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The refrain of “Wings in All Black,” the last song on Gregory Alan Isakov’s new album, goes, “I been gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone, but now I’m back.” Although the 38-year-old Boulder-area singer-songwriter is alluding to some personal strife, his lyrics could just as easily be referring to his dearth of original material over the past half-decade, a tragedy for the hordes of fans who have fallen for his pared-down, magnetic tunes. (He did release Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony, symphonic arrangements of 11 of his songs, in 2016.) Fortunately, devotees won’t have to pine much longer. Evening Machines, which arrives October 5, features a more polished, introspective Isakov but has the same serene vibe that makes his songs staples of Spotify’s Acoustic Chill playlist. In advance of his highly anticipated new album, we chatted with the farmer turned musician about stress, open spaces, and how he measures success with veggie dogs.
5280: It’s been five years since you released a new solo album, man! What’s taken so long?
Gregory Alan Isakov: [Laughs] I’m just a slow motherfucker. I recorded 34 songs for this album. Writing and recording everything and whittling it down to a digestible amount took about a year. We’d just toured with the Colorado Symphony record the year before that.
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How does Evening Machines feel different from your previous work?
I always think that records feel different, every one. But then my neighbor is like, “Sounds like you, buddy, I don’t know.” For me, this one felt heavier. I love making quiet records; I love the intimacy of this idea that I’m making a record for one person listening. This album still has that, but it’s definitely darker.
You wrote a lot of the songs during a difficult time in your life. What happened?
I started experiencing really intense anxiety that I had never dealt with before. It was trippy. I think it was years of not sitting still enough. Constantly flying around and not really evaluating or stopping—we did three tours in Europe and four tours in the United States. I run this farm in Boulder County, too, and that’s not chill either. I’m constantly hustling.
Speaking of your farm, did your Colorado surroundings influence Machines?
I actually wrote a lot of this record camping. I drove the van down to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. There’s so much space, nothing but space, and that’s where I seem to thrive the most. A number of the songs came from that, and a number of songs that didn’t make it on this record came from there as well. Music is such an elusive, incalculable process, and sense of place is the one grounding element for me when the writing is happening.
Any chance we’ll be seeing those surplus songs in the future?
It turns out there was another record in there that fit together. I guess I needed to make them both at the same time to realize that. My priority was Evening Machines. That was the record I’d been wanting to make for a long time. But there’s definitely a lot more that I’ll be putting out later.
You sold out your September concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Does it feel like you’ve made it?
My friend Nathaniel [Rateliff] got that same question, and he was like, “I don’t really feel like I’ve made it yet. Maybe if I was on a Jet Ski eating a hot dog in my own pond.”
So that’d be the same scenario for you?
Well, it would definitely be a veggie dog. They’re nailing the veggie dogs these days.