Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Come on Over”?
“Come on Over” is the opening track on my new record. When writing this song, I was thinking about how you can see relationships as a series of connections – or misconnections – that typically start with an invitation. Like inviting someone over to listen to music or read books or stare into your eyes. All of these invitations have the potential to open the door to something deep and lasting. Also, being the first song on the album, “Come on Over” serves as an invitation to the listener to join me on this journey.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Not really, the song’s first line just popped into my head one day while working on songwriting exercises. “Come on over, I’ll cook some chicken. The way you like it – finger lickin’.” From there, I continued to riff on different scenarios. One thing I like about this song is that you don’t know if the invitations are accepted or not. By the end, when I repeat “come on over” during Carly Bond’s outstanding guitar solo, you might even think I’m pleading for someone – anyone? – to accept my invitation! Will they come over or not?
The single comes off your new album What’s in the Meaning of That Cloud in the Sky – what’s the story behind the title?
It comes from a line in my song “Tell It Like It Is.” I was thinking about how sometimes you look at a cloud and it takes on a familiar shape. In a sense the song is a contemplation about the meaning of what we see and say to each other – and maybe you could see it as a song about the meaning of life itself. Then again, sometimes a cloud is just a cloud.
How was the recording and writing process?
I’m a writer. That’s what I do for work. So, I tend to incorporate the traits that make me a successful writer into the songwriting and recording process. For this record, I spent a lot of time refining the lyrics before recording demos. Then I recorded and re-recorded the demos until I was happy with them. I then wrote a detailed creative brief to provide direction for myself and the band. And I surrounded myself with amazing talent, including John Vanderslice as producer and a group of world-class musicians at Tiny Telephone. Once we started recording, I was smart enough to stay out of the way of JV and the musicians and let them do their thing. This record is the result of creative collaboration and deep trust between me and the Tiny Telephone crew. And I’m hugely grateful to everyone for their contributions.
Was this always meant to be a somewhat philosophical record or did it rather evolve into this?
I don’t view the album as overly philosophical. Okay, maybe the title leans in that direction. But, like I said earlier, sometimes a cloud is just a cloud. As a songwriter, I enjoy how my lyrics on this album cover a range of subjects. I take a stand on some important issues like war and gun violence. But I also try not to take myself too seriously. You’ll find a fair share of dark humor and absurdity in my writing. I’m also hopelessly romantic, so that comes through, too. Overall, I like how the lyrics showcase the diversity of the material and the quirkiness of my writing.
What role does San Francisco play in your music?
As a native San Franciscan who’s lived in or around the city my entire life, I see San Francisco as playing a huge role in my music, my writing, and my life. Yes, San Francisco is evolving in ways that can infuriate me, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather live. I recently watched “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.” And I love the line toward the end of the film when the main character politely interrupts two bus riders who are ripping the city and says, “You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.” That pretty much sums up my attitude toward those who criticize San Francisco.
What aspect of life and society did you get to explore on this record?
Some of my songs are commentaries on modern life and the world as I see it. Some are dead serious. Some are strangely funny and tinged with dark humor. Some look back at times gone by. And many come with a twist at the end like a good short story. I like to spin gold from the absurd. And I like it when a listener says, “how’d you ever come up with that?” Like a grasshopper in a love song. Or a reminder to pack your hand grenade. Hey, maybe this is a philosophical album.
Any plans to hit the road?
Not right now. I play shows in San Francisco every now and then, but my main focus is on writing songs and short stories. That said, if someone wants to fund an all-expenses-paid gig to Antibes, I’m ready to pack my guitar and hop on a plane.
What else is happening next in Greg Roensch’s world?
I’m excited about writing new songs, including one about how Chernobyl has become a tourist destination. Also, I was struck recently by a flash of inspiration – you might even call it an epiphany – while visiting the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, and I’m in the process of digesting that experience and possibly using it as a basis for my next album. It’s a grand, ambitious idea. Let’s see if I can pull it off! When I’m not writing songs, I like to write flash fiction and am compiling the follow-up to my 2017 story collection, Breakfast with the Alien and Other Short, Short Stories. So, yes, I have a few creative pies in the oven.
Listen to What’s in the Meaning of That Cloud in the Sky here: