Grand Drifter – Only Child (Q&A)

I feel comfortable showing my emotions. I transpose my emotions into any of my songs. They’re the key to a melody.’, says Andrea Calvo. You immediately feel what he means when you listen to ‘Only Child’, Grand Drifter’s latest release. You hear ten sweet jangly tunes without any fuss, words, and melodies; nowhere to hide, soft and brave.

How did this record come together?

I immediately thought of “Only Child” as a different chapter from my first album, “Lost Spring Songs” (2018), of which I chose to focus on some aspects, moving toward playing electric, getting a sound perhaps more immediate, and Pop. Compared to the first album -a spurious collection of songs- the big difference is that “Only Child” revolves more around the idea of making a precise sequence of songs, which was defined right from the start. Another choice was playing everything like a full band would; just one song is my guitar and voice alone. The recording sessions began in the late Spring of 2020 and proceeded quickly, but the pandemic slowed everything down. Not an easy time. For this record, I had the honor of having many friends featured, such as the band Yo Yo Mundi in its full line-up or Michele Sarda and Hamilton Santià of Smile (now The Wends). We both have been released on Subjangle (UK / South Africa).

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

I always think that “success” must be related to one’s life purposes, wishes, and attitudes. My point of view is quite simple. Real success is when I can compose music, put together an album, and release it at my own pace. It’s a huge strive, therefore a great goal to achieve. This is a success. Then when my music gets some recognition is a big success. And if people buy the album I’m at the top of the success. From this perspective of endless personal improvement making music still has a lot to say. It’s the little-big footprint you leave on this planet. The new album “Only Child” got some extremely excellent reviews, from all over the world, and a lot of positive feedback. Things in the music business have changed a lot, even in the last 3 or 4 years. Physical copies seem to be so old-fashioned nowadays but the CD edition sold out in a few days, while the vinyl has sold more than 4/5 of the 150 copies available. So, it’s been successful. I’m extremely grateful for that and I couldn’t ask for more.

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

Bob Dylan once said that the world is full of great songs, so why write more? I agree, even if many of those songs turn out to be him’s. I chose to write only if it is pretty necessary for me. Anyway, it is always something so challenging and worth striving for.

Simply, the best things come out if you feel you have something to say. Sometimes you have it, sometimes or most of the time no. It happens often and you do not have to worry about it, just take a break and do something else. You have a whole life to live. When you’re at peace with the world you can redirect your soul to an idea of music, then to a melody. And then you find out a word, a phrase, and some lyrics happen then. And you have a new song. It’s a matter of balance of feelings. I just do everything at my own pace. Now I have around 8-9 new songs ready on my notebooks. When I feel ready I’ll start doing some acceptable demos, then I’ll think about releasing a third album.

As an artist, you choose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

Probably showing feelings is also the only way I know to write a song, I write music to express emotions. I’m not able to write narrative lyrics or a protest song, to say. So, even if I consider myself introverted, I feel comfortable showing my emotions. I transpose my emotions into any of my songs. They’re the key to a melody.

Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?

“The Balloon’s Boy” (from “Lost Spring Songs, 2018). This is the album’s opening track and I consider it the most harmonically complex song I’ve ever written. I wanted to open the album gently, thinking that kindness could resonate more than opening a door with a kick. There’s a kind of classical music feel to the chord progression, that took me a lot of hard work to get finalized. It’s my own little “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Very proud of it.

“A Deal with the Rain” (from “Only Child”, 2021). Another opening track. That song marks a new chapter in my songwriting. The music is in C major, with a kind of Blueboy and Sarah Records feeling in it. It’s about making peace with the things we experienced but have no control over. I finally made my deal with the rain, as everyone should do.

“Diary of Sorts” (from “Only Child”, 2021). This song came out when the recording sessions were almost over. I wrote it quickly, having some Belle and Sebastian and maybe The Smiths in mind. Then we went to record it. Few take, then the song was ready. I like a lot this song: G major, few chords, evocative lyrics, and a simple 12-string Rickenbacker riff. Always been my favorite.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

I admit I received much positive feedback I didn’t expect, and my cheeks still terribly blush anytime that one quotes some artists I regard as masters, such as the Go-Betweens or Paul Simon to say. But the biggest compliment you can get is when people write you telling you about what a song means to them, opening their hearts to you. And I discover things in my music I didn’t realize before. A friend once told me that being able to share your music with the world is a blessing. I agree.

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