Connor Garvey is one of a cadre of singer-songwriters who have been following in the footsteps of Ellis Paul, Cheryl Wheeler, John Gorka, Patty Larkin, Greg Brown, and others who have toured across the United States (and beyond) for the past couple of decades. Connor has many miles under his belt (or on his odometer) and has sung his songs at some of the best listening rooms around. He’s played at and won honors at some of the biggest folk festivals in the country like Kerrville, Falcon Ridge and Rocky Mountain Folk. New England has claimed his as their own and he’s got many more new songs to sing and stories to tell.
To learn more about Connor and his music, check out his website.
Here’s a video of Connor singing “Old House.”
You are a true folk troubadour. You’ve traveled many a mile. What’s the longest tour you’ve ever done?
I do feel lucky that I’ve been able to travel across this land to share songs and yes some of the tours have ended up being pretty long. Many of my earliest tours were the longest because it felt like a rite of passage to be out there cutting my teeth on the road. I felt an identity pull to being out there as long as I could and stitching together as many states and shows as I could. I felt like I needed to prove something to myself, and others I suppose, that this was me! It was fun and rewarding at that stage. I did 45 days on the Amtrak train as my first tour and the subsequent summers was out 3-4 months at a time. For me, this wasn’t super sustainable as I grew roots back home in Maine. Now, I do end up spending about 1/3-1/2 of the year on the road but I now try to break it up into 2 week stints. Nobody forgets about you at home in 2 weeks but they sure do in 2 months. You don’t want your wife and dog forgetting who you are 😉 Also, I am fortunate that as a primarily solo act the ability to fly out and rent a car for a week and fly home is a viable approach whereas for a band that can be a significant cost deterrent. I’m trying to be logical with my touring and going back to the areas that I’m growing in with regularity and not feel like I have to be out there playing in new places all of the time simply to say I’m on the road. That being said, maybe I’m just prematurely getting old 😉 As I develop my own path through the musical world I do think that it is important for everyone to really look into themselves and find what THEIR path should be. There are so many examples of different ways of doing it and it is enticing to be drawn towards the paths of others who inspire you
What lessons did you learn from a long tour? What do these long tours do to your emotions and self-confidence?
Some of this I feel like is woven into the above answer but the part about what do tours do to your emotions and self-confidence is really interesting to think about. For me, for the most part, tours have been wonderfully fulfilling and inspiring. They fill my cup in a lot of ways and keep me going (while also being how I make my living). When I’m home too long is when my self-confidence starts to wain more and more. The longer between shows for me the more self doubt creeps in. But, this is balanced with everything else in my life and the longer I’m on tour the more I have self doubt in my ability to have positive relationships with people and places I call home. The more I feel disconnected from roots the less healthy I feel. I am a touring songwriter because there is so much about it that I love and feel compelled to do…but I am also so much more as a human and there are so many other things I want to be doing in my life that touring challenges.
What I’ve also learned from long touring is that you must do the things that you enjoy in life…especially on the road. I tour with my mountain bike, I bring my camping gear, I find the coffeeshops and restaurants in each town that I like and go back to with regularity so it feels familiar, I visit with friends all around the country…and best of all I book tours in areas that I want to be at specific times. Why not do shows in Colorado in the winter if you love to ski!
Yeah. Life on the road is tough…but despite it all, can you give our readers some reflections on why it’s all worth it in the end?
Ultimately, touring (as I’m doing it) is worth it because when I write songs and bring them out into the world the greatest hope that I can have is that these songs and my performances have relevance to people. I need to know that they have meaning to others. I truly think if I stopped touring and playing shows I’d stop writing (at least for a while). I write because I have things I want to share and energy I want to exchange with people in the unique and niche world of intimate shows. It is worth it to me to drive 10 hours and make a slightly less than modest earning to see that the craft that I believe in (in myself and others) provides something to other people out there. Live music in this fashion is in a vulnerable place right now and I’m not sure of its future so I must travel with song now! And, why travel instead of just playing in Portland? You get pretty tired of just asking your friends to come to your shows 😉
What are you currently working on?
I’m in the early stages of working on a new album with songs now…I have been spending a lot more time working on songs that I feel speak to people to engage with life on a deeper level but in a way that is more direct than before. I still have the groove in me and it comes through but I felt that people were too often missing the point of what I was trying to do with music when I had too few songs that got the guitar out of the way and made people think and feel through my words. I’ve always focused a lot of my energy on the lyrical, emotional, and philosophical direction of my songs and while I was very inspired (and still am) by folks like Paul Simon and Martin Sexton in earlier stages I’ve been more inspired recently by the likes of Anais Mitchell, Jason Isbell, and Rose Cousins who so strongly present songs that make you think and feel with a strong marriage of music and lyric where both are very forward.
What can we look forward to you hearing from you in 2017 and beyond?
The songs that I’m working on these days I’ve never felt more proud of my work before. As I continue to grow with my songwriting I continue to be inspired in different directions and I truly love writing with more heart, with more mind, and with more of the audience in mind. I am working on a new batch of songs for an album and am booking shows I truly believe in…in short, I’m living the dream and the dream continues to change each night!
In reflecting on my answers here I do think these are questions I think about often. When you are living a self-directed lifestyle reflection has to be a part of the mix. Ultimately what inspires me is living a life worth living. Writing songs of value and taking them where they can get me inspires me to no end.