Some might consider a guy in a van hanging out by himself in a national park to be a little creepy. But for Gregory Alan Isakov, it’s a way to get inspired to make great music — such as “Dark, Dark, Dark,” a track that premieres below from his upcoming fourth album Evening Machines.
Isakov wrote the track during a trip to Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, where he resides and tends to a full-time farm. “When I leave the farm and I need to be alone for four days to write or something, I go there,” Isakov tells Billboard about the locale. “Maybe I run into one person in four days. I have a little pop-up van that I sleep in and I kind of just ramble around and see different things and then go back and write.
“So a lot of that Colorado is in that song for me. A lot of that landscape made it into that song.”
Evening Machines represents a recovery of sorts for Isakov, who says that after a lengthy period of touring, including a trip through Europe, he was “going through an extreme amount of anxiety. I think it was just from just go, go, go and running around for three months at a time and not being quiet and not having a reference point to come back to without long breaks. I sort of found myself physically feeling these really bizarre experiences. I’m so lucky to be on the other side of it, but now I have a lot of compassion for people who go through anxiety attacks. It can be totally disarming and frustrating.”
Isakov acknowledges that “a lot of the music came of that place” for Evening Machines, which comes out Oct. 5. He actually sent out to make “a kind of dirty, lo-fi rock ‘n’ roll record,” but the 12-song set wound up sounding more characteristically ruminative and moody, blending a gentle spaciousness with dusky atmospheres and carefully nuanced textures — and the occasional louder expression such as “Caves.”
“I think I always start with these ideas that a record is going to be a certain way,” says Isakov, who begins a U.S. tour on Sept. 21. “And I learn really quickly the songs have sort of a mind of their own and you’re kind of holding on and you’re hoping to get it. I love making really quiet records, although our shows tend to be heavier and darker. When I make records I picture one person listening to it, and it’s a very intimate experience, very different than a tour or show, which is a group kind of experience. So I love making quiet, intimate records for that reason.”