Colorado singer-songwiter Gregory Alan Isakov is one of the best in the business. His organic style of indie folk music has earned him a dedicated following across the country and in Europe as one of the premier singer-songwriters in music today, blending a sound somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Iron & Wine. You’ve most likely heard his more popular songs, “Big Black Car,” “Idaho,” and “The Stable Song” around the radio or on your favorite network drama shows. We were able to sit down and talk with Gregory after his killer set at That Stage at Bonnaroo on Saturday.
P&W: How was the set from your end?
Gregory: It was great. We don’t do a lot of festivals and we were a little surprised because everyone is usually so rushed at festivals but everyone here was so dialed in that it worked out well.
P&W: Is this your first time playing Bonnaroo?
Gregory: Yeah first time playing
P&W: Is it your first time here in general?
Gregory: Yup first time here too.
P&W: So what’s it like to see it all for the first time?
Gregory: It’s amazing. Yesterday was amazing. Getting to play was of course great and I saw Zach Galifianakis and Slayer, which makes for a great day.
P&W: Who all have you gotten a chance to see play since you arrived?
Gregory: Slayer, I saw a little bit of Mumford.
P&W: What’s the schedule looking like today?
Gregory: We just had a set at the Silver Stage so that was the first thing then was able to catch a little bit of Shakey Graves.
P&W: You going to be able to catch Florence or Billy Joel later
Gregory: Tough to say, we’re heading out but will hopefully be able to catch a little bit of Florence
P&W: We sat down with Stephen Kellogg for a interview back in the winter and he mentioned you’d be co-producing his upcoming four part album with Jamie Mefford.
Gregory: Yeah I just finished that up actually in the studio I have in the barn by where I live. We just tied it up today and I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
P&W: How many total songs did you guys do?
P&W: Do you do a lot of collaborative projects like this as a producer or co-songwriter?
Gregory: People have asked me before, unfortunately I’ve just never had time to do it. I hardly had any time to do this Kellogg project, but it was so awesome, I had to take the time. I’ve never produced anyone else before so it gave me a good chance to try something new.
P&W: Looking back on it how would you rate how you did?
Gregory: I did alright. For me, I take forever when it comes to my own music and my own process. I take a few months to record, then a few months to not listen to it, then going back to making changes and re-write some things. It’s a long process for me, and Kellogg is telling me “Yeah we need to get this done by this time and this day,” and I’m just like “Yeah we could do that … OR we could wait and it could be great, and I think that’s what we accomplished. We had a great time and put out something amazing.
P&W: Do you think you’ll be touring with him again soon hopefully?
Gregory: I love Kellogg, he’s great so hopefully!
P&W: We caught your show when you were in town at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in NYC a month ago, how’s that tour been?
Gregory: Amazing. It’s mostly been the size venues that Music Hall and we had a great winter of four or five months on the road playing the U.S. and Canada.
P&W: When’s the next new material coming out. You haven’t put out an album since 2013’s The Weatherman.
Gregory: We’re halfway though getting one done now and we’re also doing a live record this winter over the holidays. It’s already been recorded, and was actually played with a Colorado Symphony so we’re putting some songs from that out, then a few months later the full length will come out.
P&W: You live in a beautiful and peaceful area of the country in Colorado, is it nice after being on the road for months at a time to come home to such a serene place to call home?
Gregory: It really is. I mean I love both sides of it, I love the traveling part too. What I like about being on the road for so long is the band. We get better and better each day, especially playing with as long as we have. I also run four acres at home in the summer so it’s still a lot of work when I come home which I love.
P&W: What’s it like playing a venue to 500 people at Music Hall of Williamsburg to playing to thousands at Bonnaroo? The scope of it all?
Gregory: You know for a long time I used to think festivals were like, you know how there are chain restaurants in airports that only have a fraction of what they usually serve on the menu? Like the airport version? I used to think festivals were the airport restaurant version of every band, because no one gets a sound check, it’s super fast changeovers, they just landed via helicopter like 30 minutes before they hit the stage, I used to not enjoy it, but now I love it all.
P&W: What changed?
Gregory: I think it’s just nice to see people having these unique experiences. I don’t think any band here has a similar show if you went out to see them individually. It’s so throw and go and you never know what’s going to happen.
P&W: When you’re walking around Bonnaroo, what do you take out of being a part of something so big like this where everyone spent a lot of money, a lot of effort, and a lot of travel miles to come here and experience it with your music?
Gregory: It’s so amazing. It totally blows me away. I was feeling that way yesterday, seeing all these people standing out in the blazing hot sun all day just to experience music with their friends and favorite artists. That’s so mind blowing. I still feel that way when people come out to see us at like 11pm on a Tuesday after dealing with work all day then rush hour traffic, and they show up to support your music, it’s amazing.
Article: Tom Shackleford