PERFORMING SONGWRITER DIY SPOTLIGHT
As the first warm, ringing drums and acoustic guitars of "Stay" kick into lush piano, saxophone and Bill McGarvey's sonorous melody, one thought comes to mind: This recorded this in his kitchen.
Bill McGarvey's solo debut, Tell Your Mother, strikes a fine balance between DIY grit and soaring pop sensibility. Reminiscent of The Beatles, Matthew Sweet, Everly Brothers and Ron Sexsmith mixed into one rich sound, McGarvey's pop is smart and endlessly enjoyable. And, yes, he did do it in the kitchen. And the living room.
"I live in these railroad apartments in Hoboken, where it's basically rooms stacked up on each other with no hallways or anything," he explains. "The Pro Tools was set up in the living room, and I had a big window looking into the kitchen, and I just set up the drums in there and recorded it that way."
"Like any record, it kind of came up by necessity. I had a band called Valentine Smith that made a bunch of records in the '90s and we'd done pretty well. The band broke up and I was just sort of stuck thinking, 'Well what next?' What do you do if you still want to write songs? If you can't stop writing songs?"
McGarvey broke out a cocktail drum kit he'd bought a while before (did we mention he's a drummer?) and set to work. "The singer/songwriter/guitar player becomes its own cliche sometimes," he says. "But the drums were my first instrument since I was a kid, and it just made sense to do my own songs and the singer-songwriter thing with the drum set to see how it works." It worked well enough that he's now fronting his band with the cocktail kit live.
As a songwriter and recording artist, McGarvey does his best to shorten the distance between inspiration and execution, thus holding on to the immediate energy that comes with the first flush of a new song. "I'm a big fan of just putting down any idea and then going back a week later and seeing if it's still worth looking at. There are those great hazy moments where you're not sure where your brain is going when some great ideas come to you. That little kernel of inspiration that starts you is what you have to keep going back to. What interested you about that idea? What keeps it interesting and fresh? Sometimes it's those wonderful little gems that come to you. They're gifts you don't deserve. You should be thanking somebody you don't know."
This exuberance and openness to free inspiration can be heard plainly on Tell Your Mother. Even when his melodies are at their most melancholy, there's a joy and irresistible force that informs them and creates an honest balance between lush and spare, between pop and poetry.
PERFORMING SONGWRITER MAGAZINE - 2003
DIY TOP 12 PICK
Songwriter and singing drummer Bill McGarvey has crafted 13 tracks of pure pop pleasure on Tell Your Mother. The exuberance emanating from this record is perfectly executed and irresistible. Although he’s the former drummer for a number of N.Y.C. bands, including the Liquor Giants, and he’s the frontman for Valentine Smith, McGarvey has no problem standing out as a solo artist. From the Jayhawks-tinged opening tune "Stay" through the breathless "Settle Down (Ballad of the Cornfed Beauty)" to the heartbroken pop of the closing song "I Hear Voices" (and the following hidden track) this is first-class songwriter’s pop on par with Freedy Johnston and Matthew Sweet.