An interview with Seattle’s Graig Markel on his new record

Seattle singer, songwriter and producer Graig Markel’s new self-titled solo album is finally here. Last summer tracks from Markel’s new project started to surface on SoundCloud.com and they sounded amazing. After six months or so the waiting is over and Graig did not disappoint. He broke me down with the very first song “Life on the Moon” and that voice didn’t let up for the rest of the album.

I have been listening to the album for two weeks now and I love it. When I try to describe it to friends the only words that I can think to use are warm, sincere, and beautiful. From start to finish the album is just that.

Earlier this month Graig celebrated the release of his new album with a two night release party at his home studio the Recovery Room and I was lucky enough to attend. Shortly after that I got the chance to speak with Graig about the release party, the new album and where it all came from. Check out the interview below and all the way at the bottom there is a video of Graig performing the song “My Last Words” from his new record.

Me: Had you been putting material together for a while with the aim of making a new album or did you just decide one day that you wanted to start working on a new solo project?

Graig: I just decided one day that I was going to do a new solo project. I was working on Animals at Night stuff for a long time then we took this trip to hawaii in May. I knew it was something I wanted to do. Then while I was in Hawaii I just got real inspired and I was playing a lot of acoustic guitar. When I got back I just decided I was going to put this Animals at Night record on hold and start working on this solo thing. I was really inspired at the time to do it and that’s when most of the songs were written. I’d say 80% of the record came out in the month after that trip. I think it’s probably one of the quickest records I’ve ever recorded.

Me: When you were doing the Animals at Night project were there things coming up in your mind that you wanted to do and felt like it was more just for you?

Graig: I think it’s a case of the grass is always greener on the other side. I am lucky to have a lot of projects that I work on that are all pretty diverse. My solo stuff which is this kind of soulful acoustic thing, then Animals at Night which is totally electronic and Dead Ship Sailing which has more of a rock element to it. I get to do stuff with Head Like a Kite as well and that’s different too.

I guess when I’m working on something I’m like “man, this is really cool. I can’t wait till this is done now” and then I do something that’s a complete 180 and totally different. So now I’m really in Dead Ship Sailing mode and I’m hoping to get out that new record in April. I have a fire under my butt to work on stuff lately.

Me: What was it like having the two night release party at your home studio and where did that idea come from?

Graig: I got the idea to have it there because a few months ago we had Kristin Hersh do an acoustic thing here in the studio. I was kind of hoping to do the same thing. It was so much like it and it was awesome. In some ways it was even better because the Kristin Hersh thing was a trial run. We had never done anything like that before with a live show in the studio and tried to record it as well. For my shows I took a day dialing everything in and it all sounded great.

One of the really cool things about it is that rather than play in a bar setting where everyone is so distracted and talking and having drinks or aren’t there to see you, with an acoustic show where you’re playing your soft songs it can be hard. This was just a really cool way to present it to people, people who were there to watch it. They were there to drink and have fun too but it felt like a small theater almost. It kind of made me think about doing more stuff like that.

Me: My favorite song on the record is “Life on the Moon,” which you open with, and the whole album flows really well.

Graig: That’s actually the first song I wrote for the album and I wrote it in Hawaii. As a matter of fact the whole album with the exception of two tracks were all written and recorded in order. I thought it was pretty amazing that it flowed so well like that. It’s something I dwell on a lot, the order of tracks. There was really none of that. I wrote song, I recorded it. Next song. It wasn’t till the 8th and 9th song that I thought about switching them around.

I don’t really think about where lyrics come from till afterwords. I think about them while I write and rewrite but for the most part I try to keep lyrics simple and about the timeframe I’m working in. The whole record seems a little sad but the weird thing is I wasn’t sad at all. I had a really great year last year and the whole time I was recording that record it felt great. To go back and listen to it I think “these songs are really sad” and it’s weird because I wasn’t.

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