Greg McLeod is the most interesting person I’ve ever met. He plays six instruments, produces all his own albums, and writes lyrics that are so good they make my stomach hurt. He once told me that as a child he would read the newspaper while simultaneously practicing violin, as if that’s something every kid can do. He’s the type of guy people casually call a genius. You might know him as the violinist/trombonist who bounces around on stage with Good for Grapes, or as The Oh Wells' guitarist I cried over every day for a year, or maybe he’s your cousin, but if you’ve never heard his solo music, you are seriously missing out. I swear, I’m not just another girl bragging about her boyfriend’s totally awesome band! I’m a songwriter who spends most of her time thinking about music. And Greg’s music is freaking good. The fact that some of the songs are about me is just a bonus.
Greg’s most recent album is inspired by the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (titled MBLP), and each of the sixteen songs on the LP correspond to a different personality type. His live performances are rare, but fans curious to see him loop all six instruments will have a chance this thursday, July 23rd at the Media Club. Since he already spends a lot of time sitting next to me on my couch, I thought I’d take the opportunity to sit down and ask him a few questions about his music before his show.
SJ: I feel like the person who said goodbye to me a year ago and the person who is with me today are very different. Do you think the research and process of writing your MBLP made you more empathetic?
GM: Probably, yeah. You’re forced to confront how many different ways people are living, and how many different ways people are looking at the world. There’s always a tendency to think everyone thinks the way you do and to think that people are looking for the same things you are. Through this process I found types of people, according to this theory, who looked at the world in a way that I totally didn’t understand.
SJ: We often talk about how the instrument that a songwriter plays informs the way they write songs. How does playing six instruments change the way you write songs?
GM: I think that when you are writing every part, you try to make every part interesting. First, because it's a loop, and you're going to be hearing it the whole song, so it better have something to it! Second, because I actually play these instruments and need even a short loop to have something weird about it that I'll have to remember. I've learned hundreds and hundreds of songs, but the instrumental parts I remember always have something distinctive and physical to them.
SJ: What is your favourite lyric that you’ve ever written?
GM: Maybe it’s the braces one, from my next record that hasn’t even been recorded yet.
SJ: Can you tell me what it is?
GM: “I never had to deal with pain worse than braces”
I know you, and lots of people, who have legitimate struggles… their lives are really hard. And I don’t think mine is at all. I don’t feel like I have any major struggles, so I really feel that lyric. And I think that’s a lot of other people’s situations too, but they don’t confront it. So I’m trying to force people to think about it.
SJ: Why did you choose to start writing spokenword/rap?
GM: There’s more words per minute, and I like words. I like singing, but I really want to relay thoughts whole, and I think it’s easier to do that by speaking.
Maybe it’s also because I don’t rap in someone else’s voice. When I sing, I have a tendency to want to mimic, but when I talk, I’m not doing that. If I get good at rapping, I might start, but I’m not any good at it yet, so I just do what comes naturally.
My favourite songs from MBLP
SJ: Why did you write about an earthquake at a wedding?
GM: It's about how my friend lost contact with his family after his wedding. I wanted to express that rupture in a physical way. And then the idea that the two of them are trying to be each other's family, through little kindnesses and things.
SJ: What is the "Delicate Age"?
GM: To me delicate age refers to both society's touchiness and aversion to discussing mental health, and to the fact that early to mid-20s are often the most crucial and hardest time to manage mental health issues.
SJ: My favourite song is Halo by Beyonce, but this Halo is also breathtakingly beautiful.