Wesley Geiger on Musical Influences, Upcoming Album

Dallas has quickly become a hotbed of talented musicians and one of its most promising artists is singer-songwriter, Wesley Geiger. Off stage he is calm and composed, but his stage presence is dynamic, soulful and energetic, which animates his music and highlights his talent.  Geiger’s debut album, El Dorado, was released in 2014, and now he’s back in the studio to start working on his follow-up album. Crate Diggers sat down with Geiger recently to discuss future plans, personal passion, and music influences.

So your first record was two years ago, do you think your music has changed or evolved since that first record?

Yeah, I feel like the last record I did was pretty much a standard country-tinged record, however I’m very proud of it. I love that stuff and I want to keep doing it. I’ve even got further into that world than I was before. For instance, I’ve especially been listening to a a lot more of Willie Nelson, and through him I’ve actually grown to appreciate more of the standards and jazz and such—not that I’m a proficient jazz player by any means, but I like to kind of flirt with that style. I’m trying to delve further into the intricacies of songwriting and how to make smart music.

Another huge change for me is that I’ve gotten married since my last record, so that’s been a whole new kind of thing. Most recently, I’ve written my first ever love song—since I was a teenager. I wrote about girls in my last record, but they weren’t really love songs. The song I just finished up, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out because I’ve always been pretty scared to write a love song since so many people have done it so well.

We recently caught your show at The Prophet Bar where you played a spot-on cover of The Eagles “Take It Easy”, are those type of artists where you draw inspiration for your sound?

Yeah, I really love that band and I feel like it kind of took me a while to get into, despite my dad and mom both loving that music, like The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and all that California music from the '70s. I feel like I had a hard time getting into them because it was stuff my dad listened to (you know how that goes). But I finally got into them through Jackson Browne once I found out he was buddies with that group; it was definitely a good way for me to listen with open ears for the first time. Their harmonies are incredible and I was surprisingly challenged by their songwriting just from learning the chords.

It was a fun song to tackle. There’s a couple of guys in the band that I’ve been singing with since high school—one of the keys players, Daniel Creamer, and Matt McDonald, the bassist—so it’s fun to work out harmonies. I actually saw Jackson Browne perform at the Troubadour in Los Angeles and it was quite a neat experience.

You play great cover songs of so many artists, how do you and the Texas Gentlemen choose which songs to cover in a show?

We just throw stuff out there. I have kind of started listening to music in terms of the Texas Gentleman now. And, it’s a great way for me to get better as a musician. Another thing that’s great about this album compared to the last is, the last one was focusing a whole lot on songwriting—which I still do—I just feel like for a while there I plateaued and wasn’t making any progress as an instrumentalist or singer. But now I’m playing with the Texas Gentlemen a few nights a week. They’re just the cream of the crop and highly developed musicians. Every night I walk away from the shows and think to myself, Man, I need to practice… By learning these tunes, we’re dissecting classic songs and learning what makes them a good song.

Could you explain the dynamics of the Texas Gentlemen?

It’s a really interesting, mysterious group of people. There’s constantly people in and out of the group. But, there is a core group of people that originally came up with the idea of the Texas Gentlemen, yet there’s no set group. The essence is that it’s a studio band that plays on artists’ records, but also have songwriters that will front the group—myself being one of them. We all get involved in different ways, it’s a very interesting thing.

There was a group in California in the '60s called the Wrecking Crew that Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, and other renowned musicians were apart of, who played on albums like the Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Elton John, etc. They were some behind-the-scene crew that made the music what it is. They really did an amazing thing with all those albums and I think the Texas Gentlemen are very similar to that—we’re like a version of Mussel Shoals.

I wouldn’t consider myself a core of the Texas Gentlemen, but I’ve been fortunate enough as a songwriter to be able to play and work with them very closely. They invite me to sing and play with them a lot and it’s been a very enriching experience for me.

There’s been so much great music coming out of Dallas recently, do you feel that its helping to push songwriters to a whole new level?

It’s a pretty amazing time in Dallas for sure. I read a Texas Monthly article a few years ago called “That '70s Show”, and shows the amazing history of the Texas music scene in the '70s, as told by the surviving members of that group of artists. But a lot of those guys were from Dallas, Willie lived in Fort Worth for a while as DJ. When I’m just driving out to Fort Worth, it’s just started to hit home that these guys I look up to so much have made these drives. They’ve gone to gigs just the same way we’ve gone to gigs and there’s something that is really special and in 30 years people are going to be looking back and thinking, that was a good time in Dallas.

Crate Diggers is obviously very vinyl influenced. Do you collect vinyl?  If so, what is your collection like?

Yeah I do. It’s somewhat varied. It’s mostly older music. I find that I listen to a lot of older music, although I do few current favorites in the collection. I have a couple jazz records which is something I need more of because I have been listening to more jazz recently. I really want to get my hands on Bill Evans Sunday at the Village Vanguard. I’ve been listening to that one online recently and it is just phenomenal. Yeah Bill Evans is an incredible pianist that played on “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis which is a seminal jazz album.

What I actually own is a whole lot of country music, a good amount of Allman Brothers, Little Feat. I started collecting records about 5 years ago and I feel like I’ve gotten into some artists through vinyl, first, like Warren Zevon. I was out and ran across his record thinking, that’s definitely someone I’ve heard of, I should probably listen to that. And like you said, you have to listen to the whole record. Artists, especially from the time of music I like to listen to, made albums. That was the unit, it wasn’t a song, it was an album. I sympathize with that a lot.

Wesley Geiger will be playing on June 4th at the Granada Theater for Charley Crockett's album release party.  Make sure to follow Geiger on Facebook or Instagram to stay informed about future shows and upcoming music.  You can read more about Geiger and purchase his first album El Dorado at WesleyGeiger.com

Amy Johnson