Artist: Alex Graf
Hometown: Durango, Colorado
Latest Album: Sagebrush Continuum
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
Obviously as a flatpicker, Tony Rice. But maybe even more so, I’d have to say John Coltrane. For someone who lived such a short life, his trajectory as an artist and as a human is really beyond incredible. His recordings have influenced me in terms of specific language but also just the raw truth and honesty you can hear in the sound he got out of the instrument.
What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I don’t think of it as just one moment; maybe three vignettes (for brevity). First, watching the Dineh punk band Blackfire play at the Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance when I was 14. The intensity of their performance was electrifying to see as a young person. Second, a few years later, seeing jazz guitarist Pat Martino play at Birdland in NYC. I remember leaving that show with my Dad and feeling like Pat’s 8th note lines had been fused to my brain. Last, my first real jam session and the first time I felt the moment of completely losing myself in the music. It’s an incredible feeling and so many of us are chasing it down!
Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?
I used to be really into the “nature connection” world, animal tracking, bird language, plant identification, etc. At the core of a lot of these skills is a heightened awareness towards the ever-unfolding drama of the “natural” world. For a long time, I had kept the natural world completely separate from my musical world. I felt as though the two were somehow at odds or incompatible. In the last year or so I’ve been starting to realize just how intertwined they truly are. There is no music without nature, no nature without music and it’s a lot more fun like that.
What has been the best advice you’ve received in your career so far?
The best musical advice I ever got was from my grandpa, maybe about 10 years ago, before he passed. He knew I played a lot but that I was mostly keeping the music to myself (it’s always been a deeply personal thing for me). He told me that I needed to share the music, I needed to play WITH people and I needed to play FOR people. After he passed, I realized the value of what he told me and ever since, I’ve been trying to share music with more and more people!
If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?
I see my musical purpose as expressing myself in the truest way possible. I have this feeling/thing I’m trying to communicate, something I’m unable to say with just words, and each time I play my instrument or sing I’m getting a little closer to really expressing what that is. I think it’s the duty of a musician to try their best to express that mysterious feeling within them and at the same time, transform that feeling into something beautiful for the world to behold and enjoy.
Photo Credit: Carrie Phillips