In one of the past blog posts I had posted an interview that Great Lake Swimmers‘ Tony Dekker kindly gave me and also highly recommended you to go see them on tour. And here comes more: Great Lake Swimmers gig review and interview

The three-week tour through Europe with Mary Lattimore has now come to an end and I had the opportunity (thank you Phil Klygo from weewerk!) to see them play and have another short conversation.

So, it was Friday, May 6th, one of the first warm days after a very cold spring so far and the lovely people of Maastricht do what they love best: Sitting outside, having fun and watch the world go by in their beautiful old city. Yet, quite a few people made it into the outstanding venue “Muziekgieterij” (thank you, the great people at Muziekgieterij, too) and were well rewarded:

Great Lake Swimmers had invited their friends The Fire Harvest from Utrecht who came despite it being their CD release day and treated us to a great set of slow and dark and introspective songs. Check them out!

Next up was master harp player Mary Lattimore but she will of course get her own space on this blog 🙂

Great Lake Swimmers - audience perspective Great Lake Swimmers then entered the stage and by looking at people, I’d dare say, they entered their minds and hearts. You could hear a needle drop when the band delivered their acoustic set.  Yes, we all were still in the dark venue but somehow GLS conveyed The Great Wide Open that is so important to them, their inspiration, their essential elixir.

Tony Dekker, Bret Higgins and Erik Arnesen are accomplished multi-nstrumentalists, so if you are thinking – phew, a long acoustic set, that is going to be a tad dull, no it was by no means. At the same time the acoustic nature of the show made for a very personal atmosphere. Lovely to see and hear older songs again like old acquaintances, changed but inside the same.

The quiet sound also made it possible to really pay attention to the lyrics.

Great Lake Swimmers played a very long set and encores as well during one of which they were joined by Mary Lattimore on harp. I think most people would have had the same long-lasting effect of contemplative, calming and introspective mood after the concert as me. It was beautiful, thank you.

Before I forget, Tony Dekker kindly answered a couple more questions as well, so here goes:

Offbeat: Some people were a little worried since you only perform with part of the band on this tour.

Tony Dekker: Well, we are doing acoustic shows.

Offbeat: People seem to be very impressed that the music came across really well. Are you happy enough with how the tour is going?

Tony Dekker: Yeah, it’s great. We’ve been touring for three weeks and we have one more show and it’s been going really good. We were able to bring things back and revisit some of the back catalogue, playing songs in a little bit more quiet way and present them in a more intimate show with a three-piece band.

Offbeat: Do you find that the songs have changed over time or taken on a life of their own?

Tony Dekker: I guess so. I mean when you release a song you never know where it’s going to go, who is going to listen to it, what it is going to do. The songs always have a life of their own.

Offbeat: Do you have a musical background in your family?

Tony Dekker: No, no music in the family at all. I am the black sheep. I started out in my teens. I learned to play guitar and I was in scrappy art rock bands when I was younger. Then I started taking songwriting a little more seriously. After school I studied literature. Some of that affected my writing. It got me deeper into the writing process. I have more of a background in literature and writing than in music.

Offbeat: Are you one of the few artists who would think about the lyrics first?

Tony Dekker: Yeah, absolutely. 100 per cent.

Offbeat: That is very rare.

Tony Dekker: For a lot of the music out there at the moment the lyrics seems to be kind of an afterthought. It is more about the flavour of the week. Hopefully we are making music that will last a little longer. It is not really meant to be disposable music. A lot of the music at the moment lasts maybe a month and then it’s the next thing. Ours is not music that is meant to be like that.

Offbeat: Leonard Cohen it was, I think, who said, that his poetry does not sell or is read and that through music it becomes more approachable.

Tony Dekker: Yeah, I don’t know. It is a more direct channel. I know the quote.

Offbeat: Or maybe adding an extra layer for the atmosphere of the music?

Tony Dekker: I think songwriting is very different to poetry for sure. It is a different discipline. Some poems don’t really work as songs. And some songs don’t really read well as poems. So I think it is a different thing. But on that topic, I think, music is a more direct channel as you are really communicating with someone, you are really expressing something. There is a more direct connection when you are in room with a person sharing the same space and singing and making music in the air.

Offbeat: If you take us through your albums, how do you see your own development?

Tony Dekker: I don’t know, I think, maybe the songwriting has got a little more concise. We have gotten to be better musicians. We have evolved over the years. At the same time you could play some songs and do them with voice and guitar like on the first album and do them in the same setting and the songs still hold up. We still play songs from across our catalogue. We haven’t made the same album twice. There has been a progression with each album and I think you can hear that. It brought us to a place.
This tour is kind of a special tour where it is like reviewing our older songs. A lot of people who have been fans over the years want to hear those songs. So it’s more a tour for them.

Offbeat: Thanks very much!