Hamilton, Ont. singer-songwriter Gareth Inkster has been feverishly releasing music since 2018, with a discography that spans nine singles and an EP, with much more on the horizon.
His newest release, “Used To It,” is intricate and harmonically complex, yet a catchy and memorable indie-pop single.
Listen to his newest track “Used To It” now and read our interview below!
Can you talk to us about the inspiration behind your latest single, “Used to It”?
There are two kinds of songs that I tend to write. There are the harmonically interesting, lyrically nuanced, inventive ones, and then there are the ones with more conventional harmony, unadorned lyrics, and fewer moving parts. These latter ones are usually way easier to write. They tend to be the knee-jerk, sort of reflexive songs. It’s usually when things haven’t gone right and I’m feeling the weight of it that I sit down at my piano or with a guitar and just take the path of least resistance. “Used to It” is of the latter category.
I wrote “Used to It” upon arriving home from my former girlfriend’s house. We’ve been through the wringer a bunch of times and I really was hoping things could get worked out between us but it wasn’t in the cards. In the moment I felt sort of okay, but I knew from experience that it was only a matter of time before things took a turn. The image came to mind of one of those unfortunate souls in an old-time western movie who had been tied to the train tracks and abandoned. For the time being I was fine, but the blow was coming. I sang the first line to myself, sitting on my couch, then and there, “Lay down, the train will be here soon..” etc. and immediately went up to my piano and wrote the rest of it. The whole process probably took 10 minutes in all. It was one of those (precious and too-infrequent) instances when I don’t actually remember fretting over this word or that word – trying to make things rhyme, etc. It just took shape on its own, really.
How do you think your community has contributed to your success?
Immensely. I love music more than just about anything and I’ll continue making it and engaging with it for as long as I can. That said, if I were to release something and none of the people who I care most about took any interest in it, that would be pretty hard to take. It’s often genuinely hard for me to discern the dividing line between my music (what I do) and my identity as a musician (who I am). People’s acceptance, appreciation for, and interest in my music really does feel like a microcosm of their disposition toward me as a person. I know that’s not necessarily a good thing, nor is it probably true, but that’s how it feels. Consequently, my community’s support not only of me in general (and they are so supportive) but of my music too really does bolster me in a big way. It has always been my dream to play meaningful music for people. The fact that there is a crowd of people out there who want to hear it is honestly one of the few most precious things in my life.
What was the first thing that got you interested in music?
I was raised in a pretty intensely music family. I’m the third of four boys, and we all played a stringed instrument (I was on violin) and the piano. We had lessons for our strings every week, and we had to thoroughly practice both literally every day. With the exception of practicing, I always took to it pretty naturally and loved the recitals. Music was always my best subject at school, and all the teachers I had took pains to really encourage me to see where I could go with it. On top of that, both of my parents were constantly listening to good and eclectic music when I grew up. The first CD I ever bought was Abbey Road, at my father’s guidance, followed closely by Magical Mystery Tour and Ram by McCartney. I listened to those albums with obsessive devotion and taught myself to play those songs on piano. I owe it all to my parents, truly.
Describe to our audience your music-making process.
For some reason, most of my songs are born at the piano. I consider myself a guitarist as much as I do a pianist, but the songs tend to start at the keys. As far as a process goes, different things work at different times. Sometimes there’s a particular line or refrain which things form around, while other times I have a melody in my head and I improvise lyrics on top of it. I try to take advice from people like Thom Yorke or Jeff Tweedy. I’ve read that neither of them are terribly particular with which lyrics the song starts being written around. There’s something to that, too. I’ve had some of my best lines come to me through stream of consciousness.
After it’s written, I tend to demo it quickly and with feverish enthusiasm, neglecting whatever I should be doing that night. It almost feels like a kind of mania sometimes, but I figure you ought to make hay while the sun shines. Once it’s demo’d I send it to a select crew of friends who know what they’re doing, and they send me feedback. Sometimes I heed them, other times I don’t. After a few days, once the arrangement is firmed up, or I’ve heard things that bother me, I’ll make adjustments and then set about recording the good-copy version of the song. Depending on the arrangement I can do that all at my private studio, although I tend to outsource for drums.
What advice would you give other musicians?
I’m not good at general truisms. I would feel much capable of offering advice if I were talking with somebody one on one. That said, something that has been very helpful for me is the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Obviously it would be worth doing well, too, and you should do it well if you can, but if it’s worth doing then it’s worth doing, period. You’ll have every reason in the world not to do it, but you should, because it’s worth it anyways. I regret heaps of mixing decisions I made in the past few years on past releases, because I simply didn’t know better. Would I be better off if I hadn’t released those songs? Absolutely not.
It felt really good. When I wrote this song I was high on it for a good while. It’s like gasping with excitement and you can’t exhale until the song is released. I’m just really glad people are hearing it and liking it.
And finally, if you could collaborate with any musician/band, who would it be? And why?
Oh wow that’s a big question. I’ll confine it to people who are still living (honorary mention to Elliott Smith, though). I think my biggest inspiration currently when it comes to writing and arranging is a tossup between Chris Thile and Robin Pecknold.
Thile is such a brilliant freak and his chord changes so often just bowl me over. He’s a really brilliant melodist, too. His melodies just thread their way through the most out-there chord progression like a laden clothesline on a windy day. It’s as though everything should be chaotic, but if you pay attention there’s this essential uniformity which holds it simply together.
Pecknold is so good, too, and for very similar reasons really. Unlike Thile, Pecknold isn’t a virtuoso on his instrument (not that I know of, anyhow), but he’s a brilliant composer. I think Crack Up is easily one of the best albums of the past ten years. He is so committed to his own creativity that his work takes on this very special, saturated depth. Throughout the album there will be these subtle motifs of chords simply spelled the same way – the sort of thing which is never heard, but you come to feel it and associate it with the album. The harmony will blow your mind if you’re not expecting it, he changes metre whenever he feels like it, and yet not at the expense of cohesion. It’s really something. I would love to be a fly on the wall while he is creating.