL: If you can picture a party with various spiders and mice with little hats on having their cake while I danced around in my underwear with a speaking trumpet in one hand and a goblet of wine in the other you’d start to get the vibe. I’m not sure how much the decay factor of the building had to do with it exactly. I mean the place was a moldy dump with something living the walls that I could never find, a roach bordello in the basement, and a rotating cast of neighbors that would interrupt takes with creaking headboards and daytime TV. The fact that I made this album, which I consider a quality body of work, far outside the luxuries of a big studio and in such a rat trap is a testament to ingenuity perhaps? It was done more shade tree mechanic style, so it’s no Cadillac off the showroom floor, it’s a worn in old jalopy that’ll get you there every time if you just give her the attention she requires.

MR: Hey, your guests include Robert Ellis, Mumford and Sons’ Nick Etwell, Odessa Jorgensen and Laura Marling who duets on “Take This Body.” What does performing with other artists add to your own recordings and what specifically did this crew add with their guest spots?

GL: Well, everyone who comes in on a record adds a bit of themselves to what they do which no one else could bring in the same way. It’s what makes it a wonderful process. These particular people are all friends, so for me it’s also a nice document of the people in my life at the time. Odessa was my neighbor and travel partner in many adventures, Robert and I had toured together, worked on cars, gone junking, besides the fact he has great guitar sensibilities,

Nick and I have shared a bottle and a floor or two plus a love of New Orleans and jazz, Ross Holmes and I toured the highlands of Scotland together, which is when and where I met Laura Marling who is up there with every great female voice I’ve ever loved and she has a brilliant mind, Jamie Dick’s drumming I feel is a very important part of everything along with Skylar Wilsons organ, Phoebe and Lily’s harmonies, and Ian Fitchucks sensibilities. Each one of them brought something I could not have brought myself so they were also necessary and I think their instincts are righteous.

MR: What are the stories behind a couple of your favorite songs on the album?

GL: I would love to tell you, but I think it would only diminish the poetry. Everything that can really be known without me writing a novel about it is coded in there and the characters within are too sacred to me to give them up.

MR: How has your approach to writing and playing evolved over the years? And have there been certain guest appearances on other artists projects that permanently affected how you approach your own material?

GL: I would say my approach has evolved into having no method. I don’t use a particular time of day, place, instrument, typewriter or pen. It could be with a sharpie mid-day on a napkin in a diner or sung into a recorder while driving through the night. “Emily” I wrote on ukulele, “Take This Body” on piano, “Just Like You” on harmonium, the rest on various guitars or I just hummed them out. To answer the second part to your questions, I’d say every project I’ve been a part of has been an education. No two have been exactly alike and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

MR: These days, what kind of an outlet for your creativity does Old Crow’s Medicine Show supply versus your solo material?

GL: It’s grapefruits and gasoline. I have total creative freedom in my own realm and Old Crow is a band with a lot of writers. I’ve been wanting to tour my own songs for a while. I’ve been my own mistress for a long time, and I think I’m ready to marry me now.

MR: At what point did you decide it was time to record solo material separate from Old Crow’s Medicine Show?

GL: I was making records years before I ever met the Old Crow guys, so I never really stopped doing it. I’ve made three solo records and many others under my tenure with Old Crow, and I’ll be making them until I’m dead or the electricity goes out.

MR: What advice do you have for new or emerging artists?

GL: Don’t call yourself an artist, let other people call you an artist. Let your work prove you. Make good work. In writing and recording I’d say it’s better to take your time and make something meaningful and as great as you can because it’s going to precede you and follow you, and if it’s not your best, it will haunt you. Half-assed anything is a waste of everyone’s time. Never rush a piece of work you believe in if you don’t smash it out how you want it. If you deeply care about the work, in the end, no amount of money or convenience is worth rushing a record you’ll end up hating that has your name on it.

I’d also say it’s all a process that only has passing goals, no finish line. You have to do it simply for the love of doing of it. Keep that in the front of your mind. I would say that the art life isn’t something that you do, it is what you do/what you are and become, and if you’re really in it that’s where the true satisfaction lies, in the living of it.

MR: What do you think is the state of folk and bluegrass these days?

GL: I don’t really think about it at all. I think people should do whatever pleases them and keep an open mind. Works for me anyway. Traditionalists about genres can be a so rigid and blinded by their expectations. I’ve always felt that people who are strict traditionalists about any genre are like religious people who never questions god, it’s narrow and robotic and I’m not interested in it at all. Like Louis Armstrong said, “There’s is two kinds of music. The good and the bad,” and that’s subjective. Dig what you dig.

MR: What does the ideal future for your musical career and life look like right now?

GL: It’s a process and a happening, so I hope it looks a lot like what I’m doing right now. It’s changing all the time and I wouldn’t change a thing.

MR: Are you happy?

GL: I’m better than happy, I’m free.

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