Influences can come in a variety of forms: the wisdom of others, personal experience, a natural talent or passion. For Steve Gunn, his have hit him from every direction: working with Kurt Vile, the events of his own life, and a knack for music that has evolved into a prowess that is unmatched. Following the release of his highly-anticipated record, Gunn discusses the intricacies of the stimuli that drive him and unfold on The Unseen In Between.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?
Steady, descriptive, contemplative, guitar-driven, dark, positive, hopeful, humorous, serious, character-driven, new and old.
Over your career you’ve collaborated with a number of talented musicians. How have these collaborations shaped or influenced your own works?
I really enjoy exchanging ideas and feeding off of the input of someone else’s playing. That kind of exchange always puts me in a challenging place, and it’s often when I come up with the best ideas. I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with some people I really admire, and I’ve learned a lot from them.
What was your writing and recording process like for The Unseen In Between?
It’s the longest time I’ve spent on writing an album. I was on the road quite a bit leading up to it, and afterwards I gave myself the proper amount of time to really see these songs through. I tend to move pretty quickly when coming up with songs, and this time I took it a bit slower. I went to the same place every day and worked even when I felt like I had nothing. Eventually, these songs came into being after some time.
How do you feel The Unseen In Between differs from your previous albums?
I feel like this album is more realized for me from a songwriting and engineering perspective. I gave myself time and space to write and revise these songs. I also had the opportunity to work with some great musicians and engineers that I haven’t worked with in the past. Tony Garnier, who plays bass in Bob Dylan’s band, played on the record and on top of being an amazing musician, he was super encouraging. I worked at studio called Strange Weather in Brooklyn with the Engineer Daniel Schlett, who also was super encouraging and played a huge role in the albums sound.
On the album one of your tracks, “Stonehurst Cowboy,” is written from the perspective of your father. How did you get yourself into the mindset of your father to create it?
I wanted to write a tribute song for him, and I thought it would be interesting to revisit his old neighborhood through his own eyes — kind of trying to tell the story for him.
It’s a reflective and contemplative song, and I think speaking from his perspective in a few of the lines provides a closer feeling of what I’m trying to convey.
One of your new tracks, “Luciano,” is about a bodega cat. That has to be one of the most niche topics for a song! Where did that inspiration come from?
Ha, well it’s a figurative song, and I am using these two characters to ultimately represent a nurturing relationship.
In addition to the individual song’s themes and lyrics, your guitar-work on the record has been the subject of praise from Rolling Stone to NPR. Do you consider yourself first a foremost a guitarist who also happens to be a singer/songwriter? What do you credit your aptness to: a natural talent or years of practice?
For a long time, I thought of my guitar playing and singing somewhat separately, but for this album I really felt that they were more equal. That may sound strange, but it’s been a long road for me to gather. I didn’t want to overplay on parts too much on this album, and I focused on how my vocals fit in with the song more this time around…
What are you most excited for on your upcoming tour?
I’m excited to get out there and play these songs with the band. It’s the most enjoyable aspect of making records.
Catch Steve Gunn performing live on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at The Bowery Ballroom.