Guitarist Michael Gulezian performs in Gypsum
July 7, 2010
VAIL, Colorado – It’s a somewhat tragic thought.
“What if when James Taylor or Bob Dylan were learning to play the guitar what if they’d said ‘Oh, I have to play nothing but Pete Seegar songs’? What did the world lose by these talented musicians deciding to play only other people’s music?”
This is the revelation local musician Scott Loss had a few years back when he was thinking about performers who only play cover songs. That realization has stuck with him over the years, and influenced the singer/songwriter’s own work as the guitarist and mandolin player for local band Railways Gone, formerly known as The Loss Cause. When he first saw guitarist Michael Gulezian peform three years ago in Grand Junction, the idea was further cemented.
“Michael plays music as he describes, from the heart,” Loss said. “It made me realize that as a performer that if you’re true to your art, then it is real art and real craftsmanship. If you’re just trying to play songs people can sing along with, the art can get lost.”
That, in a nutshell, is why Loss decided to bring Gulezian to town for a concert at The Art Center in Gypsum tonight. Loss has been working with Amy Pates, the owner of the center, to “develop and promote the musical side of the arts at the center,” he said, and tonight’s concert is the first of its kind to be held there.
Gulezian took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily before his show Thursday.
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1. Vail Daily: You say in your bio that “contemporary instrumental music is under unprecedented commercial pressure” right now. Tell me more about that. How does that affect how you approach your craft?
Micheal Gulezian: I think this statement is actually a little bit dated. All forms of music – not just contemporary instrumental – were under commercial pressure as a result of the digital revolution (unauthorized downloads, file sharing, etc.). The big record labels desperately only released music that they felt was commercially viable. Translated that means they released a lot of crap, which only hastened their demise. I’ve always ignored any outside influence for my music to be more commercial. i never follow any formula. I just follow my heart.
2. VD: Tell me about your latest album “Concert at St. Olaf College.”
MG: St. Olaf College is a liberal arts college near Minneapolis, with the most sophisticated and musically astute student body I’ve ever encountered. I’ve given hundreds of concerts at colleges and universities, but the audiences at St. Olaf are always the best. So I thought I’d record a live CD at one of my concerts at St. Olaf. It’s my favorite place to play in the world.
3. VD: What are you working on now?
MG: Well, my house in Nashville flooded in January, and it took four months to rebuild. I finished a new CD earlier this year, but I’m just now getting back on my feet. I’m trying to sell the house in Nashville, and move to Colorado. When things settle down completely I’ll release the new CD.
4. VD: You were exposed to music at a young age, your mother sang Armenian folk songs, and your father played ancient Middle Eastern music on the oud (a pear-shaped string instrument). How did your early childhood affect you as a musician?
MG: It had a profound effect. It opened up my ears. It was a very rich musical environment, and I just absorbed everything I heard. That process has never stopped. I still listen to anything and everything in the context of musicality – the wind, birds singing, ocean waves, children laughing, traffic sounds … anything.
5. VD: Tell me about your musical style.
MG: It’s a highly technical, free two-handed approach to the guitar … percussive at times, and very atmospheric at other times. I always try to play with a lot of heart and soul. It’s fun to watch how I execute the pieces, but it’s much more about communicating with other people in the symbolic language of music, on an emotional, or spiritual level.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.