Interview With Kevin Gant

Kevin Gant is a super unique singer, songerwriter and guitar poet based in Austin, Texas. He's kinda flamenco, guitar folky, sorta cosmic but also topical and realtime. He was the focus of the Duplass Brothers' excellent documentary "kevin", has released a few really interesting albums that are available to purchase and published a great collection of songs on Youtube.

So, you’ve shifted from releasing an album to releasing songs online to doing this sort of stream of consciousness looking Youtube videos. Are they really stream of consciousness and how do you see them compared to your older work that was a little more standard in song structure or album structure?

What's crazy is, lots of my friends from back in the day, think 'the original meditator album ('93) was stream of consciousness, and my new stuff is more standard.  From my perspective, I'm currently interested in writing tons of spontaneous content. 

So, whenever the mood strikes me, or something resonates or trends on twitter, if I can make a creative contribution, I write a spontaneous song, with little or no thought & instantly record & upload to youtube, using my laptop.  I'm altering the video effect, simply to hide the fact that I'm sitting on my bed, I don't have any real audio equipment, and I'm too lazy to put a shirt on!

What’s your writing or working process like these days and how has it changed?

My writing process has changed dramatically!  Out of necessity, I now write songs spontaneously, or really quick.  This is why I've been constantly posting videos on twitter. Whenever the mood strikes, I feel I must write either a spontaneous guitar poem or a short basic song.  

Everyone that I've met over the past few years, that's having any success with their art, all have the ability to create art constantly (Prince is the perfect example of this, music & creativity constantly poured out of him.)  It used to take me several years to complete1 album, 12 to 14 songs.  Now, I'm discovering the ability to write songs in 15 to 30 mins!  Now, for me, it's more about having a creative conversation in the moment, than it's about slowly, patiently attempting to write the perfect song.

From your Life Is A Song collection, "Sexy Punches" was one of my favorites. What exactly is it about, though? Is it literal?

About a month before Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey, a saw a female fighting in the octagon (I think she was Brazilian) She was sooooo fiiiiiine!  So the song just popped up in my head, and I recorded it, in 1 take.  Then I saw Holly Holm win in the octagon and fell deeply in love (she's married, so I know there's absolutely no chance for us.  If she ever gets a fathead poster, I would buy it!)

You’re in Austin, but you left for quite a while and came back. How is the city changing, especially compared to when you were first starting out there - and does it have a different influence on your creativity now than it used to?

In 1988, when I first arrived, Austin was teeming with all original music.  Mind blowing original talent.  For some reason, artists would gravitate to Austin, because of it's healing quality.  This area was considered sacred ground to the native American Indians, way back in the day.  

This is a long conversation, but I think it's due to Barton Springs, The potential magnetic, healing effect of the water, moving through the mountains & underground, taking years to resurface at the place we call Barton Springs.  Anyway, tons of condo's and a new, metro style is taking over.  

The prevailing view is that this is negative & sad, and artists are moving away.  I choose to see things differently.  As a hopeless optimist, I think it's an enormous opportunity for Austin artists to stay here & pour their heart and soul into their art, sharing their music here, in Austin, for anyone with 'ears to hear'!

The Austin issue is interesting. Alejandro Escovedo wrote a song with a line like, “Austin’s changed, it’s true - but tell me what hasn’t.”  I really liked that. Anyway, only slightly related - any other cities you particularly love the vibe of and would be near the top of your list if you were going to theoretically relocate at some point?

This is a hard one.  I toured 30 film festivals in 2011/12 with Jay Duplass' 'kevin' documentary & every city had a music scene.  Santa Fe, Tuscon, Sarasota, South Dakota, Portland, Kelowna Canada, the list go's on & on.  Many of the cities, I actually regretting leaving, so I was actually imagining myself touring in my own way:  

Staying in each city, several weeks, playing several shows, or busking on the street, before moving on to the next city...

I know you do some busking sometimes, what’s that like and how much of this new, spontaneous material you were just discussing do you play? Does the spontaneous material ever come from situations like that and does it play differently from some of the older more deliberated on songs?

When Jay emailed me about the documentary, I hadn't performed regularly in 15 years.  The way the film festival tour worked, The documentary played in the theater, then I showed up in front of the audience, right after the credits rolled, surprising the audience.  Sometimes the theater was packed.  

There I was, with no p.a, or mic, performing live for several 100 folks!  Thankfully, theater acoustics are usually good and after I played a few songs, I answered questions, then played 1 final song.  But, I realized that I was rusty.  What had become so natural to me in the early 90's, performing live, was now something semi-foreign.  I actually started busking in 2012, when the festival tour ended, in order to get used to playing in front of lots of people.  

I discovered that it's one thing to play in a club or a theater when people are coming to see you & know who you are. It's entirely another to perform your songs raw on the street when you're unfamiliar to them & I may not be their cup of tea.  I've gained leaps & bounds in my singing, performing & live guitar playing, by performing on the street.  I'm slowly building a repertoire of street songs.  Any song that you have, whether tried and true or spontaneous & new, is going to be performed differently & have a different personality, on the street.  

The fact is, no matter how life affirming & world changing any particular song may be, people are going to walk by, usually while talking or texting on their phone.  It's been a fun challenge, over these past few years, to learn how to pour my heart out to them anyway, singing through their ignoring, performing to the back of their head, after they walk by...Now, to my surprise, often times, they'll stop dead in their tracks, turn around, start listening, open their wallets & purses, and tip me MONEY!

In the documentary, when I saw you live and in lots of press photos you're wearing an identical "Fitness" shirt. Is it really the same shirt?

I lived in Venice Beach for about 2 years (2010,2011)  The Gold's Gym there, has lots of hardcore, I mean really hardcore, bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness buffs.  1 of them, I met at the gym, was starting his own fitness apparel line.  I am so approachable so he was constantly trying to sell me his shirts.  I had a chunk of money then, so I bought like 20 shirts.  I've got like 8 left now, and I've isolated myself from society to the point where these are the only shirts I own or wear.  They're so easy to wash in the sink and they dry quickly, and I'm lazy and broke.

Do you have any morning or evening rituals or habits that are particularly important to your creativity or your sort of mental/spiritual balance?

Right now, it's all guitar & singing.  I never go anywhere without my guitar, that's the ritual, guitar & singing.  For the first time in my life, I actually have to do this, for my sanity & healing.  I've had friends, fellow artists, songwriters, talk to me about how they had to do this.  

For me, I had this natural talent & I wanted to 'make it', so I was playing open mic's so someone would maybe hear me, then I would 'make it'.  Now, I truly don't believe I can 'make it', I'm not sure if I can 'make it' through this life, if I don't speak up, if I don't have something to say, singing & playing guitar.

Favorite album, book, and movie? Any particular reason?

Off the top of my head, I would have to say 'Purple Rain' (Although I absolutely love anything Stevie Wonder!)  I first heard Prince in 1979, I was a senior in High School.  I was blown away by his talent & the fact that he was just three years older than me & he was in the top 40, with hit after hit.  

Two years later, I was in the Air Force, his 2nd album came out, then came 1999, then 'Purple Rain' the movie, the album, Grammy's & Oscar's!!  He was a creative, revolutionary spirit, for his entire adult life.  He worked his dream come true & It came true for him, at age 18.  I'm 54 and still harnessing the confidence to pursue my dream.  Prince's untimely passing is causing me to realize that all I will have to show for my life's dream is my art, my songs, my voice.  Not, number 1 hits, not movies, not stardom, simply songs...

Follow Kevin on Twitter and Facebook and tell him thank you for the great tunes.