Story last updated at 4/8/2009 - 11:03 am
JUNEAU - George Wallace said he feels a bit like "a fish out of water" in the Juneau music scene.
While the prominent local styles tend to be in the acoustic, folk, bluegrass and country genre, Wallace composes electric music, sometimes called "space music." He said he wouldn't necessarily call his style "New Age," but that's how a lot of his listeners tend to categorize it.
"A lot of my stuff tends to be optimistic or on the look out for it," Wallace said.
Wallace recently released a new album, "The Goddess." The CD features eight of Wallace's original pieces as well as one cover of a song by Leonard Cohen.
Many of the parts on the album were played by Wallace himself, including acoustic and electric pianos, synthesizers, samples, ambiances, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, percussion and vocals. But he was not alone in this endeavor.
Wallace employed a number of local musicians in the recording process. Andrew Engstrom, Bill Paulick, Rick Trostel, Doug Bridges, Steve Tada, Dale McFarlin, Jason Caputo, Lily Hudson, Rory Stitt, Andrea Mogil, Kari Groven, Kate Golden and Clay Good all contributed their various musical talents to the album.
"My idea for this particular project was to get as many people involved as I could," Wallace said. "There's something magical about Juneau, the way people just come out of the woodwork."
Wallace, originally from Philadelphia, Pa, has lived in Juneau since 2003. He grew up with musical parents who discovered their young son "coming to the piano a little too often." He took piano lessons during his childhood and picked up the guitar at age 12. Through playing and listening to the music of others, Wallace developed a passion for music, which has become his lifelong pursuit.
Wallace majored in composition and arranging at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He then continued to create, record and perform music professionally in cities around the country, even traveling as far away as Japan to perform. Now, he has brought his home studio to Alaska and continues to create music as an independent artist.
"Wherever I go, I tend to just gravitate toward the musical types in the community," Wallace said.
The theme of "The Goddess" is a celebration of feminine intuition through songs based on stories of various goddesses. In contrast with his last album, which was largely based on political statements, this one takes his message to a higher level, Wallace said.
"This is not a woman's record," Wallace said. "There are some very powerful things going on in here."
In the opening track, "Juno Awakening," Wallace presents a dramatic representation of the goddess Juno, who he described as a fierce entity and thrower of thunderbolts. The track features several orchestral instruments to create a very full sound. That full sound adds to the dynamic contour throughout the album, which "has everything but the kitchen sink," Wallace said.
"I really am trying to repopularize the idea of the whole album being the experience and not just little nuggets of it," Wallace said. "Each song has a story which contributes to the whole."
The sixth track on the album is a cover of "Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen.
"It seemed to me that when Leonard Cohen wrote it, he was writing about a goddess," Wallace said.
Wallace runs his own studio and production company, AirBorn Music, out of his home as a full-time endeavor. He describes his time not working on music as being "off the clock."
"I could take a job, but (music) would always still happen," Wallace said. "I have, you could say, the true artisan's mindset. I'm passionate about it. That's the problem with us musicians, you know deep down that money doesn't matter."
"The Goddess" is Wallace's eighth album in a series that has yet to come to an end. He already has plans for another album, which he said will likely be more minimalist than "The Goddess." He also has plans to write some fun, satirical music, which he normally does between serious projects. Though most of his "goofy stuff" is not widely known, some of it has received national attention.
The song "Gangsta Rap Car Repair," was played on the National Public Radio call-in show "Car Talk." In this track, Wallace reads aloud from a car repair manual with a hip-hop beat in the background.
"I have a couple of to do lists, but the to do list is never over," Wallace said. "One part of me says, 'George, you'll never get that all done,' but when the last thing is crossed off, you're dead. I'd rather just never be finished. There's always something to work on."
Due to his music's complexity, Wallace doesn't currently have plans to perform music from "The Goddess" in a live setting, but he can be seen performing at Folk Festival with The Preserves Festival Band at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday.
"The Goddess," along with Wallace's previous albums, is available for preview and purchase at airbornmusic.com. The CD will also be for sale at Folk Festival.