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Steven Gores discusses roots of new album 'Ghosts of Little Bighorn'
(Published: December 27, 2015)

Q: What is the primary inspiration for Ghosts of Little Bighorn?

A: Well, it comes from visiting places like the Little Bighorn Battlefield near Hardin, Montana and The Bearspaw Battlefield, south of Chinook, Montana. Having moved from Minnesota to Montana a few years ago, the presence of the native history is a lot stronger here. And not as much of the landscape has changed. Also, having read historical novels by Native authors like James Welch and Sherman Alexie, I felt moved by their stories.

Q: How long did you spend composing the songs before recording the album?

A: The music has been floating in my head since I arrived to the very rural area of northeastern Montana. It has taken shape over the last few years. Because of the wide open spaces, the observation of tribal communities and their warmth, the music started to take shape and ideas started to happen.

I have a small studio in a town of about 200 people. I started putting together the songs and things happened from there. I came up with a basic idea and then I did edits and made small changes as it evolved. That process took me about a year.

On two of the pieces, I went back and changed the composition based on new experiences. A couple of the songs I originally wrote did not make the album because new ones felt more fitting for this collection.

Q: What was the process like?

A: The recording process itself was happening on and off during this last year. I had a number of false starts, as I always do. I'll end up with two or three versions of one song. I let it rest and then revisit. Eventually one of the versions sticks. I don't know if I even like it the best; it just seems to fit in the musical story.

Q: What instruments do you play?

A: I play piano/keyboards and synthesizers.

Q: How would you feel Ghosts of Little Bighorn is different from your previous recordings?

A: On this album, I was concentrating on a certain subject matter. Previous albums, especially ones I have collaborated with other musicians, will have the influence of the other artist.

In Ghosts, the decisions on percussion, bass, and synthesized parts was always this fine line. Coming from the city to a town of 200 people was a bit of culture shock, and in a one-man rural studio I had to go with a gut feeling.

But, I think, the loneliness and solitude helped to shape Ghosts. You can drive for miles on dirt roads around here and never see another person, yet it always feels as if someone is there. The prairie extends for hundreds of miles and rests as it was 200 hundred years ago. It has never felt the cut of a plow, but the stories of its ancestors are in the landscape.

Q: Creatively, how have you evolved through the years?

A: In the beginning, the piano was my only instrument. I don't know where those recordings are, and if I found them, I don't think I'd play them for anybody. In the early '80s I started working with synthesizers. The first one I bought was an ARP. The early ones were huge and heavy. It was cool at the time, but it was like having a million variations of the same sound. Then I got a Rhodes electric piano and developed an affection for various sounds in music.

Today's technology has made things smaller and lighter, but I still have a great affection for the vintage boards. In the '90s I returned to original acoustic production and worked with other musicians in live performance.

I continue to work with numerous musicians in more of a production capacity. Through peer group and family osmosis, my repertoire now includes folk, jazz, gospel, indie rock, and even a venture into dubstep. My stepson is a singer/songwriter, and together we produced two eclectic indie albums. The lyrics are impressive, and we had fun getting it all to gel.

Q: When did you decide to become a musician?

A: I started playing when I was 10, but didn't decide to pursue a music career until I was about 16. It was a great escape and I developed a practice, a routine, pretty much daily. I still find the discipline of playing music very satisfying. I enjoy playing with others and alone. It's all adventure.

Q: Who are your biggest artistic influences?

A: My first influences were Ramsey Lewis, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock. Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays created some great sounds as well. They were so different than what was on the radio. I liked the mixture of jazz and electronic sounds. I studied Oscar Peterson's methods. They all, in some way, influenced my ideas for chord voicings.

Over time, I learned more about theory and the technical aspects of music. As I got more into production, I met numerous musicians who shared their insights and techniques. This is what I enjoy most about producing. Nothing can replace live collaboration. The attention to detail becomes a creative process and the reciprocal nature of studio work is, for me, what it's all about.

More Information: http://www.stevengores.com

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