Gregory and the Hawk
Ash Akhtar 29/09/2008
Prior to the release of her debut album, 'Moeni and Kitchi,' on Fat Cat records. Gregory and the Hawk's very lovely and talented Meredith Godreau dropped into GIITTV towers for a chat with our very own Ash Akhtar.
As a singer-songwriter, a term I'm sure you're keen to get away from, could you tell us a little bit about the creative process of working with producer Adam Pierce?
As much as I shy away from the term because of external factors/popular negative connotations, it really is the most appropriate way I'd describe what I like to do - which is to write songs and sing them. I also really appreciate a person to collaborate with on arrangements and production in the same way anybody loves a good cover song.
With just a form, some chords (maybe stick to the original chords, maybe not), and some lyrics, you've got a song that can really become anything. I approached the recording process this time around with a very open mind - sort of like letting another person "cover" my songs. When we went in, I had just met Adam a month or two before and had only heard Mice Parade's most recent album 'Mice Parade.' I was so excited about the drumming and the overall vibe of that record, I was sorta like "Here ya go dude, I know you'll make it awesome.'
We had never worked together before this, but it turned out he was very sensitive to sounds I liked, and the direction I wanted to go with the record, so it was a two way street. At the same time, I was pushed to accept bigger guitar sounds and more percussive elements. Everything was pretty in-the-moment, without a plan.
Originally, in fact, we thought we would just try out demos of some of the songs to see if an album would work. Over the course of months though, changing each song slightly, then allowing them to near completion, we were starting to see the whole record, where everything would go, and how it would fit, dropping ideas from earlier and so on... it was just a 'let's see' thing and as it became more clear that it was satisfying, we would move on from there. He's quite visionary you know!
I remember a day I went into the studio after a couple weeks of letting him work on stuff by himself and he played me a chorus in 'voice like a bell' and I loved it and he said "Great, I know what you like now!" After that, pieces just kept falling into place.
A certain part of the YouTube community have a relationship with some of your songs ('Boats and Birds' particularly) - can you tell us a bit about how that evolved, and how it makes you feel to have (mostly young, female, American) strangers covering your songs?
It's funny to me that 'Boats and Birds' was somehow doted upon by other people. It's a simple song and has a message, so those are good elements. But on the other hand, it is not a famous song, so it's hard for me to know exactly what makes the videos come up. Inside, i feel very, very grateful and, I suppose, in a way, fulfilled that that one song means something to many people.
For me, when I wrote it, it was an important song. Now, it marks a different era of my guitar playing that was essential to the time, but very different from how I play now. I like that it is covered mostly by girls, and I like that the song follows me around still, because originally it was a song about having to let go of somebody you love. But now there are people who feel the song just as I wrote it, coming back and covering it. Kinda like "thanks, but not letting go," so what was and still is a part of me is now shared. I like the healing side of it.
Do you have a favourite of these cover versions?
Oh yes, when i first realized people were covering it, I found this one and I still love it
You list your influences as Nick Drake, Liz Phair and PJ Harvey - yet you've covered Beyonce's stirring 'Irreplacable.' Any particular reason?
I'm unsure I could ever cover somebody whose music really got to me. They are the untouchables. I use all the inspiration they give me to cover other things. Irreplaceable is a bomb song, I just wanted to see how it would feel in the acoustic guitar realm.
Not having support from a major label seems to not have done you any harm, would you consider yourself an example of what can be achieved with social networking and talent - or is there more to your independent success than that?
I have long thoughts with myself and discussions with others about dreams, hopes for the future, the definition of success, and "What should we do with our lives?" I'm enchanted by the topic - trying to make sense of happening in your life and such. I don't know if there's any success or any end where one could evaluate success. Neither money nor major labels can buy you love.
Can we expect to see you here in the UK in the near future and will you be bringing a full band as accompaniment?
Full band is an elusive one, I've been doing a lot of work as a duo with Mike McGuire on guitar too, and that should see some UK time hopefully this fall along with the Moenie and Kitchi release.
Finally, no album is complete without artwork - and the 'Moenie and Kitchi sleeve' is one that piqued my interest; did you have a hand in producing it?
This artwork is so unbelievably fine! I can only say that because it is the soul creation of Dave Thomas, art guy for Fat Cat. I met him over the phone one day, he's such a wonderful guy on the phone, and we talked about colors, time periods, collage, old photos, and family. We did this once, and then a few emails, and all of a sudden he comes out with a brilliant design. It was everything I was into but didn't know it yet. Everybody at fat cat says Dave is the best and it's true; mad respect! I feel honored to have his beautiful design attributed to the music.
'Moenie and Kitchi' is out through Fat Cat records on the 13th of October.