News Column

Micah Goska: Influenced by Beatles, blues and Bach

October 24, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 24--It's no secret that the Beatles remain one of the most prolific forces of inspiration in the realm of rock 'n' roll. The Fab Four's 1967 LP "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," in particular, lingers as an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest group of all time.

But for Nelson County native Micah Goska, it was another record from the popular British exports that initially stoked his fire of musical ambition.

"I always loved [1969's] 'Abbey Road,'" says the 26-year-old singer/songwriter, who'll perform at the White Hart Caf this Friday. "But, especially when I was a kid, 'Yellow Submarine' was my favorite. It was a pretty psychedelic album."

Some people still insist that the title track off the disc -- which technically served as the soundtrack to the band's 1968 animated film of the same name -- is the seminal link to youngsters becoming rabid Beatles fans, with its cheery singalong chorus and brief,carnival-esque trumpet break.

Goska took those seeds of early influence and sprinkled them throughout his formative years, playing the part of an aspiring and motivated musician by signing himself up for a couple of rounds of guitar lessons before he was 10.

Instruction on the bass and hours spent mimicking blues LPs that found their way into his bedroom would follow, paving the way for an explosion of interest in the remnants of his father's dwindling vinyl collection.

"I remember him bringing all his Pink Floyd stuff to the record shop, because he didn't want me to listen to it [laughs],"Goska says. "Growing up, my parents went to church and all, and they were pretty straightedged about the whole music thing, really conservative, actually. They're into classical music and stuff like that."

Given his family's taste for Chopin and Bach, he picked up the violin at 15, choosing to immerse himself in the suave sophistication and semi-operatic fare of sweeping overtures for a period of six months.

The quintessential, if often short-lived, high school band with his older brother followed, which preceded the occasional solo jam session and a kind of lengthy interval of silence when it came to his rhythmic pursuits.

"I didn't really do a whole lot with [the guitar] until I turned 18, and then I started playing just about every day," Goska says. "It was something that I felt like was a part of me since I was a kid, you know? ... I just didn't feel right without it, and it just felt right to follow it again, as something that's one of my passions."

That was just a foreshadowing of things to come because he, with just a me-myself-and-I approach to writing songs, went straight back to work at honing his craft, spending the next several years cultivating a series of instrumentals that would form the foundation for his first studio effort.

After listening to 2012's "The Blue Sessions," it doesn't take long to realize that there are places on the album -- the folksy "Easy Darker Plea" being one of them -- where you sorta want Goska to cut loose with a little unhinged distortion. But, perhaps, incorporating layers of stacked guitars just isn't his style, almost as if he's more comfortable in the neighborhood of subtle restraint.

Meanwhile, the harmonica-laced "Cumbersome Road" shows off the singer's fondness for the melancholy side of things, a notion he's keen to explore on the darkly hued "Blue Moon" and the somber reflections of "Passenger."

"What I do a lot is I write from music," Goska says. "I've kind of built a relationship with my guitar, and then the lyrics come to me from the music. A lot of that album was done that way. And, I don't know, I felt like I could relate that to blues and folk and pretty much developed out of that."

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(c)2013 The News & Advance (Lynchburg, Va.)

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