photo by Marcella Di Sandro


gig schedule, updates, and archival posts available at
facebook.com/gregmcgarvey




Greg McGarvey is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

"I always wanted to have a device that could record my dreams and play them back the next morning. As a songwriter, my goal is to create pieces that feel like what those dream movies would feel like."

Greg first touched his grandfather's 1940s Gibson acoustic guitar at the age of three and has rarely been seen without a guitar since. His father Scott claims he learned to read earlier than expected in order to more easily find songs on Everly Brothers records. By the time Greg saw The Everlys play a gig at Valley Forge Music Fair in 1989, he knew what he wanted to do with his life.

Greg first performed publicly at the age of eighteen in Bristol, Pennsylvania, and started writing his own material by twenty-four, inspired by such acts as The Everly Brothers, The Beatles, Neil Young, R.E.M., Robyn Hitchcock, Lucinda Williams, and Patti Smith. Greg sang his first original song at J.B. Kline & Son Gallery in Lambertville, New Jersey.

In addition to solo acoustic performances, he's played original music with GETdownSOULS, Deluxe Thumps, MOONSLOPE, and Vagabond, and traditional Irish folk music with Righteous Jolly in Uncle Argyle. He has also contributed music to the Webby Award-winning mockumentary Gemini Rising and has guested with acts such as Nick Crocker, Cait Black, Kurt Mattel, SYRRAH, Jenny Cat, John Beacher, Cecil Middleton, Chris Marston, Evan Scheerer, Mike Kiker, Daniel Wright, Joe Rakowski, Cara Cartney, and Levee Drivers.

Greg's visual art was first shown at Princeton's ArtTimesTwo Gallery in a 2012 show called The Activity Of Form. Curator Madelaine Shellaby explains that all the show’s pieces "explore the boundaries between the real and the felt - between what is seen and what can be expanded and known from it."

In August 2015, a month-long exhibition entitled A Few Moments With Marcella opened at Langhorne Coffee House's Artist On The Avenue, a show celebrating the life of the brave and beautiful Marcella Di Sandro, tragically lost in 2014 to cancer brought on by Fanconi anemia. Patrons of the show helped facilitate a donation to the fundraiser started in Marcella's name, Chellie's Challenge.

2017 finds Greg prepping the release of his first two albums. You Don't Have A Map is an eclectic batch of songs from Greg's first seven years of songwriting. A second album, tentatively entitled Count The Colors, is a tribute to Marcella, one of the earliest and strongest supporters of Greg's songwriting.

Greg also maintains a continually expanding sound collage, started when he was fifteen years old in 1998 and, as of 2017, lasting for more than twelve hours. "If my songs and my visual art are in the front window of my shop, Sound Collage is a somewhat polluted, multi-colored stream flowing behind the parking lot."

For inquiries about booking, questions or comments, email gregmcgarvey@gmail.com.

Friday, March 3, 2017

It Was All Inside

I only know what it’s like to be in this one head. It is often noisy in a placid place and vice versa. Garrison Keillor says the city is a good place for shy persons. I am alone in the country (just a few miles from the pig farm where my family’s old pet pot belly pig Zoe came from) and I’ve got an off-green patina of angst covering the exterior of my brain. Like a barely perceptible electrical shock that keeps me from peace. Silently. There is no indicator light on my forehead to alert those around me to the conditions inside my head. Perhaps those closest to me recognize my weather patterns. 

There’s so much in our blood. I make money, friends, and old women swoon with the musical gifts that course through my veins, inherited from a grandfather born in Appalachia in the 1920s, the Big Band players in the Burns family from Rhode Island, and who knows where else. I also, perhaps, get these overcast moods from my blood. I see the melancholy times as my spiritual payment for the joyful times. 

Perhaps it is both nature and nurture. When shit would hit the fan during my youth (in the home or on the schoolyard), I used to step outside my skin and wonder, "isn’t this gonna stick with me?” I heard “you’re gonna carry that weight a long time" like a friendly warning from rock & roll shamans.

Late winter light is beaming through the front window to the delight of the flowers in the transparent blue vase, my skin, and perhaps the woman typing on her laptop. This spot was a tobacco store in the Marcella Days. Now it is a café. I judge your addiction and celebrate mine. 

These days, I feel more integrated. Passing years and fallen tears have lead to new plateaus. For a man with an ongoing family crisis, I am far too happy. I do miss plenty of sleep and I do clench plenty of teeth. But I also keep having absurd amounts of fun. I’ve never been happier than I was chasing my little blonde nephew up and down playground equipment the other day in Lambertville, New Jersey. 

This winter, I shoveled snow once and shook a musical hero’s hand twice. Country-rock guitar god Albert Lee’s in January, tuneful surrealist Robyn Hitchcock’s last night. While signing my “Living Room Guitar” (formerly just “My Guitar,” 1995-2014), Robyn asked who’d signed near the soundhole. I explained that I signed it under an alias (Chance Raspberry) and then had the curious sensation of being momentarily concerned that Robyn Hitchcock (he of “Man With The Lightbulb Head” fame) might’ve found me to be overly whimsical. He then proceeded to out-whimsy me by signing “Robyn Hitchcock Signed Greg’s Guitar.” Phew.

My wingwoman snapped some photos of us standing in the lobby with the guitar, formerly my dad’s. Just when I figured I’d exceeded my quota of fan interaction time, he started to ask me questions about the guitar. “What kind of guitar is it?” “How’s the action?” One of the voices that most often emanates from my stereo speakers was being used to inquire about this old guitar that I played with Mike Harris at the St. Michael The Archangel schoolyard, pulled dozens of Greg McGarvey songs out of, made a few thousand bucks with, and played “Across The Universe” with at Marcella’s services. Nice. I don’t know what the fuck is up with this jarring, erratic, still-amorphous young year of ours, but I know that it is the year when I shook Robyn Hitchcock’s hand. 

Will it also be the year that I jam at Don Everly’s house in Nashville? Some of my dreams are less realistic than others. My friend Dale used to see the guy at Whole Foods every couple of days and, somehow, this fact filtered through the impressionistic caverns of my mind led to the birth of this goal. 

Teens outside the window keep picking up the café's sandwich board sign every time the wind blows it back onto the sidewalk. May we all stay this devoted to our impossible goals. In my life, I’ve looked at my hands and seen myself doing things I would’ve previously deemed impossible.

Perhaps I will look down one day and see myself preparing dinner. 

Should I walk to the record store or tell this notebook more things? Writing is always the best move, right? I like these prose things because I want people to get to know me after I’m dead. Relatives whose parents are still unborn. Similarly, I want Teenage Penny and Collegiate Nolan to get a taste of the flavor of these days, if they want to. The days when they were new to the team/everything. I love you now and I’ll bet that I love you later, too.

I wrote a note on this other page that says “it was all inside.” I made a few moves last year that felt inorganic but I nevertheless thought might lead to advancement. They did not. By abandoning those thoughts and following my intuition, I managed to write the songs of Count The Colors, the album I begin recording on March 12. It is through these songs that I have been able to see my way forward. What I seek is an audience for these songs about my experience of being human as filtered through my beautiful, scratch-and-dented brain. I want these songs to take me around the world. 

There are moments when I feel too short for such a tall order, but if those teens won't give up on that sidewalk sandwich board, I won't give up on my goals either. 

Sincerely,

Chance Raspberry

Friday, February 24, 2017

on my right

one bird is singing the same three notes in a time signature that only birds understand

on my left

the bird melody is reverberating through the forest, clustered together like some chord that only birds understand

now it's switched to a lower, flatter melody that doesn't resonate with the trees in the same way

just keeping you updated

Friday, February 10, 2017

We Are Gonna Do Beautiful Things While We're Here

I like the way that serendipity has been showing me the way lately.

To put my first two records together, without creative compromise, has been a stressful but rewarding journey. Family/world problems have made the realization of this creative work seem, at times, like a ridiculous pursuit. "This is the time for loud-mouthed, dark-hearted bastards, not sensitive song crafters... right?"

To be so ambitious in a time when I have limited money and clout is also a bit of an uphill march, especially when trying to corral outside collaborators together.

My music career, if concentrated in one place and not interrupted by health problems and the like, would perhaps be a very successful one with many eyes and ears on it. I see my reality as a lucky break; I got to become a better writer while still in the shadows. Not to mention a better person. I've had the privilege of developing to the point that my second tier songs are still good songs.

What fate had in store for my first ten years of public music-making has been a strange, seemingly nonlinear path... just when I'd made a few fans by playing loud, jammy rock steadily in New Brunswick and New York, I was suddenly bumming around Pennsylvania with an acoustic guitar, trying to get attention for original songs that nobody asked for. The day I wrote "Count The Colors," for example, I played three songs (cover songs, no less) in a dive bar in my hometown to absolutely NO applause.

But the thing is, I knew I'd written "Count The Colors" that day.

(Also, I taunted the crowd a little on my way out. That was fun.)

I'm taking the long way, but I've learned so much each place I've visited. In art/music, you take it all with you.

There's a certain point when you've got to know in your core that you have the goods and the rejection of a couple strangers has nothing to do with the mission that you're on. You're signal, they're noise. It took me a long time and a lot of work, but I'm there now. I know what I bring to the table.

After many years of lurking in the shadows, I am taking my songs outside to play in the sun. It is Marcella's inspiration that has revitalized me as a songwriter.

I wasn't able to write songs after the one-two punch of my dad having a debilitating stroke and my mom's house burning down immediately afterwards. But as the sole possessor of the memories of Greg's and Marcella's relationship, I refused to let them recede into the past. I wasn't gonna let our time together be reduced to a pile of photographs, even beautiful ones. My deeper motivation - as always - is to use the majesty of music to capture the FEELINGS of my lifetime. Mainly, perhaps, for myself and for the fear of losing sight of the beauty and spiritual depth we experienced.

Once a song is complete, though, it is endlessly rewarding to see how it touches others' lives. Creating music, for me, is a way of making sure that the richest parts of my life don't become reduced to Cliff Notes. I want to be able to walk right into these scenes like it's a dream I'm having. I want you to be able to do the same.

She's the reason that my songwriting has not only restarted but has reached a new plateau I never imagined was possible.

I was being vague a while ago when I was talking about serendipity. I was getting stressed out about trying to organize four busy guys together to practice my songs, so I started thinking about doing the project almost totally alone (faster). Before I could make any changes, I saw Nick Crocker on my way to the dairy aisle. Nick Crocker, my prose readers may recall, played music at Marcella's bedside the day before she died. He's also one of the biggest fans of these and other songs of mine.

I decided to make some tweaks to the plan to speed it up, but in the end, Nick Crocker will be playing guitar with me. He's on my team. And this is our time. We will, indeed, do this work and we won't be afraid to be ambitious. Fuck it. Life is short. We are gonna do beautiful things while we're here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

recording studio update

For those who've asked about helping me record my albums (a largely self-funded project), there's an easy way to get involved! The older songs of mine currently available at gregmcgarvey.bandcamp.com can be purchased at ANY price you choose. All proceeds go toward my recording projects. I've got a studio to pay for and approximately ten talented guest musicians I would like to compensate.

YOU DON'T HAVE A MAP - A twelve-song collection of the best acoustic-based songs I wrote in my twenties, featuring a country-rock band, my folk group Vagabond, two songs with a string ensemble, and bookended with solo acoustic performances. Fan favorites and largely unknown pieces that I love equally. This collection of songs, presented in the order in which the songs were written, chronicles this young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk - or at least from Levittown to New Hope. The struggle to hang onto one's dreams while faced with the comforts of conformity emerges as a theme. You don't have a map, but you know you're not lost.

COUNT THE COLORS - Readers of my prose know that a lady called Marcella is my biggest fan in the spirit world. During a trip to Nashville with my father in September 2015, I began the process of chronicling my memories of her in song. "The Grandmas Of Nashville" finds me pounding the same pavement I'd pounded with her by my side less than two years earlier. "Hey Marcella" finds me telling stories from our early days with the scents of her mother's delicious Italian cooking wafting by. "I Ain't Got You (But I Got Your Shoes)" recalls the dream vacation she arranged for us just weeks before her diagnosis of terminal cancer. "No Grays And Blues" is a ballad that I wrote using only messages that she left behind in letters, text messages, and graffiti. "Layers Of Winter Clothes" recalls a series of emotionally impactful dreams - one from Marcella's little cousin Tommy, and two of my own. "Count The Colors" begins at the sad scene of her hospice room but ends with my pledge to remember the beauty of her free, artistic, loving spirit more than her dark final days. In "Something So Beautiful," I take words she spoke to me and turn them back on her: "how could you make something so beautiful in a place like this?" "Knit Hat Girl," her favorite song of mine, will appear for the first time on this release.

Just like You Don't Have A Map, the songs on Count The Colors will be presented, alternately, with accompaniment from a country/rock band, a string ensemble, and solo acoustic style.

When the roadside leaves tumble down and gracefully touch the ground, I'll count the colors for me, I'll count the colors for you.

Thanks for anything you can do to help me get this work recorded, and to spread the word about it once it emerges. Cheers!



Thursday, January 26, 2017

FEELINGS R 4 PUSSIEZ

Do you have one of these figures that acts like sort of like your own personal guru? Lucky man that I am, I’ve got two or three. My fancy calculator is flashing and vibrating and sending me thoughts from one of these gurus, straight from the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. The one-three-two (been a long time since math class) punch of her words, the sunshine, and the brain drugs released by espresso is making me feel, well, sunnier than I have since returning home from cloudy (but sweaty) D.C.

Now my mind is drifting and I’m listening to conversations around me. There is a very aggravated woman next to me with IMPECCABLE hair. (I am in downtown Newtown, Pennsylvania, one of the region’s TOP sources of Expensive Grandmas™.) I hope that she has a guru, too, and hears from her guru soon. You can’t buy spiritual clarity, but it’s almost as important as great hair.

Wait, what am I talking about? There’s a spiritual clarity store in Newtown, too! I buy my incense there.

Expensive Grandma™ is now hanging out with her daughter. When speaking about their excitement for our new president, they got very loud, as if they are trying to speak directly to my “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” button, hoping it will yell back. Now that they’re talking about someone’s pending divorce, it’s all whisper quiet. The complaints seem to center around the husband being too much of a self-centered asshole (...). Do your thing; I’ll try to climb back into my head and stop eavesdropping.

She then yelled in my general direction about “TRUMP HATERS” and was crying within about two minutes. Politics seems to be, for some people, like a TV show they can tune into to distract themselves from their lives. It works. Clearly, though, many good people vote for people who seek to harm people they wouldn’t seek to harm in their day-to-day lives. Some do it for the chance of having a little bit less to pay in taxes, no further questions asked. Some do it because they grew up with a cold, authoritative man in the house and they’re just used to it. Hell, I’ve got the musicians who scored the soundtrack of my youth on my shirt as I sit here at age thirty-three; the comforts of youth often remain comfortable.

Also, some vote for assholes because they too are assholes.

You can get a quarter of the population, more or less, to go along with the worst ideas you could possibly think of. After this many years of participating in democracy, I’m unfazed by that. I find the apathetic infinitely more fascinating.

I’ve got a Libertarian friend (hi, Tony) whose principles, I suspect, are as firm as the grip of a hungry dog’s jaw is on a steak that has suddenly fallen from the sky. (Dog metaphors are reserved for people I LIKE, to be clear.) Kudos to Tony for representing what he believes in. We don’t have to vote together to talk music and beer.

Same with my southern grandpa. We don’t have to have the same opinion of Elizabeth Warren to cruise around the beach roads with the windows down, looking for the best bar to drop into.

What is more puzzling is the people who WOULD agree with the principles that led me to march on Washington last weekend, but somehow take issue with the part where I got off the couch and actually did it. That seems to be the safest path - stating that somehow everyone and everything that touches on politics is equally toxic, and that avoiding having a fixed opinion on ANYTHING will mean everyone will respect you equally.

I get that. For me, life is too short to not speak your mind when someone threatens your fellow citizens. Among other sub-Howard-Stern-level things he’s said, the person in our top leadership role said he touches vaginas whenever he feels like it. Recently. Not acceptable for a twelve-year-old’s fantasy of being an elderly man; even less acceptable for an actual elderly man (of power).

To say nothing of “punishing” women who have abortions.

I understand that “I Got Mine, Jack” thing. Really. It’s tempting. But it’s hard to justify not caring about the world outside your front door once you’re a couple decades into caring. Most of the people out there, wherever you go, are pretty cool. Much like the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I’m in too far to stop now. Check back with me after I get mine, Jack.

You do you. As for me, I went to Don’s house the same weekend he moved in and reminded him he’s only got 30-odd percent of the citizens on his side. Staying home would have been a statement, too - especially to the girls and women in my life.

Please, think he’s a fantastic man if you want to. If you are a nice person, I will listen to your case for him or anything else. Sell me on Nickelback, kid.

On the other hand, if you feel like seventy years is long enough for someone to show you who they really are, try to imagine how satisfying it was to have made him livid by simply walking down the street.

Sure, he’s gonna take my health insurance (don’t forget that the active artists and musicians you know are often independent contractors). (Also don’t forget those pre-existing conditions I wrote about 300 blog posts ago.) But he’d be doing that to me even if I was sitting here wearing one of his shitty Chinese ties.

You continue to do you. I don't wish ill will upon the non-voters who chose to not stop the golden arsonist. Similarly, I don’t wish ill will upon Don Drumpf, [former] fellow New York City Neil Young concert attendee. I think that he should go to his special tower and be the BEST Expensive Grandpa™ EVER! Dispensing gifts wrapped in golden, non-recyclable wrapping paper with golden, non-recyclable bows to all the kids in his life. All in his special tower! Seriously! It was working so well before. We literally used to be in the same rooms, listening to songs of love and peace.

I think that, like all great artists, Don Drumpf lives inside his own head. An artist of infinite depth, complexity, and mystery!

Artists, though, maybe shouldn’t have their finger on the big, red Goodbye Everything button. We are too sensitive, too mercurial. Maybe he won’t press it. Either way, I’d better cut my records - and cut ‘em fast.

I’m gonna keep singing songs of love and peace. And a little jabbing humor here and there where appropriate. I wrote about cancer in prose and songs because it was part of my experience. I will keep writing about the things I experience during the time I am alive. From the same heart. Same mind. Same conscience. To remain true to my morals in times of increased deceit and immorality will mean turning off some older, closed minds, but perhaps I will gain two or three young, opened minds for each old one I lose. Decent trade. Those spiritually old people (not to be confused with physically old) weren't coming to my gigs, anyway!

So, we will poke some fun at Don because, hell, he's no snowflake! He's a big strong man. With the best brain. The best words. He can take it. You can tell he's secure by the way he puts his name on big buildings.

But we will aim for respect among each other because we have common goals.

I like to know the conservative viewpoint because I come from a nearly all-conservative family. I will never stop trying to understand. But know that those of us who represent inclusiveness are sincere and are also not going anywhere.

I mean, unless I suddenly come into a bunch of cash. Then I'm getting a big black Hummer with a custom license plate that says "FEELINGS R 4 PUSSIEZ" and retiring to Florida to run over small animals all day.

'Cause, then, you see, I'll have mine, Jack!