INTERVIEW: New York City-based singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Garth. on 'Live, in Color'

Garth.

New York City-based singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Garth. recently released his live album, Live, in Color, a 13-track collection of music running the gamut from deep soul grooves to ‘80s R&B, pop, and funk.

The Sultan Room in Brooklyn hosted Garth. and company’s display of musical magic, Garth’s first full band show since January 2020.

With over 3 million streams on Spotify, Garth. broke onto the scene in 2018 with his debut EP, Human Nature, and quickly established himself as equal parts visual artist and captivating live performer. The success of Human Nature led to a Deluxe Release on the Japanese indie label Sweet Soul Records.

XS Noize caught up with Garth. to discover more about the person behind the music, the inspiration for a live album, and how he got started in music.

What three things can’t you live without?

Outside of the obvious (family/friends, food, shelter), real ones know that I subsist on a diet of messy reality television, my favourite podcast, The Read, and red seedless grapes.

What inspired your new live album, Live, in Color?

I think I’ve just maintained a very old-school view of what makes a top-tier performer. In my lifetime, the conversation always hinged upon both the studio output and what the stage/live show experience was. I’m just trying to follow suit in my own, humble, little way. Two inspirations are Mariah Carey’s MTV Unplugged in 1992 and Beyoncé’s Homecoming Album/Netflix Special. Each boasts varying levels of production for obvious reasons– but both projects are so impactful in showing the power and range of their respective artists. My goal was to create a similar calling card for myself and my band as we are right now!

How did you get started in music?

I asked my parents for a keyboard when I was four years old, and they obliged (for whatever reason). By middle school, I had picked up the flute and a little trumpet. By high school, I picked up the French horn. And by college, I was taking singing more seriously. Shout out to all the educators who guided me along the way!

Where are you from?

Born in the Boston suburbs, raised in DMV Suburbs, but ethnically West Indian/Caribbean.

Did your hometown impact your sound?

A lot of my first experience with live music came from my church, also located in the DC area. A lot of incredible musical talent was on display every Sunday, so I definitely absorbed those influences.

Which singers/musicians influenced your sound?

I could give a TEDTalk on the vocal impact of Whitney, Mariah, Celine and Beyoncé. So we can start there. And definitely Stevie Wonder, Prince and Frank Ocean in terms of male vocals, storytelling, songwriting, and live arranging.

What would you say if you had to explain your sound to the uninitiated?

I usually say it lives in the ‘neighborhood’ of Solange, Frank Ocean and Beyonce. D’Angelo has a condo nearby, which he visits frequently. Jazmine Sullivan runs the Homeowners Association.

Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a particular direction? 

I’m super intentional about which songs I record and release. I try to be mindful of the musical ground I’ve already covered so when I’m in the writing process of new material. I can consider which new sonic or lyrical space I should lean into.

I’ve definitely become more aggressive in my vocal and live arrangements as time passes as well. I’m always telling my band in rehearsal, “No more meek s–t! It needs to be BUCK!” The heart of what I make centres around R&B, but I’m honoured to have collaborators with different musical backgrounds adding to the music to make something unique for our squad!

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?

Most of my music is inspired by real events. Or at least real emotions. For me, it’s all just storytelling. So sometimes I’m telling my story, and sometimes I’m packaging up a combination of things I know people have gone through.

What can you share about your writing process?

For my most recent studio project, Our Father, my band essentially implemented a demo rotational where members would bring initial song concepts to the table, we’d discuss, and then the demo would be sent off for guitars, or drums, or passed to me for a lyric and vocal treatment. It was a remarkably effective experience during the pandemic, but I’d say it paid off – we wrote half the album like this, completely remotely!

Which artists, in your opinion, are killing it right now?

LET’S HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT JAZMINE SULLIVAN. Let’s talk about her nearly unmatched pen game. Let’s talk about her once-in-a-lifetime vocals. Her tone. Her agility. Her musicality. Her genius. Let’s talk about the swag, the features, the storytelling, and the uplifting of black women. All one can do is stan. She is R&B for me right now. As we speak, I’m adding band hits to my show inspired by when her band mimics her vocal runs. TUH! Legendary.

What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? New material? Live gigs?

Grateful to be getting back on the road with some live shows! We’re playing in NYC at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on July 22nd, then heading out to the Mile of Music Festival in Appleton, WI, August 4th - 7th, followed by Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA, on August 12th. Also working on getting out to the West Coast before the year is over (fingers crossed)!

I stay in somebody’s studio for most of the year, so yes, hopefully, some projects from the archive will be unleashed to the people. I’m starting to dive back into writing new material, so we’ll see how it goes. Until then, I hope folks enjoy Live in Color!

Follow Garth. Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Spotify

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