The Soft-Spoken Genius of Gregory Alan Isakov
I first encountered Gregory Alan Isakov’s music in my freshman year of college. His 2013 release, The Weatherman, released earlier that year, and I loved streaming “Amsterdam” on his Spotify page. I was listening to a lot of new music then, as I had just moved to Nashville, but I was only settled on a few artists. I did my best to comb the Internet for new artists in high school, admittedly choosing the more obscure ones, but once I came to Nashville there they all were, a feast of artists whose names I’d never heard. Even still, it wasn’t until about three years later that I came to fully appreciate Isakov’s music.
Gregory Alan Isakov is exactly the artist you hope to stumble across one day in a search for new music, and one that you feel the need to keep privy, as if it will ruin him if too many people start listening to him without understanding the beauty, sincerity, humility, and wisdom of his songs. Once described by an NPR producer as “the kind of music you listen to while stargazing from the bed of a pickup truck,” Isakov’s music definitely has a “hidden secret” feel to it, an impression validated by genuinely great music, not just indie-appeal.
Demure and unassuming, The Weatherman is exactly the kind of music the world needs so badly. Gregory said himself that he doesn’t want to be famous and that music started out as more of a hobby until he felt that it became an “imperative.” I think there’s something profound to be said about this in our spotlight-lusting world. Gregory effortlessly turns his attention from such insignificant matters and instead focuses on telling the truth, a largely lost principle so fundamental to the nature of being an artist that it’s refreshing to hear.
And tell the truth is exactly what Gregory Alan Isakov does. Does Isakov reveal the answer to mammoth questions that have plagued humanity for centuries? Does he offer eloquent solutions to complex problems? Yes and no. There are no loud statements here, no pissed-off singers complaining about the modern world or about how fast-paced life is. Instead, Isakov offers a celebration of a more simple way of life. He’s not here to preach, just to offer a glimpse into what life is like when lived a little differently, a little more beautifully. Isakov tells his message better with a handwritten letter than with a megaphone.
I wasn’t sure what The Weatherman was about the first five or six times I listened to it, but I think I have somewhat of a firmer (or looser) grasp on the story now. The Weatherman doesn’t tell one story as a concept album would; rather, it tells ten thousand stories, drawn from experiences, emotions, and memories to deliver a sonic anthology to the listener. It’s an album about hope. It’s an album about the little things. It’s an album about laying on the floor next to someone you love and staring awe-struck at Orion’s Belt hung in the Colorado night sky. In its purest form, The Weatherman is an album about life and the infinite details about it that make it so beautiful and worthwhile, something we forget so easily.