Folk and indie singer-songwriter, Gregory Alan Isakov has released his first single, ‘The Stable Song’, from his current album with the Colorado Symphony.
The South Africa-born artist moved to Philadelphia when he was a child and at the age of sixteen began to tour Pennsylvania with a band. Since then, he’s continued to travel and it’s these travelling experiences that have helped shape Isakov’s songs.
This collaboration with the Colorado Symphony marks a milestone for the singer-songwriter, who’s more well known for the spectral intimacy of his recordings and live shows. Released on Isakov’s own Suitcase Town Music label, the album finds Isakov cracking his catalogue wide open to see what else he — and the listener — can learn about them.
The album features songs from Isakov’s previous three studios releases, along with the debut studio recording of ‘Liars’, a fan favourite that’s been a staple of his concerts for the past few years. With orchestral arrangements by Tom Hagerman (DeVotchKa) and Jay Clifford (Jump Little Children) and with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra’s Scott O’Neil conducting nearly seventy classical musicians, these are older songs cast in new and revelatory hues.
“I’ve always had this hunch that you can manifest whatever you really want if you dream hard,” said Isakov. “I think I wrote down this idea a bunch of times, thinking it would be so incredible. And when it finally happened, I was just over the moon.”
Does this mean his old songs are now ‘new and improved’?. Not quite, he explained. “It’s not that I thought these were better versions than the ones we put out before, but I think these versions are so different, and this collaboration with the symphony gave the songs a whole new angle.”
The kernel for the album was a 2013 collaboration between Isakov and his band and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Boettcher Hall in Denver. Since then, Isakov has performed again with the orchestra at Red Rocks, as well as with the Seattle Symphony and the Oregon Symphony orchestras.
“I was a little bit nervous about transitioning over to a symphony arrangement,” Isakov admitted. “It was a daunting process in the beginning, and then I realized the opposite of what I expected actually happened. It opened up the songs way more than I thought it would.“
Perhaps most astonishing is the fact that the album’s expansiveness never compromises the intimacy that has been so crucial to Isakov’s work. “That’s exactly what we were going for,” he said. “We recorded about sixteen songs, and then we chose the ones that conveyed that element the most, the ones that drew the ear in. I really do work hard on creating intimacy in my records.”
Isakov and his band—including Jeb Bows (fiddle), Philip Parker (cello), Steve Varney (electric guitar/banjo), John Grigsby (upright bass), and Max Barcelow (drums)—will take the record on the road this summer with a symphonic ensemble dubbed The Ghost Orchestra, a collective of Colorado musicians (some whom are also members of the Colorado Symphony) assembled specifically for this new tour.
“Even as I was finishing up the symphony record, I found it curious that I was delving into songs from my past. There were moments when I thought, ‘What am I doing? Shouldn’t I be working the new songs?’” he admits, adding that he has already sketching out his next album. “But I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of our symphony shows, that I thought these arrangements needed to be heard in these new contexts. They deserved that.”
Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Orchestra is out now via Suitcase Town Music. Gregory Alan Isakov will also be touring the UK and Ireland with Passenger this winter on the following dates:
Sun, 20 Nov 16 UK Brighton Dome
Tues, 22 Nov 16 UK Plymouth Pavilions
Weds, 23 Nov 16 UK Bristol Colston Hall
Sat, 26 Nov 16 UK London Eventim Apollo
Tues, 29 Nov 16 UK Birmingham O2 Academy
Weds, 30 Nov 16 UK Manchester O2 Apollo
Sat, 3 Dec 16 Ireland Dublin Vicar Street
Sun, 4 Dec 16 UK Belfast Waterfront Hall
Weds, 7 Dec 16 UK Edinburgh Usher Hall
Thurs, 8 Dec 16 UK Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom
This Gregory Alan Isakov article was written by Neil Stopforth, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo by Blue Caleel