Having acquired a large following in his area, playing CMJ and set to play SXSW, Austin, Texas singer/songwriter Shakey Graves (aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia) is not easy to ignore. Playing as a one-man show, he takes the stage with his makeshift kick drum attached to a vintage suitcase, low-fi twanging electric guitar and gritty voice, playing heartbreakingly raw and sincere music that can easily win any crowd over. Recently, we caught up with Alejandro and discussed his recent tour, acting career, improvisational performance style and much more…
So you’re currently on tour? Where have you been to so far?
I was touring with my buddies He's My Brother She's My Sister from Los Angeles and we went all the way up the west coast into Canada and back down through the middle of the United States. I went back to Austin for three days and then flew to New York for CMJ; I just got home about a week ago.
I saw that you keep a blog where you journal about your travels while on tour. What’s one of your craziest stories from being on the road?
Oh God, the whole thing felt like a loud blur. Running out in a field in Yellowstone to go see wild buffalo up close was pretty mind bending, getting heckled by the border patrol, sleeping on a different pillow every night.
The whole thing is a crazy story, you can read some more in depth stuff here: www.shakeygraves.tumblr.com
What most people don’t know about you is that you’re also an actor. How does that play into your performance?
In every way. I grew up in theater and have been acting for the majority of my life. My family is super performance-oriented and I learned the importance of reading a crowd and altering your delivery in real time. If I'm feeling down and the audience is up, I can usually feed off of them or vice versa.
You’ve mentioned in the past that your music isn’t indicative of your own personality. If you had to describe what “your” music would sound like, what would that be?
Well that's a misunderstanding, my music is absolutely indicative of my personality, however my songs are simply not written about me in my current state. My most personal music is usually told through some sort of fictional tale. For instance "proper fence" is about someone hesitating and the person they love dying in the time it took them to get their mind straight. That has certainly never happened to me, but it’s absolutely a dramatic stylized take on something that has happened hundreds of times in my life. Personality? Of course. Reality...we will see. I had the privilege of getting to see you play two shows at CMJ, what was that like?
CMJ was a hot mess and I had a tremendous time in the city as always. The shows were wonderful and a little rushed but I think overall the experience will help me have a better foothold the next time I visit the big apple.
Watching you play live, I noticed that every time you play a song it’s a little bit different. Do you find that this improvisational technique lends to your stage performance?
Oh absolutely, it mainly just keeps me entertained and fresh. It all comes back to adapting performance for the situation your body and mind are in as well as the room you are playing to. If I'm playing to a room of strangers for the first time I will usually come out swinging as opposed to a show in Austin on home turf where people are more used to my music, Ill usually get a bit more experimental and try out untested material. Basically Im always looking for a better way to play my music, it’s a constant workshop.
When can we expect more music from you?
I’m halfway through my second album, it will be out next year
Seems like people from all over the musical spectrum can find something in your music to like, regardless of the genres they typically listen to. What is it about your music, do you think, that is so relatable?
I’m no music snob. A song that I like holds its weight in gold be it "good" or "bad" be it Wu-Tang, John Prine, or the Spice Girls. I never set out to play folk music or blues... I just try and play it like I hear it and I think people have generally appreciated my stripped down approach to the song and I am so happy that people seem to find the honesty in my tunes... I’m just puttin’ it out there.
So what’s next for you?
Live album, second release, much more touring, festivals, maybe a full band? Who knows!