The songwriting muse can hit at any time.
Perhaps it hits when you’re staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m. as you worry about how you’re going to pay for your kid’s college tuition. Maybe it hits when you’re rewatching the Will Ferrell scene from “The Wedding Crashers” for the 100th time on YouTube, or perhaps it hits when your 2-year-old is banging on the piano. Point being, when the muse hits, you should get to work – it’s what works for local musician Sunny Gable, solo artist and leader of the indie-folk band Sunny and The Whiskey Machine, whose new record, “Contagious,” drops Saturday.
“There’s always the possibility that I’m going to have to drop everything and write. Something can happen, like a thought that pops into my head, and I have to stop what I’m doing and write it down,” Gable said. “Or, I dream something and I have to get up and write it down before I forget it. It comes from everywhere: Sometimes, I have to find melodies to go with the song, or sometimes the song comes as a melody and the words start fitting into it. Honestly, it’s kind of chaotic.”
It’s chaotic enough to require bringing pen and paper with her everywhere; the cut “Hungarian Heart” from her forthcoming record came to her in the garden, thanks to a variety of tomato Gable grows.
“They grow in the size and the shape of a human heart. I was holding one in my hand one day and I thought ‘there’s got to be a song in here,’” she said. “It started out as an acoustic sound, and it can be played acoustically as well, but with the chord progression I thought it would sound really cool as a rock song.”
Gable is branching out everywhere. “Contagious,” along with the EP she released last summer were both mostly recorded in her home, as she’s part of what she refers to as a “crash course in recording, mixing and mastering.” As she handled guitar, mandolin and fiddle, Jeff Moorehead came out to her home studio to play dobro and harmonica; Guy Ewing emailed over his guitar and bass parts; and the drums were recorded by Bob Schwecherl in Connecticut.
She’s also proving she’s not just a folkie. Despite a love of John Prine and Bob Dylan, she’s got some heavy metal cred along with a classical performance resume.
“I had a thing I think in the early 2000s or maybe later, System of a Down was one of my favorite bands. A lot of that psych-rock genre interests me, too, all the different time signatures all coming together, I thought that was cool,” Gable said. “I was listening to that in my second round of music school, living in Denver and playing in symphonies. That’s the other side of music that I really love that people might or might not know.”
That heavy metal cred, that aforementioned rock song in “Hungarian Heart,” reveals a musician in a state of growth. It’s a big musical world out there, and while Gable can lay down a quiet folk song with the best of them, as her rich voice is the perfect vehicle for her lyrical introspection, she’s looking to have her band plug in, in addition to delivering acoustic sets.
“I’m a fan of all sorts of music, everything from bluegrass to punk to heavy metal,” she said. “I listen to it all. I love it all, and I definitely want to expand my horizons. So on ‘Hungarian Heart,’ when Guy did the electric guitar, when I heard that I thought, ‘man, this is a direction I want to be able to go.’ It’s super fun as the band comes back to get up there and play an acoustic set, and then rock an electric set. That is so exciting.”
“Contagious” will be available on Gable’s website starting Saturday.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.