PREMIERE: “Water to the Well” by Connor Garvey + Interview
Americana singer-songwriter, Connor Garvey, is set to release his eighth album, Another End of a Year, on July 21st of this year. His single, “Water to the Well” drops tomorrow and Stage Right Secrets has the scoop on Connor and his newest release.
Stage Right Secrets: Walk me through the writing process for “Water to the Well”.
Connor Garvey: Depression and self-antagonism are corrosive to one’s life. These clouds can overshadow the most important of times. “Water to the Well” looks at the experience of the person adjacent and that journey they have trying to help, heal, and progress in their own way. It taps into the feeling of helplessness of not knowing how to help someone who is in a dark place but also the impact that has. The wordless “ooooo” chorus, to me, captures the frustration involved in this where you can’t even access words sometimes, or you’ve just said it all before.
I was intrigued by the line, “I can’t bring water to the well” and it asked me to look at that image from a number of different vantage points. When I stumbled upon the follow-up “and I can’t make you love yourself…like I do” it was like the song grabbed me by the shoulders and started shaking me saying “THIS IS THE SONG, WRITE THIS SONG!” I accessed it from both a very personal and fictional place. There is experience in my life with being both characters in this song and the storyteller in me saw this narrative playing out in a cinematic manner that gave all the imagery I needed to get words on paper. It took a number of drafts but all in all, this was one of the songs that felt like it had a calling…once I gave in and felt brave enough to write it.
It’s uncomfortable to write about depression, especially in a way that more or less empathizes with the people adjacent, seemingly moreover than the person experiencing depression. I was nervous to write what could at times feel accusatory to someone already in the depths of it all. But one of the things that I’ve seen and experienced is in an intimate relationship where depression comes into play, neither party really knows what to do with it and is heartbroken by it. What else can we do!?! We can point to these tangible things that we can fix but mental health is a thornier thing that fascinates and humbles me.
Ultimately, I hope that this song opens up people’s conversation and connection with themselves and those they love. It doesn’t resolve to a happily ever after place but to me that keeps the journey alive, challenging, and real. But this song is a call to love through the pain.
The band really captures the groove on this one and lays a slower than walking pace template to help us sink into the song. I get lost in this song and play it over and over and over again.
SRS: When did you start writing music?
CG: I started writing music when I started playing guitar, in 7th grade. For me, the two came together as a vehicle for interpreting the world and communing with it. My dad is a songwriter and I grew up in a community that keeps music as a central and core part of gatherings. Songs and music creating are sacred and simultaneously imperfect and raw. I came to this through a very folk oriented lens but made music with my friends in the age of grunge and angsty rock. I feel amazingly grateful for the time that I came into writing because on the radio you’d hear Shawn Colvin followed by The Smashing Pumpkins followed by John Gorka and Martin Sexton… and then Silverchair, 311, Indigo Girls, Catie Curtis, Bush, and The Wallflowers. I was into it all and wrote songs in all directions. I had a come-up story that involved playing a lot of open mics as a solo folky kid and playing with an awesome group of friends in a high school band where we played a bunch of original music that kept the writing process alive and diverse for me.
I’ve always been inspired by the impact of songs…musically and lyrically. Different chapters of life it feels like the writing process is driven more heavily by one or the other but my best songs have always ended up being the ones that marry the two the best. That doesn’t always come from going right for it…it comes from writing a bunch of boring musical songs with killer lyrics…and a bunch of grooving songs that sing about nothing…and then they converge, and I’ll get a song that does both. Those are the ones I want to hold onto and have gotten more focused on honoring.
A big part of the writing process for me is structure and accountability. I have spent years and years of my life in accountability groups where we post a song by every Tuesday of a week. This keeps me writing, keeps it creative, helps push through writer’s block and it keeps the personal critic at bay because you need to get the damn song out most importantly. Sometimes I totally phone a song in and am embarrassed to post it to friends and mentors…but it’s about staying in the process. I’ll take that feeling and it’ll motivate me to sit down and write a better one for the next week. It’s amazing to me how important it feels to put songs in front of people. Part of me is inspired by songwriters who have the notebook in their pocket and sit and write a song under a tree in the park…for me it’s often grinding it out to meet a self-imposed arbitrary deadline and then if it’s any good I’ll go back and give the song some more love.
SRS: What’s your primary instrument?
CG: I started as a drummer but my best friend in 6th grade was better than I was, and my dad had a guitar…so I picked up the guitar and never looked back. I was the interim singer in our band until we found a singer…we never did so I kept singing and never looked back. I think my primary instrument is the human condition. I am inspired by it, intrigued by it, and motivated to make it richer and more powerful through my journey (for myself and others). I do that through songs on a guitar and singing. I dream of playing piano well…I hope one day to say that’s my primary instrument but for now it scares the crap out of me.
SRS: Do you write from experience, or do you use your imagination?
CG: Both and more. I’m a constant reflector. I am processing what’s happening in my life, those around me, the world, the stories, the books, the podcasts, the movies, the politics, the social media, the passing conversations heard through eavesdropping, the song prompt, the tapping into tradition, the influence of greatness, and the continual journey of wonder in life. On this most recent album Another End of a Year most of the songs are a blend of personal and imagination. There are songs like “Will of the Trail” which is written in a very open and universal tone, almost about a thing type of song but yet it was a song we walked down the aisle to at our wedding. There are songs that are sung in first person that are immensely emotive that are more from imagination and capturing of others’ experiences. Experience and Imagination are wonderfully linked in my lived experience and in my work. I think some of the strongest experiences come from imagination and some of the best imagination comes from rich experiences. I love the confluence of the two and in a sense, that’s what I’ve been working with my whole life.
SRS: Why did you choose this song to be the next single?
CG: I think we chose it to be the next single because it was the song that when we finished the album the whole band was looking around at each other and everyone was pointing at this song saying “THIS! This is our song!” I’m so thrilled with the production and performances on this song and it brought the song to a completely new place from where we had been playing it prior to the recording process. We received an incredible amount of positive response to this song so we very intentionally wanted to release it as the second single so that the first one (All These Things – which I love as well) will help grab people’s attention and then Water to the Well will hopefully have people saying “THIS! This is the song!”