Shakey Graves is recording an album at Kevin Costner’s house in Aspen
June 20, 2017
If You Go …
What: Shakey Graves
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Tuesday, June 20, 9 p.m.
How much: $45-$85
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
Among the advantages of being a DIY band and making albums without producers and engineers and a studio is that you can record any place you want. Like, say, Kevin Costner’s house in Aspen.
Most of the scrappy DIY set doesn’t end up here, of course, but Shakey Graves did. Alejandro Rose-Garcia, who performs as Shakey Graves, is in the middle of a 10-day recording session at the movie star’s local home. Rose-Garcia and his Austin-based rhythm section are working on their follow-up to his breakout 2014 album “And the War Came.”
While they’re here, Shakey Graves is headlining Belly Up on Tuesday night, testing out some new songs. The band also headlines the Westword Music Showcase in Denver this weekend.
The band’s manager is a friend of Costner’s daughter, and the family has had an open-door policy for Shakey Graves on swings through Colorado.
“When we played Aspen in the past, he was always like, ‘Hey, if you want, you guys can come up and stay for the night,'” said Rose-Garcia, who also works as a film and TV actor.
Rose-Garcia always has recorded simply and mostly at home. His drummer, Chris Boosahda, is an experienced “engineer wizard man,” in Rose-Garcia’s words, and can capture studio-quality recordings just about anywhere. When they booked the Denver festival, they figured they’d take up Costner’s offer, travel light and lay down some tracks here in the mountains.
“We’ve found that we love doing it ourselves and not worrying about a studio or an outside engineer,” Rose-Garcia said. “If we find a great place to go to keep the distractions low and the inspiration high, we should do it.”
Playing a bluesy flavor of confessional folk rock and Americana, Shakey Graves hopped quickly from being an unknown singer-songwriter releasing music online to playing on David Letterman, touring the U.S. and Europe, having his hometown of Austin declare a “Shakey Graves Day” (Feb. 9 if you want to celebrate) and winning the Best Emerging Artist prize at the 2015 Americana Music Awards.
He began his career performing with a one-man band setup — playing a suitcase kick-drum and guitar — after realizing the limitations of performing as one guy with an acoustic guitar. In his early days, playing whatever rooms and bars would book him in Texas and Los Angeles, it was difficult to hold an audience’s attention.
“You go play at some dingy bar on a Thursday night and whip out an acoustic guitar and expect people to give you their full attention and stop their conversations,” Rose-Garcia said. “You’d be hard pressed to find that.”
As a solo act, he found a cult audience and released his debut “Roll the Bones” in 2011. He first came through Aspen several years ago, opening for Shovels & Rope at Belly Up and has been back regularly.
But he eventually outgrew the one-man band setup, as well. He recalled reading a review of a show in Toronto, where a writer complained of all his songs sounding the same.
“I hadn’t realized it, but it was (the same) — just four-on-the-floor and yelling about stuff,” he recalled with a laugh. “That bummed me out but also plugged me back in, make me realize that I needed to redesign what I was doing. … It was like, ‘I either have to grow more limbs or just start to work with other people and find the folks I need.”
So he learned to play with others, like Boosahda, and the singer Esme Patterson — who duets with Rose-Garcia on some of his best-known songs, including “Dearly Departed.”
On June 30, he is releasing “And the Horse He Rode In On,” a compilation of rarities and B-sides pulled from EPs he self-released in 2012 and 2015. He’s planning to play a handful of that material at Belly Up, if he can recall how.
“There are songs on there that I don’t remember how to play, so it’s like decoding my own stupid mystery,” he said. “I’m like, ‘You know how to do this! You did it when you were 19.'”
Shakey Graves is part of a relatively new phenomenon in pop music, having built a national following by self-releasing music via Bandcamp and playing live shows, earning fans with his lo-fi debut and blowing up with “And the War Came.” From here, Rose-Garcia is figuring out how to navigate this unexpected popularity with artistic integrity.
“The main challenge so far is balancing this ball and not paying lip service to what I think people like about my music,” he said. “Not saying, ‘Well, this worked once so let’s do it 14 times.’ But also not throwing people into the woods like, ‘Oh, you like that? We’re done with it!'”
Finding an authentic place in between is part of his mission in Aspen.
“I’m hoping this whole experience ends up very transcendent,” he said. “That’s the dream.”
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