News Column

'The Weatherman' Songwriter Isakov Explores Everyday Miracles

July 5, 2013

YellowBrix

Most people simply talk about the weather. Gregory Alan Isakov does something about it; he writes songs.

"The Weatherman," which drops Tuesday, is the singer-songwriter's latest album. When listeners head to the Jefferson Theater for Isakov's Thursday night's show, the forecast calls for music that aims to make cloudy ideas a little more clear.

River Whyless also will be performing in Thursday's show.

At the time he penned "The Weatherman," Isakov said, "I was writing a short story about a weatherman." The concept of a man with the power to predict the future pretty accurately who appeared on television every day -- and got tuned out by viewers too busy to comprehend the element of magic in the moment -- intrigued him and got him reflecting on the idea of savoring life's tiny, everyday miracles. There's music in a downpour, texture in the clouds and beauty in the heat shimmer on the highway, if only one is willing to look.

"I take the bus a lot to Denver, and it's the first thing that people say -- 'It's really hot out,' or 'We're going to get a storm,' " the Colorado-based musician said. "It's something we all have in common.

"My granny, whenever it would be raining and everyone would be complaining about it, would say, 'What a lovely rain.' It's a basic connecting point for everyone."

The characters who populate Isakov's songs seek connections of various kinds with the people around them and face the consequences when others don't see life quite the same way. Given that television, like the weather, can be a common denominator for people, it's no surprise that Isakov enjoys hearing his songs used in film and television projects. Television viewers have heard his music on episodes of "Private Practice" on ABC and "Californication" on Showtime.

Isakov said he likes seeing how the words and emotions from his songs can fit into someone else's creative vision.

"That's one of my favorite things about what I get to do," Isakov said. "They use it for their own art, and that's the coolest thing to me -- to see the song paired with a visual."

Isakov can look back over the songs he has written over time and see growth. It's also hard to miss the qualities that songwriting has in common with his previous occupation: farming. Learning to bide his time while plants germinated and grew helped him cultivate the patience that songwriting requires.

"I went to school for horticulture, and I managed a farm for a long time," said Isakov. "There are a lot of parallels for me. In farming, there's a sense of letting the ground rest before you plant, or rotating crops."

That perspective makes it easier to accept the times when songwriting doesn't come as easily. And that fresh burst of creativity, when it comes, not only can inspire new songs, but also can revive shelved past projects.

"Then, a few months will go by, and there will be a fertile time," he said.

Born in South Africa and raised in Philadelphia, Isakov lives in Colorado, where he remains an avid gardener. Getting outdoors still nurtures his creativity, but so does being around other musicians. Having musical collaborators and coworkers brings a richness that his solitary farm life didn't.

"I miss it sometimes, but in some ways, it was the loneliest job," he said.

Fans who are willing to hit the road to try out a brand-new festival over the mountain in the Shenandoah Valley can hear Isakov next weekend as well.

The Steel Wheels will present the inaugural Red Wing Roots Festival from July 12 to 14 at Natural Chimneys Park. More than 40 bands will fill four stages; look for Isakov at 7 p.m. July 12 on the Shenandoah Mountain Stage.

Also performing will be the Del McCoury Band, Tim O'Brien, Claire Lynch Band, the Duhks, Sam Bush Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Larry Keel and Natural Bridge. There also will plenty of performers that local fans are lucky enough to hear on a regular basis, including Yankee Dixie, Carl Anderson, Ragged Mountain String Band, Judy Chops, Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts, Nathan Moore and, of course, the Steel Wheels.

To order tickets by phone, call (540) 476-1933. Check the website at www.redwingroots.com for times, prices, schedules and all the particulars.

Gregory Alan Isakov

with River Whyless

8 p.m. Thursday

Jefferson Theater on Downtown Mall

$15

www.jeffersontheater.com

1-800-594-8499

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(c)2013 The Daily Progress (Charlottesville, Va.)

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