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Gregory Alan Isakov goes wherever the songs take him

Gregory Alan Isakov
Rebecca Caridad
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Courtesy of the artist
Gregory Alan Isakov

For Gregory Alan Isakov, there's an inherent partnership built into songwriting. He refers to his songs not as products of his own creativity but as collaborators. Sometimes, they disagree with him.

"They're just like 'Eff you, we're not gonna do that. We're gonna be this kind of song,' " he says. "It feels like a living thing when you're making a record."

That friction sparked his latest album, Appaloosa Bones. Isakov wanted to follow up his 2018 record, Evening Machines, with a sparser sound. Inspired by his travels in West Texas, he began writing and recording in the studio in his barn near Boulder, Colo.

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But as he tried to strip down his songs to their bare elements, the music evolved in ways he hadn't anticipated.

"I thought I was gonna make something very lo-fi, very simple. Almost like a lo-fi rock and roll record. I wanted old silver tones that are double amped and kind of dirty," Isakov says. "Then, the songs sort of presented themselves to me. It's sort of a co-creative process for me. I just follow along."

In this session, Isakov talks about what that record became; his approach to songwriting; and leaving just enough space for your interpretation of what those songs mean. Plus, he performs live for World Cafe.

Copyright 2023 XPN

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Stephen Kallao
[Copyright 2024 XPN]
Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.