Sturdy, subtle and lyrically impressive, you won’t find a more humble man in show business than Gregory Alan Isakov. His songs are exceptionally heartfelt and he is somehow able to deliver them in a laidback manner. Many of his songs take the form of ideas that most people can relate to — the weather, his hobby of gardening, driving on an open road, and even some about ordinary acts like looking out a window.
The larger-than-life folk artist will grace the Belly Up tonight with his band. The group is made up of local Boulder musicians who came together organically.
Isakov was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, but was raised in Philadelphia before eventually moving to Colorado. I talked with him while he was at home in Boulder. He’s soft-spoken and clearly more comfortable on a stage than talking to a stranger on a telephone.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m a 14-year old kid because I finally don’t have to work three normal jobs,” says Isakov. “I feel lucky about that. It’s taken a long time to get to that place and that’s probably been the most gratifying thing about it.”
Isakov has clearly worked hard to be where he is and is humble about it.
“I write every day, but I don’t really write songs until I have the guitar with me. I just keep writing a lot and some of it makes it into songs but a lot of it doesn’t.”
Isakov’s songs resonate with wisdom and ring true for the hearts of thousands, but he maintains that he doesn’t know what many of his songs are about. He usually just wants to write lyrics that sing well to music.
“The words and the music happen at once so the song kind of happens at the same time and where it comes from I don’t really know. But there is always this worry like, ‘What’s this thing about?’ and more and more I’ve been letting that go, that worry, and it usually works out.”
It has definitely worked out on all four albums he has already released. Unlike a lot of folk musicians who can go into the studio and put out an album in five days, Isakov takes his time to work through even the smallest details.
“I’ve never put an album out in less than a year,” he says. “I wish I was one of those guys that could go in for like a week or something but I like to have a month where I don’t even listen to it and then come back to it and get that beginner’s mind again and then retry that process out a few times before I put it out. It’s tricky for me because I like to make a record that feels cohesive.”
Labeled by some a lyrical genius, Gregory Alan Isakov at the Belly Up is a show that no one should miss. With all of the places he has played, Isakov is excited to return to the Belly Up. “I really like that room; it is really beautiful.”
John Zelazny never writes an article in less than a year. He wishes he were one of those guys that could put one out in a week. He appreciates your comments at email@example.com.