Homespun: An Interview with Gregory and the Hawk

Gregory and the Hawk

About a year ago, I was touring through New York
and was at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn. My band played an early
set in the back room, a long and narrow venue where the bands run
their own sound with cables found in a piano bench on stage. The
performance part of the evening went well, but the hours that followed
were extremely unlucky (lost wallet) and unpleasant (someone coughed
up blood, someone threw up, someone passed out). I did, however,
return to the back room to get our instruments just in time to hear
Meredith Godreau (or Gregory and the Hawk) start her set, making
everything right with her little-girl voice and disarming melodies.
Minutes later, I ran into the bar to inform my band that "the
best female performer I've ever seen is in the other room."
And then I returned to watch the whole performance and to buy an
EP from the modest Meredith, who warned that none of the songs she
played that night were on it, that she was working on an acoustic
full-length album. That album, In Your Dreams, is now completed,
and Meredith handles it without a label, despite a ridiculously
multiplying number of fans.

-Anna-Lynne Williams

You've been performing as Gregory and the Hawk for five
years. Is this your first musical project? When did you start writing
music?

It just depends on how you look at it, I guess. I started playing
music long before and playing out in public for a while, but naming
it was just sort of a decision to not go by my own first and last
name, not really a change in anything else. I've had a few other
projects playing with friends, but none of my own where I've played
too many shows, just a few in passing.

I am curious about your recording techniques. Do you use
any computer programs, go straight to tape in a studio, or record
at home on an 8-track or such? There's a lot of clarity to your
recordings, but they feel like live performances, and the reverbs
sound natural.

What's most important about a recording for me is that it brings
out the writing, because the writing of the song is what I like
to do. All the recordings are so different. They've been made by
me, or one of several producer friends of mine, in small studios
or bedroom studios so far. The remixes on my first EP, though, all
the beats are computerized. Well, I didn't have anything to do with
those, that was a Short Stories miracle there. I'd say mostly they
are made on what's available to me/us at the time and as low a cost
as possible, you know? But it's fun to try it out with just radio
tape decks and stuff.

Your voice is very particular. I can't think of a better
word to describe it than "lovable." The cover songs I've
heard you perform--Beyonce, Gnarls Barkley--become immediately transformed,
sweetened, vulnerable. I wonder if your own voice is ever a challenge
to you when you want to express something ugly, or cold, or sardonic...

Thanks, I can live with a "lovable" voice 🙂 I like my
voice, sometimes I'm trying to sing a little more strongly, that's
ok, too. I go through phases. Sometimes I envy people for their
strong voices, though, that's for sure.

The following that you've garnered seems pretty unprecedented
for an unsigned artist, who sells her own records from home. The
amount of discussion on your message boards analyzing your lyrics,
thousands of hits each day on MySpace... Have you made a conscious
decision to be in charge of your own music and make available the
songs and videos that you wish to? Do you find advantages to not
having to go through the corporate channels?

There are advantages and disadvantages to doing everything you
could possibly do--apart from music, too, of course. I try not to
place too much emphasis on the rules of the music business. When
you look back in history there are great musicians and great artists
who've been screwed over, who stole others' material and passed
it off as their own, who went unnoticed til they were dead... There's
a whole realm of possibility. It's nerve-wracking to be in control
of everything I consciously make available. It's impossible to control
the sharing of some things so I try to let that go. Everyone takes
a different path in life, and the same goes for how a certain musician
gets heard. I can try to do this way and I can try to do that way.
But in the end there's no real trying involved--it's just fun and
games and chance.

What bands and albums have been an influence to you? Do
you ever draw inspiration from other art forms -- literature, film...

I've never been a big reader or movie watcher and when I think
of influence I usually have the same four answers: The Lemonheads,
The Blake Babies, My Bloody Valentine, and The Sundays. I do love
pop music.

What recent albums or artists are you enjoying?

None.

Have you always lived in Brooklyn? How did where you grew
up influence your exposure to and tastes in music?

It's actually a common misconception that I've ever lived there
at all. I grew up in a small town and I still live in a small town,
a different one. Brooklyn is more of a place for doing than living.
I never really listened to radio other than the hit station when
I was young, but my family played music and we had some odd records.
Other than that, I went to garage sales when I was twenty-one. I
started going to live shows, but it took me a few years to enjoy
live music. Now I always want to live places where I can see live
music regularly.

On your first release, The Boats & Birds EP,
the backing band--keyboards, drums, and bass on several songs--was
more present than on In Your Dreams, which sounds extremely
intimate and has only a few embellishments. Did you prefer working
with acoustic instruments, and do you think that you'll continue
in that direction on your next album?

That's true. On the EP I felt outside pressure to make something
extremely presentable to the public and very well produced. Then
I sorta got sick of doing that 'cause I got very interested in guitar
playing around 2005-2006 and so I wanted to make an album like In
Your Dreams where I got to wile out on guitar. In Your Dreams
was mostly working by myself, whereas the EP involved a lot of teamwork.
Both were fun. I have a certain pride about In Your Dreams
though, it's got the songs I've been wanting to write since I started
writing. The next new album has already been started and is different
from both.

Is there a particular element of your music that is the
primary focus for you (lyrics, performance, melody, etc.)?

Just to keep presenting a new idea.

What are three things that you love?

Swimming, eating, the wilderness

Image courtesy Jenny O.

Visit Gregory and the Hawk at MySpace.

Identity Theory's Recommended Listening: "Neither Freer"
and "Kill the Turkey" by Gregory and the Hawk

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