Hi Gregg, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been great, thanks. Just arrived in Rome, which is pretty exciting. I’ve spent a bit of time in Europe, but I’ve never been here.
From all the songs out there, why did you choose to cover David Bowie’s “Starman”?
I dove pretty deep into Bowie’s discography, as I did with nearly all of the artists I covered for TwentySixteen. I definitely learned the most from Bowie’s catalogue. His chord progressions felt kind of alien to my all-American writing sensibilities, and his melodies are really unique and interesting, so quintessentially “Bowie”. He has so many classic songs, but when I got to “Starman”, it just suddenly felt like the right track to cover. I can simply say I chose the songs that I felt in my heart and responded to on that level, but with “Starman”, there was also a tone to the song that felt both sad and hopeful, which were probably the two core emotions that seemed to sum-up the whole feel of the album.
Any plans to release a music video for this cover?
Oh, I dont know. We have some footage from the recording sessions, but not enough for a full video. I should get on that. Maybe I can shoot something while I am here in Italy?
The single comes off your new cover album TwentySixteen – what’s the story behind the title?
The record is a celebration of the artists we lost last year in 2016. It was a tough year for music fans. I wanted to celebrate the stunning work that these iconic musicians and songwriters left behind. I guess, at the end of the day, it’s kind of my love letter to many of my musical heroes.
How did you come up with the idea for this record?
Last year I recorded my first album as a solo artist. It was recorded over the course of the whole year, in-between other projects. I was excited about the material and the band we assembled, but every session was colored by the news of losing another iconic musician. It just felt like it was one after another. Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Prince, and it just kept going every few weeks, ending with George Michael over Christmas. At the close of the year, I wanted to celebrate their work. I just wasn’t ready to move on, I guess.
How was the recording and re-writing process?
I think more time was spent on finding the right song than was spent recording it. For the most part, once I found the song that worked for me, we moved fast. Friends came by along the way, and sang their hearts out with me, and it was generally a very smooth process as far as most records go.
What was the criteria at the time of picking up what songs to cover?
At the end of the day, it just came down to what spoke to my heart and felt like a song I could do justice to, given my limited range and abilities.
What was the approach you were after with this album? How much freedom did you gave to yourself?
My focus was to simply capture an honest performance that was both reverent to the artist’s original, while also striving to find my own authentic voice within the song. I gave myself whatever freedom and permission needed to get to that place, whether it was changing the key, or reworking the arrangement.
Besides the original sources, did you draw inspirations from other bands?
Only the bands that tend to influence me as an artist, and probably show up in nearly everything I do… Springsteen, The Band, The Faces, Van Morrison, stuff like that.
Any plans to hit the road?
Well, I’d love to, but there’s nothing on the books yet. We’re working on getting it all together and will definitely post dates at my website and on my Instagram as soon as they’re inked.
What else is happening next in Gregg Stewart’s world?