Interview – Bob Gemmell

Bob Gemmell is a fantastic musician and singer-songwriter who specialises in the country genre – I recently checked out his song The Saint Of Everything and really enjoyed it – hopefully our readers will do too, after reading this interview!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a song titled The Saint Of Everything, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about this song and where can it be purchased?

First of all, thank you for the review. Very much appreciated.
The Saint of Everything began with a mandolin riff I had stuck in my head. I found a vocal melody I liked, but I could never quite catch the feel. When I added an acoustic guitar, it brought a nice swing to it. That really opened things up, and made a nice bed for the lap steel to lay in.

When the pandemic hit I had to cancel a bunch of gigs and limp home. With time to write, I came up with America, After the War (https://yo…YGeJw-eCPw), which tells the story of what we’re going through in metaphor. The Saint of Everything was written deeper into the pandemic. It works in the same vein, but it also considers January 6th. I think both songs resolve to a message of hope. I’m too pathologically optimistic to think that there isn’t a brighter, post-MAGA world waiting for us.

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

Some, but really I’ve been about writing, recording and releasing. There have been some missed opportunities to play live, but I’ve made good use of that time woodshedding with instruments such as the mandolin, banjo, violin and lap steel.

One way my musical mates and I have managed to keep things going creatively is by starting our own league of songwriting pals. We call it the Dirt Preachers Union. Occasionally we Zoom together and play songs.

What is the writing and recording process like for you? Have you started writing for a future EP/album yet?

I tend to do it in chunks. A lot of people assume I have all the words first, since my stuff is a bit lyric heavy. In actuality, that’s never the case. I begin on the guitar, latch onto a melody, and find the sound of the words before I add anything literal. Once I’ve actually settled on the words, it’s pretty much done. From there I record in my studio on a DAW – I use Logic Pro. I also work with JeffyD, the proprietor and engineer at Lucky Dog Studios. He’s amazing.

You’re also the frontman of Big Medicine Head. How does writing and performing solo music compare to being in a band?

With Big Medicine Head I essentially craft a song on my guitar and turn it loose for everyone to come up with parts. On my own, I get that far, and then go further. Doing it solo – and with nothing to lose – I also tend to indulge myself by exploring some of my influences a bit deeper. For instance, Big Chrome Moon from the Parts And Labor album calls out to Burt Bacharach, Curtis Mayfield, and the Moody Blues, if you can imagine that. Speaking of which, if you listen to the end of Saint of Everything, I set up a sonic duel between Burt Bacharach and Chet Atkins. Or that’s what it sounds like to me, anyway!

You’re based in Santa Cruz. What is the music scene like in your part of the world?

I’m actually in the Sierra foothills right now, but my musical home is still Santa Cruz.

The music scene in Santa Cruz has always been eclectic. We’re fortunate to have a great Americana/alt-country radio station called KPIG that streams around the world. Once and awhile I show up and play live in the studio there.

Do you plan to release any singles in the near future?

Yep! I’ve got several more circling the airport, waiting to land. When I get to 10 or 12 (including America, After the War and Saint of Everything) I’ll put out another album. I suppose we all have to wrestle with what that actually means these days, with physical product such as CDs having gone the way of the steam locomotive.

What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

Wilco, of course, but I’ve been coming on to Lord Huron of late. My new guilty pleasure: I LOVE the new Lindsey Buckingham album.

Do you have any tour dates lined up?

No dates yet, but sign up for the Tales of the Western Hemisphere newsletter (bobgemmell.com) and you’ll be the first to know!

Any last words for the fans?

We’re going to get through this. Come visit me in my musical clubhouse at bobgemmell.com, and we can commiserate. I’m friendly enough, and all the music is there. Make yourself at home. Towels are down the hall – please don’t use my toothbrush.