Connor Garvey Submitted photo

As I have mentioned in the past, I love first encounters when it comes to new-to-me artists, and that’s especially true when said artist happens to be a Mainer. Such is the case with this week’s interviewee Connor Garvey. I received a news release from his publicist about the shows he was scheduled to do in support of a forthcoming album, “Another End of a Year,” and that led me to immediately request a phone interview with the award-winning, Portland-based singer-songwriter; she also supplied a link to that album so I could prepare for our chat, and the initial listening sealed the deal!

Q: Let me begin by saying that it never ceases to amaze me the quality of musical talent that Maine is blessed with — case in point — your new album, which left me stunned.
Garvey: That’s fantastic to hear, thank you!

Q: Well, I call them as I hear them. Now, where am I calling?
Garvey: This is an Arizona number but I live in Portland. My parents moved to Arizona when I went off to college; I grew up in Maine but they moved there and so the first cell phone I got was out of Arizona so I’ve been confusing people ever since (laughter).

Q: From coast-to-coast confusion.
Garvey: And I lived in the other Portland at that time, so it was like a real curve ball, too! I grew up in South Berwick and tapping into what you said earlier about Maine talent, I feel like I have been so amazed and impressed by that, as well. I grew up in this incredible microcosm where I was studying Slaid Cleaves’ songs as part of my language arts classes in middle school, so it must be some water source in the area that I was able to benefit from myself.

Q: Yup, I agree completely. Now your new CD is not coming out until July, correct?
Garvey: That’s correct, yup, but I’m doing some pre-release shows in the area and I’ll be in Vinalhaven on June 17th.

Q: Now what can folks expect, Connor, from that performance — will it be a solo show?
Garvey: No, it’s full band, drums, bass and electric guitar, so it’ll feel quite a bit like the record. We have a keyboard player, but he’s not going to be able to make that show, and what makes it extra special is that the drummer’s family all live down on Vinalhaven, so there’s going to be some good energy in the room already from folks who’ll becoming out for him (chuckle), but we’re definitely looking forward to playing for the folks who don’t like Dan, as well. So, yeah, it’ll be a full thing, minus keyboards, and we’ll be a month into these pre-release shows so we should be nice and tight.

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Q: Oh, I’ve got to find one thing out: who was the female vocalist on that album, she is fantastic.
Garvey: Ah, that is Sorcha Cribben-Merrill, and she’s actually at my house right now because we’re running through some songs, we’re doing a TV taping in an hour here. She’s out of Portland now, she grew up somewhere up north, I’m not sure where, and she’s a fellow Mainer.

Q: Well, good to know, your voices work so well together, it’s a joy to hear, for sure.
Garvey: Oh, thank you, Lucky, I agree, she’s fantastic.

Q: Just out of curiosity, what’s your back catalogue like, recording-wise?
Garvey: There are seven previous albums that are digitally available, five of them I have physically, you know how the supply chain works nowadays.

Q: Sad but true, I do. And I should also further gild the lily by stating that I love the variety present on the soon-to-be-released one, it doesn’t sound like the same song done over and over again.
Garvey: Well, thank you, it’s definitely part of the goal of getting into the process of recording, some of the songs stylistically start in a similar place but lyrically are very different. We wanted to make sure that we were taking the listeners, and ourselves (chuckle), on a journey throughout the record. I think part of that also speaks to the fact that the majority of my performing is done as a solo act and so playing with this band has been fantastic. We’ve been making music together for 11 to 12 years, but I can’t afford to take them on the road, and they also have plenty of other things to do other than go with me on the road. So I think the diversity of song is all a part of creating an arc of a night.

Q: Other than the full band presentation, what will folks heading to Vinalhaven discover at the show?
Garvey: Well, what I really hope for is that people have an opportunity to connect with themselves and connect with their lived experience in a deeper way. Part of my mission as a songwriter is not to be an escapist songwriter, providing you with something that can break you out of the challenges of life and have a moment of reprieve, but rather to give us an opportunity to think more deeply about the experiences that we’re going through to empathetically connect to others that are having similar experiences and really use it as a chance to have a deeper connection to life. So that might be a lofty mission statement but how that plays out into a show is I hope people feel something; I hope that they are invited into a song that maybe they haven’t heard a song about that before. I hope they are able to connect into the unique kind of preciousness of that moment but also connect into something that’s more universal and connected to the folk tradition. Big goals (chuckle) but that’s what I’m going for, and hoping that it’s not just entertaining, but at the same time, I hope it’s entertaining (laughter).

Q: Another quality that deserves mentioning is that one can hear your heart is on your sleeve, your emotions are palpable and what you want to get across comes across perfectly; in other words, your delivery is spot-on.
Garvey: Thank you, thank you very much. That’s an area that I really challenge myself to live in. If I’m going to be singing a song I want people to hear the words; I enjoy the musical experience but the words are really important to me, too. I want to present them in a way that people can access and, even before that, writing them in a way that I’m comfortable with them being accessed.

Q: Is there anything, Connor, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Garvey: Yeah, I was extremely motivated and dedicated to have this feel like a home-grown record, all of the people that are connected to this are deeply, deeply connected to Maine. I really value that and I don’t think that this is just another pandemic record; the pandemic gave a lot of artists the necessity to create but it gave me more than that motivation, it gave me a deeper connection into Maine, the place where I live.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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