Sean Geil: Gus’s Garage Volumes 1 - 4

Sean Geil is a local musician living now in Sayler Park, OH and plays in a few bands but mainly The Tillers. He is going to be the Artist in Residence at The Crow’s Nest for the month of March, and he has decided to do something unique. He will be releasing four albums one for each Thursday that he plays. A volume of music that has been recorded in his garage which, happens to be named Gus’s Garage after the fella who owned it who was named, yep you guessed it, Gus. Sean and I had a recent conversation about the garage, the project, and much more. 

Sean started learning how to play guitar when he was 9 and in his words, ”I have been bangin' around since I could pick it up.” Sean comes from a musical family of sorts. Music has been a part of his life since he was a kid. His parents were and are big music lovers, and have pretty eclectic tastes, according to Sean, which in turn exposed him to a lot of different “stuff” growing up. Sean also said, “they (his parents) are probably the main reason I started playing music.” As he got a little older Sean’s friends were all music nerds, and his good friend and longtime bandmate Andy Disney, turned him onto the majority of the music and musician’s that influenced him the most. From Doc Watson, Woody Guthrie, Mississippi John Hurt, to Tom Waits, John Prine, John Hartford, Robert Johnson, Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, and so many more Sean said, “I am forever in debt to him for introducing me to so much amazing music at such a young age.” As our conversation progressed about where it all started and where it is now Sean said, “Currently my main influence is the amazing community of musicians that I have found myself surrounded by. It’s truly a beautiful and inspiring thing.”

I asked Sean next how the idea of the project came about and I will just let him take it from here: “Well, I had just installed a wood burning stove in my garage (my home and garage was built by a man named August and the garage has been called Gus’s Garage since the twenties) so The Tillers would have a place that we could practice into the wee hours of the morning through the winter. I had been wanting to put this reel to reel tape machine I had lying around to use and this seemed like a good time. The plan was to record a solo album, around the time I was booked to be the Aritist in Residence at The Crow’s Nest for the month of March. At the moment I was agreeing to play, this idea popped into my head and I told Ian Mathieu, I’m going to release an album each week. I’m going to record 4 albums in my garage and release one each week of my residency and have the folks who are on the recording as my guests; (Week One) The Geil Family and Joe Macheret. Week two I will release an album from my long time brothers in bluegrass, Mt. Pleasant String Band with guest Will Kimble. Week Three will be an album from Old Time fiddle monster, Uncle Mike Carr with guest Pat Kennedy (Red Cedars and HU Town Holler). On the final Thursday I will release a session from my soul brothers The Tillers with guest Lenny Hall. My brother Aaron Geil, engineered and edited every session, and my good friend Beth Brackmann (MB Design) did all the artwork. The idea continues to grow, and I am planning future sessions and plan on adding many more volumes to the series.” 

The idea of recording this whole volume and body of work to tape is something Sean really enjoys. The Tillers’ last album, Hand on the Plow, was recorded to tape and according to Sean this way of recording “brings out a more raw and real quality to the recording as opposed to digital.” Time’s that feel so long ago but were really only decades ago, and everything was recorded into a single microphone. All instruments, all voices, all at once. There was no spending days on the mixing. It was simple you want to be louder get closer to the microphone. You want to be quiet step away. For Sean this is a way of recording that he truly enjoys, and he told me, “I love the sound of a string band recorded into a single microphone, straight to tape.”  There is something to be said about recording songs “the old fashioned way” instead of going the route that most everyone does, and even The Tillers have done, and recording digitally. You get a chance to take a walk down memory lane, and go through a process that your hero’s did, and that in turn brings you closer to your music, and your sound, I believe. And with that I noticed Sean’s excitement for this project was visible, and for the future of Gus’s Garage in the endeavor of more volumes of music. One word comes to mind, community.

I finished off our conversation with the question I like to ask anyone I interview and that is why music? Of all things to do why this? And here is Sean’s response; “Well I don’t really know. For as long as I remember that’s all there was. It was the only thing that made sense and brought me true joy. I’m ate up with it, I think about it all the time.” You can catch Sean Geil every Thursday of this month of March at The Crow’s Nest for his Artist in Residency. Music is quite a powerful thing and sharing the sound and experience ties it all together.