Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
I chatted with Gavin Stuart on the phone about the origins of his musical passion, his process for writing songs and how he recharges his creative batteries.
Gavin explains that he grew up in a musical family. His mother taught music at the elementary school level and exposed both Gavin and his brother to an eclectic selection of music when they were growing up. He explains, “It was nice to have that resource from our mom. She was very supportive but not pushy. She was there for us but she definitely didn’t force us into anything. We came up through the public school system playing music and doing music programs.”
Although he dabbled in song writing in high school, he didn't really make an emotional connection with writing songs until he was working as a pilot in some remote areas. He says, “Trying to write a song as teenager seemed like something very conscious and almost forced. A number of years after high school, I tapped into what I refer to as the emotional undercurrent that connects songs with a wide variety of audiences.”
It was the intersection between Gavin’s career as a pilot and his musical interests that first spurred him into taking songwriting more seriously. He explains, “Aviation is a high stress career. It’s a passion that I’ve pursued and I’ve achieved a fair number of my goals in that field. I was on my own in a situation with some emotional turmoil relationship-wise and job-wise, so the music was an outlet. It’s funny how the experiences I had in my aviation career pushed me back to my roots in a new context of writing my own material.”
Although he takes his music very seriously, aviation is still what pays his bills. Gavin points out, “If I had the ability to go be a rock star instead, that would be an easy decision to make.”
Country music is where Gavin has his musical roots. He says, “What really attracts me to it now is the songs. The melodies are catchy and you can see the craft of the really good songwriters. There’s thought and process and art in there, but you can tour with the music. You can put it on stage, it’s a fun concert, but it still has that depth and meaning to it.”
He continues, “Although I listen to country music for my own personal enjoyment, if someone said that I wasn’t really making country music, I’d accept that. As long as I’m making the music that I want to make, I can release myself from focusing solely on one genre.”
The song writing process often starts with a specific hook for him. Gavin says, “ A lot of times it starts with a phrase and I build from there. Occasionally I’ll have a melody or a chord progression in mind but usually it starts with the words first and then I’ll get a guitar out and build it from there focused on that central idea.”
Although Gavin has had fairly limited exposure to recording, he had a chance to try it at a higher level. He says, “A friend of mine has a home studio in Chilliwack so we were there for the whole day. It was cool for me to take it to another level. I’d never played on a click track before. My goodness! You have to be precise. You're no longer just recording what you do live. You’re putting something together and really manufacturing and recording something. It’s very intentional and it was a real eyeopener for me.”
He adds that now it’s possible for almost anyone to record themselves at home using a computer but remarks, “You want to be professional. It’s not that you’re not just clicking record and seeing what comes out. You do want to have a good, intentional product at the end of it all.”
Gavin is excited to be part of Calgary’s expanding music community. He points out, “I’m seeing the grassroots energy that’s happening here. You can see the efforts taking place to develop the music community. It’s really cool to be part of that from the ground up in what was traditionally not a huge music market in Canada.”
He has some goals in mind when it comes to his future musical endeavours. Gavin says, “In the medium term, I’d love to do music festivals in Canada. It’s such an iconic summertime thing here in Canada, so to participate in that would be exciting. My brother is in the music program at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton so I’m hoping to do some collaboration with him. There’s something about the way family voices naturally harmonize that’s so great. I plan on doing more recording, more writing and I would like to take some more time to take it up to the next professional sounding level for a new album.”
Gavin has created a refuge for himself in his apartment and uses it to recharge his creative batteries. He says, “I’ve really cultivated my apartment with pieces that I've collected in my past. I’ve focused on not having a standard cookie-cutter space. My apartment is very much a reflection of me and it’s allowed me to chill out and regain my creative inspiration.”
© 2017 Karl Magi