Interview by Barry Egan
The term Renaissance Man is a bit of a cliche. With Gavin Glass it is, however, as close an approximation of the truth as anything. (And funnily enough, truth is one subject that you would probably end up discussing at length with Mr Glass over a pint.) The man is not just a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist virtuoso, he is also one of the most inspiring musicians — and people — you could hope to meet in a month of Sundays in Ireland. He exudes something with his music, which carries an authentic energy (to say nothing of his considerable charisma).
You can see why Gavin has played with everyone from the late Clarence Clemons of The E Street Band, to Garth Hudson of The Band, to Declan O’Rourke and Lisa Hannigan. So, just who is Gavin Glass? “It is a question I get asked a lot. I do a lot of different things. I’m a singer-songwriter. I’m a music director. And I’m a record producer,” Gavin says — the young Dubliner operates out of his own studio, Orphan Recording Studios. “So I have to wear a lot of hats in order to keep my head above water in this current musical economic climate.”
What does he enjoy the most? “I think one hand feeds the other. If you put a gun to my head, I’d probably say singing. You know, I love to sing the most.” (It shows. Today for the Windmill Lane Sessions on Independent.ie, he performs an achingly emotive version of Wichita Lineman, written by Jimmy Webb in 1968, and made famous by Glen Campbell. For me, Gavin’s version is perhaps even better than Johnny Cash’s rendition of the tune, and definitely light years ahead of REM’s take on the same song.) “But record production is probably what I’m most comfortable doing and what seems to be my most steady line of work. If someone was to pay me to sing and travel the world, I would definitely do it,” says Gavin, who was off to New York the day after we met to do a series of gigs in New York and beyond.
Gavin’s third album in 2010, Myna Birds, featured everyone from Audley Freed (Black Crowes, Train, Dixie Chicks), to Ken Coomer (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo), and Jen Gunderman (Jayhawks). His new album, Sunday Songs, five years in the making because of touring commitments internationally, is like Gavin himself: a flawed piece of genius that wears its heart on its sleeve.
“The whole album has a feeling of being dislocated, I guess,” he says. “A lot of the songs were written when recovering from heavyweight hangovers. So it also has that feeling of Saturday night, Sunday morning. The coming down sort of feeling. And taking stock of what has transpired the night before.”
Gadabout Gavin toured with the aforesaid Lisa Hannigan for five years. He describes her with typical warmth and humanity as possessing “one of the greatest voices in the world. And one of the coolest chicks you’ll ever met. That kind of persona she has on stage is what she is like off it. She is just a really cool, righteous, generous person”.
I ask him what kind of person is he. “I’d say I’m a stand-up guy. I made mistakes along the way but I’m a good person. I’m good to my fellow man. I love my mum and dad.”
Tell me about the mistakes. “I sold insurance for 10 years, from when I was 18 up to 27, 28. That was something I did to please my parents, to get on the property ladder. Property at the time was the most important thing in the world. I spent 10 years doing that. I was miserable. All I wanted to do was play music, and follow what my heart wanted to do. That was a big mistake. The other stuff I wouldn’t say on camera,” he adds. “I wouldn’t incriminate myself.”
Has he told a priest? “I haven’t seen one of them in a while. I’m good with God, though. I think any wrongdoings in the past I have redeemed myself for.”
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