There was a time when Sean Patrick Garvey, who performs under the band name Obsidian Son, put his guitar down and started working on making a living. The son of a grape grower and winemaker, Sean grew up working on vineyards in a farming community in Northern California. Although the feverish rhythm of agriculture was in his blood, it was songwriting that consumed him. With a four-track tape machine in tow, he moved between New York City and San Francisco writing and performing alongside respected artists such as Billy Bragg, Langhorne Slim, Chuck Prophet, and Kevin Gordon.
Surviving as a songwriter is not for the faint of heart, but then again, neither is farming. There is something inherently uncomfortable about depending on weather and nature for your livelihood. However, for nearly thirty years Sean watched his father navigate the perils of farming and unearth it’s wonder through sustainable methods and advocating for farm workers. Wendell Berry says it best, “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer… without proper care for it we can have no life.”
So when Sean’s dad became ill and needed help to continue farming their family ranch it felt like a natural progression to return home. Surprisingly, the career change became a sea change for Sean’s music. He was reconnected with the black and red soil of his youth, the shards of unearthed obsidian, the lives of laborers and stories from the field. Finding time to write was challenging but he had tapped into a reservoir of songs and before long the seeds for his album “Obsidian Son” were sewn. “I kept my son’s little nylon string guitar in the truck with me and I’d just pull over if I had melody in my head. I remember one night in spring the frost alarm went off early and by 2AM we had turned on all the wind machines to keep the vines from freezing. I got back in my truck and by the time the sun came up I had written “Drifting.”
While Sean draws on the outskirts and our connection to nature, many of the songs on Obsidian Son are deeply personal. “Genevieve” tells the story of Sean’s Grandmother and Grandfather raising eight children and still finding time after work to share a moment together in the serenity of their parked car. “My Baby’s Arms” was inspired by the birth of Sean and his wife Lindsay’s daughter and highlights the life-affirming experience of parenthood. “Black Mesa Boys” tells the story of Jimmy Santiago Baca, a Chicano poet who taught himself how to read and write while incarcerated as a young man.
Garvey headed to Wow and Flutter and his good friend and gifted producer Joe McMahon (Mike Farris, The McCrary Sisters) in East Nashville to record his new album “Obsidian Son”. Bassist Adam Bednarik and drummer Jon Radford (both Justin Townes Earle) and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Norris (Lambchop) round out the players. “We would spend the early hours of each day in the studio just listening to records, everything from D’Angelo to George Jones to Professor Long Hair” says Garvey. “We wouldn’t pick up an instrument until it felt right and then we would go to work. Joe’s studio sits right on the train tracks and the occasional train whistle can bleed through a take. “
After a week in the studio Garvey had to return to Napa to work the harvest. Album
“Obsidian Son” is a collection of stories inspired by years living in a rural farming community. It represents both sides of the street, the neon hustle of a pay day night and a summer wind through Spanish moss. “Growing up I would put a record on and lay on the floor for hours, just getting lost. It was a ritual” relates Garvey. “My hope is this record allows people to unplug and find something to connect to. If it happens to give someone the chills, then it’s working.”
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