Thursday, June 30, 2016

Chicago musician Quentin Hirsley bares soul on new album, will perform at The Hideout


On his latest album, "Wilderness," Chicago musician Quentin Hirsley talks with blunt frankness about the breakup of his marriage. 

Hirsley and his band will perform July 2 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Chicago, opening for Crow Moses. 

The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10, available at  

I had the chance to talk to Hirsley about the album and the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. It seems like "Wilderness" is an extremely personal album. Was making the album cathartic for you? Is there a story behind the album's name? 

So this record is about my marriage breaking apart. It’s personal. And while I was making it, the word that echoed in my mostly empty head was “Wilderness."

There was no compass for getting around in that space. I had no frame of reference or friends going through something similar. I didn’t trust much of what I felt or what I was doing at the time.

I was lost. So I put all that towards these songs in the hopes of cobbling together a path to understanding a pretty terrible time in my life. And I think I accomplished that.

Yes, this album was cathartic. There was little I felt in control of then, but by making these little songs, I was able to find something that gave me a mild sense of empowerment. 

Q - In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

My goals were to write an honest account of a relationship falling apart, well, honestly, a relationship being torpedoed by me, to write openly about my culpability in that situation, and for all of that to somehow be FUN to listen to.

That seemed like a difficult equation to solve, but thanks to my band and friends, Ryan Juravic (drums), Will Phalen (bass, producer, engineer), Chris Anderson (guitar), Jeff Lyman (guitar) and Dan Ingenthron (keys), I think it turned out pretty alright. 

Q - I understand you had previously played harmonica, but gave it up to do dog grooming and then dog walking. How have these experiences shaped your life and music? 

Well, yeah, I played a lot of blues stuff when I was a kid. I didn’t really give it up to be a dog groomer and dog walker. I was a dog groomer and dog walker BECAUSE I was a musician.

I worked those types of jobs to give myself the flexibility to play shows, rehearse, record, etc. And also because playing fetch in a park on a sunny day and getting paid was pretty fucking great!

The experience of spending most of my 20s chasing down my passion was great. Did I get famous or tour the world? No. Not even close.

But, when I finally did decide to clock in to a big boy job, there was some solace knowing I gave it a shot. And when I do get to release an EP and play an album release show at the Hideout at the age of 37 and feel all of the same old jitters and excitement over sharing my music, well that’s just a nice life bonus.

So, while music has a much smaller space in my life, this time around my experience with it has been more powerful and transcendent than ever before. 

Q - You work full-time as an associate creative director and copywriter. Is music just another outlet for your creativity? 

Along with finding creative ways to keep my 4-year old son entertained and happy, music IS the creative outlet.

Working in advertising is definitely super fun. You use some creative energy to solve problems for brands, but if making ads is your sole creative outlet you’re in trouble.

Most of what you come up with in advertising dies a fiery death and is completely out of your control.

Your music is yours. You can do whatever you like with it. 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it? 

Honestly, I have no idea what is going on in the Chicago music scene. It’s embarrassing, but it is what it is.

My life is about raising my little guy right now. I do think that the songwriters in this town are incredible.

Algebro, Crow Moses (who I’m supporting this Saturday at the Hideout), Bobby Lord, Will Phalen, Curtis Evans, Jeremy Miller, Bailiff, Danny Black. The list goes on.

This town has an alchemy that creates incredibly disparate, unique talent. I’m just glad I get to toss my hat in to the ring every now and again and see if any of it sticks.

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