"Bend, Oregon- LOUDgirl productions is excited to announce that internationally-touring folk artist Gregory Alan Isakov will be performing in Bend on Saturday, April 16th. The show will take place at The Poet House downtown and will be 21 years of age and older. The show will feature one local opener and one nationally-touring opener, to be announced soon. The show begins at 9 p.m. and tickets will be $10 presale (currently available on www.bendticket.com) and $12 at the door. Tickets purchased presale will ensure priority, reserved seating.
The majority of proceeds from this performance will benefit the Poet House, which provides arts education and creativity empowerment to central Oregon in a myriad of integral ways. For more information on the Poet House and its programs.
About Gregory Alan Isakov:
"Writing and performing is a mystery to me," explains singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gregory Alan Isakov. "I try to get myself out of the way as much as I can." This Empty Northern Hemisphere is Isakov's latest collection of songs in which he conjures the miracles and heartaches of day to day living then transforms them into melodies, with a serious commitment to songcraft and musicianship.
"The record for me is about traveling a lot, leaving things behind and feeling like the whole world's been pulled out from beneath you," he says. Isakov composed the songs for This Empty Northern Hemisphere following his relocation from the Colorado wilds to the town of Boulder. The period also marked the beginning of a new creative cycle for the 28-year-old singer songwriter, who combines his personal past with poetry to create a musically visceral present.
"I've always liked song-based old-time music along with '70s-string-section-jazz-type things. I think it all creeps into my songs. But then I was Pearl Jam's biggest fan too," he laughs.
Born in South Africa, Isakov's family immigrated to the US in opposition to the apartheid. "My parents took a lot of risks in leaving. The experience instilled in me the feeling that life is quality not quantity based." Isakov was seven when they settled in the Philadelphia area, a time he describes as understandably challenging for the family, though he personally felt at home in his new multi-cultural environment. Since that time he's been a traveler. "I've lived in so many different places; I don't feel indigenous to anywhere."
Raised on his parents' music collection that consisted of two records, Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits and We Are The World, Isakov says, "I listened to those records a thousand times each." He played jazz saxophone at school but eventually gravitated to his older brother's electric guitar. "I think it stuck because I never took lessons--and there was no teacher in my head when I played."
As a teen he attended folk festivals and was impressed by songsmiths Greg Brown and Dar Williams, but it was Bruce Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad that proverbially changed his life. "That was a big one for me. There was a mood to the record I was completely blown away by. Listening to these writers closely, one day I had the realization that these people had no idea what a big part of my life they were and how they'd created the soundtrack to it." It wasn't long after his epiphany that Isakov began to create his own music.
Moving to Colorado in 1999 to study horticulture, he simultaneously embarked on a career as an acoustic singer-songwriter. He debuted with the gentle Rust Colored Stones in 2003 and followed with the haunting Songs for October (2005) and the Celtic-influenced That Sea, The Gambler (2007).
It was while touring that he caught the attention of Americana singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who liked what she heard and passed on Isakov's music to Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. "He's a really great writer and really raw. His voice is just putting it out there. There's no affectation or pretension. It's like punk folk," says Ray.
In 2008, the Denver publication Westword named him their Best Acoustic Folk Artist. The previous year he was given the paper's Best of Denver Singer-Songwriter award; they called him "a rootsier Glen Phillips channeling Kelly Joe Phelps."
Isakov feels an artistic kinship with folks like Phelps (he admires his ability to merge heaviness with humor) as well as Carlile, who offered to sing and record parts of This Empty Northern Hemisphere at her studio. The pair also cut Leonard Cohen's "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong," as a duet. "I think it's one of the most beautiful songs in the world," says Isakov. "It was a struggle for me to see how I could make it better--so I tried to make it as different as I could."
Isakov co-produced the album at various locations with Jamie Mefford who also engineered and is credited with God Noises. He's accompanied throughout by his band, the Freight: Jen Gilleran (drums), Jeb Bows (violin) and Phil Parker (cello). Isakov plays guitars, banjo, piano and harmonica, among other instruments.
The record opens with "Dandelion Wine." "I don't think I've ever spent longer on a song, even though it's only a few lines," explains Isakov of the song's distilled verses. He wrote the beautifully minimalist arrangement, "Words," with his younger brother. The Tibetan Book of the Dead inspired the winsome "Idaho;" "Evelynne" and "If I Go I'm Goin'" are story songs, in time-honored singer-songwriter tradition.
"There were moments while making the new album that were so different than anything I've done before. I thought, 'Greg, are you seriously putting this out?' It feels way bigger to me, more rock'n'roll," he says. "Everyone I've ever listened to made it into the record--It's like a traveling circus." And Isakov is its truth and beauty-seeking ringmaster.