Michael Garfield | Interview

by on June 5, 2013

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Michael Garfield is an artist- regardless of medium, he is able to express himself uniquely and passionately, and inspire others in the process. Through 9 EPs of delicate “cyberacoustic” guitar and +250 geometry-heavy visionary paintings (all generated live), he cultivates a fascinating image intended to immerse viewers and listeners in a world of beautiful minutia. Michael will be performing at Sonic Bloom on the Hummingbird stage. His artwork will also be on display. Be sure to check out his excellent work on his website.

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“Every Day is a New Year” – Painted at the Rootwire Festival

Q: So Michael, you’re obviously quite multi-talented, as you create psychedelic paintings, live music, and have managed Sonic Bloom’s extensive live art program for the past 5 years. Which of these would you consider your main pursuit?
A: I make more money as a visual artist, but seem to touch people more deeply as a musician, and it’s nourishing to my soul to serve through mentorship and leadership as an arts and community coordinator.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a trident – and you hold a trident by the handle, which for me is my desire to inspire and empower people with a vision of humankind’s evolutionary destiny and a map of how to participate in that with integrity and heart.
Q: Describe your musical process to me. Are your songs usually improv, or do you preemptively craft them?
A: For the first ten years or so that I played music, my focus was on songcraft and avant-garde percussive guitar techniques.  I got a lot of comparisons to artists like Michael Hedges and Kaki King, and it was obvious to most people that I’d cut my teeth as a guitarist by learning the entire songbook to Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds’ Live At Luther College.
But I have this philosophy to “Do only what only you can do,” by which I mean that if there are already a thousand people dedicated to that specific thing, why try to shout over them?  It’s better to change course and express yourself in a way that’s unique to your own specific history and experience.  This isn’t about trying to be original or different, but acknowledging that you already are, and celebrating it.
I still write music
 and cherish the craft of songwriting, but for the last three years or so, I’ve dedicated myself almost entirely to honoring what it is that only I can bring to the musical banquet – which are performances informed and inspired by my background in evolutionary science, and how our culture is currently evolving to emphasize tranparency, process, feedback loops, the empowerment of the individual, improvisation in a chaotic and unpredictable environment…
Sometimes I feel like the songs are islands in an ocean of improv – structure dotting an infinite expanse of aqueous mystery.  In this metaphor, I suppose, this guitar and these pedals are my ship, and the longer I keep at it the less likely I am to sink it in front of an audience.
Q: How did you first get involved with the festival scene?
A: As a ticketholder!  My first taste of music festivals was at Camp Zoe in Missouri, which was an absolutely magical former Boyscout camp in the Ozarks that was purchased by a Grateful Dead cover band, The Schwag, and they would hold three or four festivals a year there.  So from the very beginning my interest was more about the intersection between nature and culture, and the ability to get away and explore trails and creeks and still hear the  – a very interesting blend of wilderness and civilization that’s still the main draw for me with gigs like Om Vibrations in Longhorn Cavern State Park, or Sonic Bloom at Shadow Ranch.
I was going to festivals for four years before I ever participated in one.  I think my first festival gig was at Wakarusa in 2007.
Michael garfield

Michael Garfield

Q: Do your music, art and philosophies evolve together, or as separate entities?
A: Yes!  😉  Seriously though, they started out more separate in my mind, but they were always a performance of the same self, an expression across multiple media of the same mystery and yearning – and now that I’ve had a few years to integrate, I really do see them all as different ways of uttering the same truths, telling the same story.
Q: What sort of things do you draw your inspiration from for your various media?
A: I’m a science dork.  Nature is IT.  My buddy Skytree and I are constantly geeking out about stuff like the physics of crystals and electromagnetism, the mysteries of deep space, the science of sound…and I’m pretty deeply embedded in the conversation about our narratives of human evolution and the stories we tell ourselves about where we come from and where we’re headed.  In the words of Timothy “Speed” Levitch, “I refuse to be enslaved by a single perspective.”  I try to remain open-minded about what is possible, and that continues to blow my mind in all kinds of delicious ways as I open more and more to the incredible, insurmountable Mystery of everything.
I spoke about that in my talk at AURA Festival this year, “Taking A Cosmic Perspective.” Have a listen and tell me if that stuff doesn’t inspire you, too.
Q: Tell me about some of your recently finished or upcoming projects.
A: I just finished editing and uploading FIVE very distinct live sets, each performed in a totally different environment and thus expressing a different “soul-of-place” in their improvisations.  I’ll be releasing those every couple of weeks this summer through my biweekly newsletter.  And I’m in the beginning stages of recording my first studio album in seven years – and the first one on real, professional equipment – so that’s very exciting.
Zooming out a little to include my life in general, I’m now the Editor-in-Chief of SolPurpose.com, a website dedicated to visionary culture and “transformational” festivals (as distinguished from the more hedonistic, escapist variety).  It’s an honor to be appointed as a representative voice for this corner of a profound, inspiring worldwide community, and I’m lining up months worth of great conversations – recorded video chats – with visionary artists, scientists, philosophers, musicians, and other exemplary individuals whose perspectives deserve a wider audience.
Q: What makes Sonic Bloom unique to you?
A: Sonic Bloom is the first festival that gave me any responsibility as an organizer, and I’m deeply grateful to festival director Jamie Janover for giving me an occasion to which I could rise.  Funny story, back in 2006 I actually emailed every single one of his 900-plus Myspace friends and introduced myself as someone who wanted to apprentice under him, because here I saw a guy who was successfully bridging the worlds of acoustic and electronic music, facilitating a community of visionary artists and musicians, and generally just rocking out in all kinds of cool collaborations worldwide.
That apprenticeship never formally happened and like everyone I’ve had to follow my own star, but I still look up to Jamie (in a more mature, grounded, realistic, human way), and after my four-year stint living in Boulder, I have a lot of powerful heart connections to the people and the land of Colorado’s Front Range.  So in many ways this festival is a homecoming for me every year, and it’s a delight to see it grow and change, and to grow and change along with it.
Q: As the live art director, what do you strive to accomplish or add to this year’s Sonic Bloom?
A: I’ve done a lot of traveling since I started this gig in 2009, and met some amazing painters from all over the country.  This year will feature plenty of familiar faces but also about half a dozen up-and-coming artists I’ve met at festivals in other states, whom I’m excited to introduce to my Colorado family.  Maybe my favorite part of the job is creating opportunities for other people.
But also, this year, it’s more about what I DON’T have to strive to accomplish.  For 2009 – 2012, I was also in charge of the Sonic Bloom Gallery, which was a tremendous amount of work, and this year I’m handing that responsibility over to Jennifer Ingram and her world-renowned Tribe 13 Gallery.  So I’m excited to get more time to play while the presentation of our work reaches a whole new level of awesome.
Q: I’m looking forward to your set on the 16th! Thanks for your time.
A: Yeah, and thank you!
Here is one of his marvelous songs. Looped acoustic guitar and effects, impressive!:


Photograph by cleanseatx

Michael Garfield, LIVE! | Photo By cleanseatx

Michael Garfield

Seraphim- Painted live at AURA Festiva


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