Monday, July 3, 2017

Gretchen Seichrist, The Lonesome Kid and The Last Days of Sugar

I met Gretchen Seichrist in 2014 at an event at Seichrist's Even Break Gallery that featured music, art and motivational speaker John Geenen. While driving back to Duluth from the Twin Cities I listened to her CD Even Breaks. It didn't take long to recognize that she was producing original music that had force behind it. Some of the songs are still with me.

Her newest release is titled The Last Days of Sugar. There's nothing saccharine here. References to Rousseau and Prospero, the "circling human boat" and the end of special treatment, haggard pledges and alcohol and recovery and painful imagery that doesn't quite fit our pop 40 highlight reel. One reviewer called her music a mix of "art punk and blues and folk and a sort of scatting" which adds up to something not easily defined but intended to be experienced and digested, "deep powerful moving stuff from a unique voice."

EN: Where do your songs come from?

Gretchen Seichrist: Sometimes songs come delivered. I might just wake up and I hear the words or music and the main frame of the song is there. Other times, it’s like I can feel various elements floating around from things I have been thinking about, or read that resonated or witnessed.

Many times there is an invisible theme running through a time period and catching the pieces of it from air is the song. There is a more straight forward way which is just writing to someone, somewhere. It might be from my perspective or I might assume another. I have a broad view of what is a love song. Most importantly, the song has to be unembarrassed about who it is.

EN: You address the darkness in our world, and I hear a lot of pain. I get the feeling that some of your songs will move people out of their comfort zones.

GS: That’s interesting. I feel like we are all indoctrinated so much to be ashamed of our reactions to the pain and darkness around us. I think that results in our isolation with certain approved outlets of expression.

A lot of times that comes even in creative expression there is a sort of a collective unspoken agreement that that expression will be in a sort of generalized voice. I hear that in a lot of music. I guess more in white artists. I just feel like there’s no reason not to reveal and use my lived life to talk about the world. It doesn’t mean it’s just about me but it’s okay to show my human extremes out there. I know that my point of view is unique because I don’t hear it. It might help someone, somehow. If it gets heard.

EN: There's a lot of variety in the accompaniment. Do you write the music or work it out with your musicians in the studio?

"Havoc of the Buddha"
GS: I write the music on my guitar or with another musician. If I need something in a song, I will go and find it but it’s always subject to change. I wouldn’t be able to work any other way. I might have a song that was completely one way and then in the studio or on stage rip it apart, throw it away or change it dramatically and keep only one thing from it. I have learned to listen to my intuition first. That’s always been challenging working with some male musicians. Those male rock and rollers can be really rigid... lots of mansplaining about why this or that won’t work. I finally got fed up and went to Mississippi to record my last two albums. You know it’s bad in Minnesota when you have to go to Mississippi to get some equality.

I searched and found a studio in Water Valley, Ms. and called the guy up and knew this was the place. That was Dial Back Sound and the guy was Bronson Tew. He worked with me and also his studio partner, Matt Patton. They both produced the albums. They were the intuitive risk-takers that I needed for the work. They are crazy-ass good musicians and they have the passion and energy that is essential for art.

I put up with way too much sexist crap because I was trying to be fair to everyone’s voice. Most of the time time they were just lazy thinkers. I am a hard worker. Now, it’s what would Bob (Dylan) or (Nina) do? Get out of my way. I’ve paid the price and the price is life.

EN: You've had a challenging year with lyme disease or something? How're you doing? Will you be performing again soon?

GS: Yes, I have Lyme disease and co-infections called bartonella and babesia. I got it in October 2015 in St. Paul, Minnesota. My 15 year old daughter has it too. We have a typical story of mistreatment in getting a diagnosis, inadequate testing, and hostility and gas-lighting from the medical establishment. I became severely ill and was unable to walk for awhile. I was also aware during the time that the disease was disseminated throughout my body and affecting my heart, nervous system and as I was losing function, I saw that my daughter was showing symptoms.

It was a horror movie where nobody believes you about the alien or blob that is going to kill everyone.

The trauma inflicted on people with Lyme from the ignorance, bias and politics of the medical establishment and insurance companies will come to light. Treatment for Lyme is not covered by insurance and the information given out to the public from the CDC is about as accurate as from a witch trial. I stopped listening to them pretty quick and that’s how I saved my life. Then it was and still is a bewildering puzzle to healing. It’s a complex disease and healing must be driven by respect for the people suffering. It is also epidemic now all over the country. You can thank environmental destruction for the increase in tick borne and many other pathogens being released. If we are not going to rise up and stop the psychopaths from poisoning everything then at least we better put our arms around each other while we succumb. My personal choice is to get my strength back to rise up and put my arms around those that need.

EN: Parris Island is about the marine recruiting station in South Carolina. How did you come to write about this?

GS: The song Parris Island takes its name from the recruiting station. This is the beginning and end point of the song’s story about a runaway girl and a marine in boot camp. Okay, I’m the girl. Maybe I’m the guy too. It’s looking back at it and thinking, because at the time there was no time to think.

EN: Are you still painting? Where are you showing your work?

GS: I became too ill to paint and to perform music. I had a large amount of work from before the illness that I show sometimes. I will paint again. As for music, the next album is forming in my head and I will find a way. I am going to be performing for the first time in 2 years, 4 songs on MPR in August. I’m sure it will be unlike the me that was before, and that’s right.

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You'll find her music here at TheLonesomeKid.

You can check out her paintings here at GretchenSeichrist.com.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it.

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