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BGS 5+5: Palmer T. Lee

Mar 26, 2019

BGS 5+5: Palmer T. Lee

Artist: Palmer T. Lee
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Latest album: Winebringer

What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?

The moment I first realized I wanted to be a musician was catalyzed by an experience I had when I very young. I don’t remember why I was there but I do remember the height of the ceiling, the shape of the windows, the colors of the building, and the smooth painted bricks of the gymnasium. So I know I was at the junior high school of the small town I grew up in and that it must have been the junior high band set up on the floor just in front the stage, and the folding chairs wrapped around them. I was standing in the back and could see the horn section. I have a distinct memory of the ineffable feeling that surged through me the moment the band started playing. The movement of the players, the loudness, the vibrations pulsing through my entire body. Though I was so young I somehow knew I was old enough to where I wasn’t supposed to cry in public, but I wanted to.

Years later, I was maybe in junior high myself at this point, my brother had a garage band. It was just two of them, guitar and drums, and my brother invited me to come watch them play a couple songs. I sat on van bench a few feet away, they began to play Led Zeppelin songs. Immediately, the loudness, the movement, the vibrations, the urge to weep and the stoicism that held back all but one or two tears, that ineffable feeling, something like if you were able to feel beauty with your fingers. Shortly after I began “borrowing” CDs from my dad and my brother and when no one was home I would crank the stereo do my best Robert Plant impressions. That’s when I learned how incredible singing feels and that it’s what I needed to figure out how to do.

Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?

Which artist has influenced me the most is a little tricky because there have been a number of periods with varying influence. But lately, the past two or so years, without hesitation would be Jason Isbell. He’s like a Steinbeck of songwriting, the way he can paint a picture with words, so vivid and visceral. And his delivery is genuine and powerful; he can give the simplest line a potent and palpable quality.

If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?

If I had a mission statement for my career it would be to continue to grow musically and find new ways to express myself emotionally and creatively, to always pursue evocative expression, to create a space where people can simply feel something. It’s a simple idea but I know I am not alone in finding tremendous value in it and it’s important to me that other people know they are not alone in finding value in that cathartic experience.

What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?

Literature informs my music greatly and regularly. I really enjoy emerging myself in the world and voice of a novelist or a poet to the point where I start thinking and processing things in that voice. It’s a really interesting and fun place to write songs from. It’s a place where I most often surprise myself.

How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?

I don’t, very often, hide behind a character in my songs, they tend to be very naked and personal reflections. Though characters do happen and it happens that a song will take on different meanings and contexts over time and I will use different mental imagery while performing them in order to get behind it and into it. When that happens the people and the “me” in the songs may begin to shift or switch around and that can vary as quickly as night to night or even mid-song.

Photo credit: Jessie McCall

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BGS 5+5: Palmer T. Lee
BGS 5+5: Palmer T. Lee