THE NORTH COUNTRY PRIMER #5: NIC GARCIA, SAINT PAUL, MN
Originally published at North Country Primitive in May 2015
Our latest edition of North Country Primer features Nic Garcia, a St Paul-based player who arrived at guitar soli by way of several albums of Americana-tinged folk singer-songwriting. His latest two outings have consisted of a series of almost cinematic minimalist portraits, beautifully evoking a journey through the rural byways of his home state of North Dakota.
Tell us a bit about yourself and the musical journey that took you to a place where you concluded that playing an acoustic guitar on your own was a good idea. I’m from the upper Midwest. I was born in North Dakota and currently I’m living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My musical journey began in the late 70s at the age of four, when I got some 8 track tapes from my uncle and ever since then it’s been pretty much non-stop. I started plucking and banging on the guitar at around fourteen. In the early 90s I began to write my own songs and recorded a couple of lo-fi tapes as an acoustic songwriter and also with an indie band called Boy Sale. From the late 90s to late 2000s, I continued to perform both solo, doing the singer with an acoustic thing, and also with a louder project called Sin Horses. Sin Horses either consisted as a two-piece (guitar, drums and a heavy load of amplifiers) or as a three-piece with two guitars and drums. In that time I also released the music that is available on my website. At the moment I have taken the Guitar Soli path. What has influenced your music and why? Musically, there have been a few artists that stand out for me as influences in how I approach songwriting and playing: Nick Drake, Jason Molina, Simon Joyner, Paul Erickson (Vaz/Hammerhead), Matthew Shipp and John Fahey. When I began doing the singer-songwriter thing, I was floored when I first heard Nick Drake. For me, his guitar and voice was the perfect sound in acoustic music. I consider his music and playing to be the biggest musical influence on me. In 2008, I became spiritually and musically disillusioned. I got into this phase where I started to reject structured music and began to listen to avant-garde, free jazz, noise and sounds from the John Cage school of thought. During that phase, I still managed to play singer songwriter gigs and released two vocal and guitar based recordings – Kindling and under the moniker of Wooded Hearts, Metanoia. I had a spiritual conversion in 2010 and coming out of all that disillusionment I had been going through, I took notice of solo guitar music. There was a freedom I found in approaching music with just a guitar and nothing else that was incredibly liberating for me. The first solo guitar artists who turned the page for me were John Fahey, Michael Gulezian and Ralph Towner. I released a free form solo guitar two song recording called Trail County Phantasma, which was my first venture into solo guitar. My latest solo guitar release is called Rural Sketches,which consists of five solo guitar meditations on the rural landscape of eastern North Dakota where I grew up. Growing up in eastern North Dakota has influenced that desolate sound that has been in most of my music. What have you been up to recently? Right now my wife and I are raising our two children and are expecting our third at the end of July. I am playing some solo guitar gigs with a great community of solo guitar musicians here in the Minneapolis - St. Paul area. What are you listening to right now, old or new? Any recommendations you’d like to share with us? Right now I’ve been mostly listening to jazz and solo guitar music. Recently on my jazz listening list has been late period Coltrane, Jim Hall Trio, Bill Evans, William Parker, Andrew Hill and Anthony Braxton. For the recent solo guitar listening: Nick Jonah Davis, Nick Castell, Marcus Eads, Ralph Towner, Matt Sowell and Daniel Bachman. I just picked up and have been floored by John Fahey’s Fare Forward Voyager’s (Soldiers Choice) release from ’73. The guitar nerd bit: what guitars do you play and what do you like about them? Is there anything out there you’re coveting? Man, I’ve lost so much money and gone through so many guitars through the years. I’m the type of guy who would trade a $1400 guitar for a $300 guitar, based on how it sounds - which I have done. I’m now down to three guitars which are considered beginner’s guitars: a Recording King ROS-06 with a K&K pure mini pickup installed, a Danelectro U1 (1st reissue) and a U2 (1st reissue). The Recording King ROS-06 is a great guitar for fingerstyle with the wide string spacing, and to me it sounds incredible for what it is. I have not recorded with that one yet. The two Danelectros have stuck with me the longest. They are chambered bodied electric guitars, which I love. I am a sucker for low budget oddball gear. Traill County Phantasma was recorded on a Loar LO-16 and Rural Sketches on a La Patrie Collection nylon string. Both The Loar and La Patrie came and went fast. I am dreaming of someday getting an American Guild M20. Banjos: yes or no? Only if Paul Metzger is playing one. What are you planning to do next? I aim to keep on playing local shows, make another solo recording and hopefully release it by fall, plant a garden and buy a new pair of cowboy boots. What should we have asked you and didn’t? Best action hero - Chuck Norris!
You can check out Nic’s music on Bandcamp