For Greta Gaines, adventurer, songwriter, extreme sports trailblazer, activist, mother, mentor, TV commentator and producer, composer and dreamer, making records seemed to be out of her system after the critically lauded Lighthouse & the Impossible Love. With so much to do, two boys to raise and a high profile role in the legalize cannabis world as an advisory board member of NORML and a face of Women Grow, she’d made an album of elegance and great songcraft – and was satisfied with a musical output that includes 1999’s alt-leaning self-titled debut, 2004’s Triple A standard It Was Hot and 2006’s Can’t Kill the Flavor, followed by the hard roots/Americana Whiskey Thoughts. And then the election happened.
As the first Women’s World Extreme Snowboard Champion recalls, “I was feeling like I was going mad right before the election, like maybe truly getting ready to lose my marbles. I was walking in the woods with my dog, and I kind of heard angelic voices saying, ‘Begin again…’
“The lyrics (to ‘Begin Again’) poured out… That was the inspiration I needed to let the flood gates open, to sit down and write all day and all night until the muses stopped speaking to me. A deep sense of agitation started the process, and it didn’t stop until the record was recorded, mixed and mastered – all within a few months.”
Growing up in the great outdoors, the woman who’s hosted extreme sports and fishing shows on MTV, Oxygen and ESPN2 is connected to the universe in very tactile ways. But as importantly, she’s built a career out of speaking up and speaking out. Not one to preach, Gaines offers up better options, truer pictures.
“Tumbleweed has reinvigorated me into believing I will always want to write and record music. I didn’t want to fix or autotune anything. I’m finally a confident enough singer to let it all hang out as raw as possible.”
Being real is what it’s about, real and aware and alive. It’s what drives Gaines. “Music may be one of the rawest ways to change people and spur them to action. Some of my fighter/activist side has oozed onto this record. Music changes the molecules in a room. People connect on a metaphysical level to – and through – music. It soothes and eases pain, serves as a companion, gives release and yes, sometimes motivates people to get out of their own heads and join a higher cause, something greater than themselves.”
“I sing for myself now. It’s best for me not to overthink things,” she offers. “These were all so new, I wanted to get them out the way I heard them in my head. Each song has a character, a particular narrator’s point of view, so my vocals sound different from song-to- song, but it’s unconscious.”
“A friend just listened, and said, ‘It sounds like a cross between Aimee Mann and Lucinda Williams,’ and I said ‘Thanks! If you say so…’”
Flattering though the comparisons may be, ultimately, there is only one Greta Gaines. Wholly, absolutely unique, her music seeks to unite us all in a place that’s saner, sweeter and yes, realer than the seeming madness around us now.