I sat down with local musician, Dylan Galvin. We talked about his love for music, being an artist, and Paul Simon.
Q: Where did you grow up and how did you end up in Maryland?
I grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts. When I was about 1 year old, we moved down to Maryland and moved in with my grandparents. We lived there for a few years. Being recently married, having a kid, and living with others wasn’t ideal, so we moved to a little community in Lusby, Maryland. It was a really cool neighborhood growing up. It was all new families with kids. The kids would all get together and play when it snowed. We would sled, etc. The community came together a lot.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
My dad played the guitar and when me and my brother were little, he would make up a song for us, and we would run around the house and jump around and act crazy. That’s a great memory I associate with music. I didn’t really get into playing it until high school, when my grandparents bought me a guitar for my birthday. It sat in a corner of my room until a year later when they visited for dinner. They said “Dylan, when are you going to play that guitar we bought you? You’ve never even picked it up.” I said “OK..i’ll go mess with it right now.” I started messing it and thought “wow, this is kind of cool!” I loved the way it made sounds. My dad had some books on playing guitar. I started out playing Blink 182 and Green Day..more simple stuff.
Q: Do you have any musical influences?
Oh yeah. I have a lot. One of the biggest would have to be John Mayer. When I was in high school, he was just becoming a star. I have so many wonderful memories listening to his music. Those are like the wonder years of life when you’re meeting all your best friends, having your first love, having all your adventures. That music was the soundtrack for that period in my life.
I really like Imogen Heap. She’s a digital artist..she does a lot of electronica. A lot of really deep music. She’s the modern Mozart of digital media and music. I love Thomas Newman, who wrote the film score for “American Beauty” and “Shawshank Redemption.” He’s an anti-composer..he chooses all these off the wall instruments.
Q: What was it like being able to study at Berklee?
Humbling. I quickly realized I was the shittiest person there, even though I wasn’t. You come in from your little hometown where, because you can play a Papa Roach song, you’re the best kid in school. And then you get to Berklee, and there were kids there that were doing that at two years old. They’ve been playing for 15 years; they’re on a full ride; and touring with famous musicians. I beat myself up a lot, and I become humbled. It reset my whole perspective on what’s actually good. I’ve yet to see a place where the musicianship is higher and more condensed than at Berklee and around Boston.
It was an off the wall college experience because Berklee parties aren’t always fun. It’s like four people watching a Maroon 5 DVD and critiquing Adam Levine’s stage performance. Pretty sad. Haha! We played a lot of HALO. A LOT OF HALO. Oh my gosh. We went to other colleges for parties like MIT or Harvard, and those kids are INSANE. Those kids party like they party in movies. You show up at 10:30 and there’s people throwing up, passed out in a tree. Making out..fog everywhere. Although at a Berklee party we would bust out instruments and have an all night funk jam. That was pretty awesome!
Q; I read that you were able to work with Paul Simon. How did that come about?
My fifth semester I wanted to be a great jazz guitar player. I realized finally that I wasn’t going to be a great jazz guitar player. So, I took a chance and took a few songwriting classes, and I loved them. I got a lot of encouragement from my teachers on my songwriting. I had been playing music about 7-8 by that point and mediocre students were crapping all over me. Songwriting was something I had done in High School. My teachers would build me up and say “Look, we’re really not supposed to say this, but you have it. You have the ability to do this with your life. Most of these students do not.” I said “Really? I thought that song I wrote kinda sucked!”
One of my teachers, Henry Gaffney, took me outside in the hallway and he’s like “Some people are songwriters, and some people are not. YOU are a songwriter. So do not ever stop what you’re doing. I want you to take this as far as you can.” So those teachers who had been kind of observing were in cahoots with each other, and talking about having Paul Simon visit. He wanted to work with some of the students, so they sent me an email stating that I was chosen for the Final 50 students. I knew who Paul Simon was, but I was ignorant to how good he was. So I bought a few of his albums and thought “Yup. He’s good.” They whittled it down to 25, then to 12..I was still in the running. He was going to visit, and then pick the final 6. I ended up being picked as one of the final group of students.
He sat down with us, two groups of three, and talked about music for a while. He then wanted us to each perform an original song. He wanted face to face with us as well. I was..a little bit nervous to say the least. I played my song called “History.” He said “he liked it,” and that “it had a good melody.” However, he wanted to see me do something more experimental in the bridge, because it sounded safe. He gave me this idea of this rhythmic overlap, where it was almost like this African chant rhythm that lined up with the chorus after so many cycles. I loved that idea! ..But I had already recorded it, and probably won’t record it again. He said to write a new song with that same idea, and play it for him when he returned a few weeks later. I came up with a song called “Keystone,”, which I play with my band Izem.
Paul Simon is a very somber person..doesn’t laugh a lot. You can tell he’s VERY intelligent. He’s super smart, wise. He even let us listen to a song he was writing at the time, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. It was awesome, scary, and fun all at the same time.
Q: What is your song “The Lass” about?
That is about my great-grandmother, Mildred Pendleton. She was a performing artist, and she sang and played guitar in the 30’s and 40’s. She died a few years ago. She used to great-Nana to us, but I found out she did the same thing I was doing, being a touring musician. This was during a time where people didn’t like women were doing independent things. So there was a lot of danger in playing venues. She had to carry a pistol in her purse because sometimes men would say “Who do you think you are?” The pistol was a one shot, haha. The song is about the process of the world discovering a talent, businessmen want to exploit the talent, and she dies but her spirit lives on. No matter what, I don’t think you can quell a true artists voice. or put out their fire, even after they’ve died or been sterilized. Her doing that was sort of an echo of inspiration for me. Her daughter, my grandmother, was a painter; my dad is a musician, I’m a musician. And if I ever have a child, they’ll probably be a musician as well.
Q: Do you have a favorite song you’ve written?
My best writing so far is a song called “Angels In The Snow.” It’s a song about an old man, who was a member of the Russian military. He’s reflecting on a lifetime of military obedience and servitude to a partially corrupt military leader. He’s thinking about a time where he was ordered to shoot a village of civilians, which included children. To him, they looked like they were making snow angels. I really like that metaphor because it juxtaposes innocence with dark. I really deviate from my hero, John Mayer, in that respect. I really really like dark writing, but not inherently dark like Marilyn Manson or Trent Reznor, where it’s all screwed up. It’s more like “Oh this is beautiful”, but then you find out what it really stands for, and you’re like “Oh my gosh!”
There’s another song called “A Prettier Dress”, which addresses the beauty industry and how it’s damaging the self image of young women. Plastic surgery, which I have nothing against personally, but when someone feels like they HAVE TO be loved in order to complete..that’s a problem. So I took the analogy of a plastic surgery in 2015 is like a tailor, whose stitching and making their body a dress of sorts.
Q: You’re in band called Izem. Do you guys have any influences?
Yes! John Mayer, Paramore, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Incubus. All four of us have different styles. Our bass player likes Gigi Allen, Death Metal. Our drummer likes D’Angelo and Erykah Badu. And I’m a singer/song writer type of guy. We’re currently finishing up an album produced by the drummer from Jimmy’s Chicken Shack. He pulled us aside and told us that “You guys have a great new sound, and I think it’s a great. I have no reason to blow smoke up your ass.” He calls it “new rock. It’s not new metal, new metal sucks!”
I think people are sick of music without meaning. Today it’s all “We’re in the club, let’s dance!” It’s all these regurgitated themes that businessmen want because it simply makes them money and it’s safe. As a businessman I understand it, but as an artist I’m appalled. We want to add story lines back to music. James Taylor did it, so did Leonard Cohen. The Eagles did it with “Hotel California”, and those lyrics are fantastic. “Bohemian Rhapsody” = GENIUS.
The one exception to that currently, and he’s on the radio right now, is Hozier. “Take Me To Church” is phenomenal. The fact that he chose to sing about the persecution of homosexuals, threw it in the mainstream and said “this is a problem and we need to look at it!” That is what separates an artist from an entertainer, who just makes noise, everyone dances, and goes “OMG awesome, I completely forgot how shitty the world is!” That’s OKAY, but it has it’s time and place. To me it’s more important to give art to the world, and it says something. It’s sometimes about showing an ugly truth and inspiring people to change.
Dylan has upcoming shows in Baltimore, Lexington Park, and Gaithersburg.
For tour dates, music clips, and his blog, check out Dylan’s website HERE
Buy his EP from iTunes HERE
My favorite song of his is titled “Will Of A Fisherman.” Check it out: