Musical alchemist Gabriel Sullivan releasing 'Jvpiter'
New solo record out in November
If one were to read singer-songwriter-producer Gabriel Sullivan's musical resume, with all his talents and successful projects, one might be led to believe that it belonged to someone twice his age.
TucsonSentinel.com met with the native Tucsonan for lunch at the Silver Room. The bar is the second-oldest in Tucson; one which incidentally Sullivan's brother is looking to purchase. The Old West atmosphere is a perfect match for the desert-influenced rock for which Sullivan is known.
Sullivan, 26, is multi-faceted artist who plays spectacular guitar, is a prolific songwriter, and has produced several records.
Most recently, he played, hand-picked and led the band on Billy Sedlmayr's record "Charmed Life," which is receiving rave reviews.
Sullivan spearheaded the funding of Sedlmayr's project through Kickstarter, a funding source unknown to Sedlmayr. Sullivan procured over $10,000 for the record, much to Sedlmayr's delight and disbelief. If that weren't enough of an accomplishment, Sullivan is also producing and playing on a new record for Chicha Dust, the psychedelic cumbia band that packs the dance floor and is led by fellow front man Brian Lopez.
And let's not forget "The Crucible," Sullivan's ambitious project in which he has been writing one song per day and will continue to do so until the end of the year.
Then, there is Fell City Records, Sullivan's production company that he created himself "because I needed a record label and I thought I could create my own."
Sullivan also produced Crystal Radio's first record, "A Story of Ghosts and Dreams," (Gabriel Sullivan, Chicha Dust, Howe Gelb, Giant Sand) and recorded at Ghost Town Studios in Jerome, Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, and Aarhus, Denmark. Sullivan called on his Danish contact Nikolaj Heyman, to help mix the final result.
We caught up with Sullivan for lunch and few moments to ask him about his new record, "Jvpiter," scheduled for release next month.
TucsonSentinel.com: Gabe, where did you get your discipline and work ethic? A lot of people in their 20s are all about having fun, not about working as hard as you do.
Gabriel Sullivan: I'm having great fun doing what I love. I'm fortunate to have been instilled with good, traditional family values. My parents taught me about self-respect, humility and respect for others and my community. My family supported my decision when I chose music over college and early on they exposed me to the rewards of hard work.
TS: When did begin playing music?
GS: I was five or six and I went to Beaver's Band Box and picked the drums. I hauled those drums to orchestra practice up to middle school and then took up guitar after getting one for Christmas. I had a band with punk origins. We were kind of like The Replacements meets Pantera.
TS: It appears that you have more than just a knack for combining musical elements to create a specific sound or feel for your productions. For example, Mother Higgins Children's Band backing Billy Sedlmayr.
GS: I try and visualize an entire show or project from beginning to end. Billy's show for example, I chose the set with the lone chair, table and lamp so the audience could feel they were having an intimate experience with him. We dressed a certain way and choreographed where we would be situated while playing. I think it was successful. The audience really fed off the energy between all of us and we fed off theirs.
TS: It was a tremendous show. Tell me about your visualization for your record, "Jvpiter".
GS: I wanted to create a completely different aesthetic while retaining some of the desert influences. I was thinking of mysticism, alchemy and an otherworldly sound. We recorded in Denmark at an isolated farmhouse. You'd look outside and there was no civilization. Only wilderness. We'd be playing and forest animals would be grazing outside. It was unbelievable. It didn't feel like we were on Earth. Here we were playing music amid this pristine, misty forest. I carried out the theme of "otherworldliness" in the record title "Jvpiter "and the in album photography, which was shot in an icy, blue tint.
TS: So this record was more of an exploration rather than a destination for you?
GS: Yes,in a way. In the lyrics you can hear borrowed elements of mysticism, Catholicism and ancient tomes. The Danish band with whom I worked was fantastic. I tried to remain open to what I was receiving in the process. I tracked with two guitars, bass and on drums and was really pleased with the results.
TS: What do you envision for yourself in the future?
GS: I would like to continue producing. I really enjoy the fulfillment of taking a project from its inception to the lingering images and sensory experiences at its end. I love the details.
"Jvpiter" is a beautiful and multi-dimensional record written by Sullivan over the course of a year. With Kickstarter funds, Sullivan was able to transport himself and bassist Thøger T. Lund to the northwest coast of Denmark to record.
The recording is crystalline, no doubt due to the pristine surroundings. Sullivan's voice is just becoming whiskey-rich and smoky and will certainly improve with age and experience. His guitar on this record is magical. The songs could easily stand on their own acoustically with just Sullivan's voice and guitar. The third track, "Fall Apart," has an insinuating hook that makes one want to listen to the ballad again and again. Track seven, "Hollow Hunter," is a testament to Sullivan's producing capabilities, weaving eerie synth with the tribal rhythms not unlike a Santeria ritual.
He presents us with vivid images of tales and myths being passed from old to young, the mysteries of elusive, fleeting love and the permutations of the sinful and the good. This accomplishment belies Sullivan's years.
A Nov. 21 record release party at Club Congress will see the new songs performed in three sets: solo, with a group and the final set with Sullivan's band Taraf de Tucson.