Singer-songwriter Aaron David Gleason's approach to creating music is nothing less than inspired -jazz-riddled rock with an occasional country tinge accompanied by a lyricism that makes it clear he has something to say. After releasing two albums (one self-titled and one with his then-band), Gleason had a nine-year hiatus (six of which found him working to overcome depression and an eye condition) from music, where he relocated from Los Angeles to New York City and started from scratch. Now 38, Gleason finally released a new album, Wry Observer in late October.
Recorded over four days at Nashville’s Sputnik Sound, Wry Observer is filled with mystery and humor, taking inspiration from the great soul singers of yesterday, and offering insight on what Aaron has learned about life in the past 15 years. Here, in the Essential 8, Gleason talks about the album's title, songwriting, and more.
Did you have a musical mentor? If so, who was it and how did they influence you?
Yes! My musical mentor is on the album-Mike Garson. He is totally open to anything as a musician. Never has anyone been able to govern his curiosity. I'll never be the player that he is, but yet, he doesn't mind playing with me. He's always learning, and he's happy to pass on that knowledge to his friends. I'm very grateful for him.
What's the story behind your album's title?
I'm sure everyone feels that they are the only ones who see things. Everyone feels isolation at times. We have that inner monologue going, that no one else can access. Wry Observer is my attempt to tell people to listen to that voice. "Here is my story, you may find it interesting"; more than that, I want to hear yours -- your inner most observations.
When/where do you do your best writing?
I need a deadline or it could be a long long while. But also, movement helps: trains, planes. I would love to have a guitar waiting for me wherever I go, but that's not always in the cards. I might start singing to myself as I walk down the street. It's impossible to write in a vacuum. I have a love/hate relationship with reality, but sitting still at home is not much of one-I need to jump in the deep end.
What's the best advice you have ever gotten from another musician?
"Own It." That one cut me down like a laser. The thing is, if you make no excuses, no matter what, you'll earn a modicum of respect.
What's your favorite food on the road?
Who doesn't like tacos? I double dare you to find me someone who doesn't like tacos. I think the world needs more taco nights.
What are your "must have" albums for the road?
Paul Simon Graceland. The album sounds like the road. It's wistful and thrilling and soulful.
What's your dream venue and why?
Hollywood Bowl of course. I'm from Hollywood, so it's a dream. But honestly, the chances are 1 in a million. But you asked.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
Ben Weintraub, Brad Lindsay, Mike Garson, Chris McBurney, Nick Bearden, Marshall Vore, T.J. Elias, Dan Reckard, Stacey Bone Gleason, Joseph Wallace, Dan Millice.
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