Singer-songwriter Garrett Pierce
The folk musician’s journey back home
Garrett Pierce is crossing town, heading to the Davis Food Co-op. There’s no traffic. Or skyscrapers. Or cabbie fleets, of course. Just tree canopies and leisurely travel on lettered and numbered streets. The day’s a sunny-as-hell, melodramatic, coming-out-of-the-dark bright spring day, one of those retina-burning Sacramento Valley afternoons that Pierce, longstanding area folk-rock musician, probably hasn’t experienced in a while.
After living in San Francisco for years, he’s now moved back to Davis—the fourth day back in his hometown, in fact. So why return?
“That’s a good question,” Pierce starts (something all interviewers like to hear—even if it isn’t true). “I think that the main reason I left Davis—because I was really enjoying it here—was because I needed to find more musicians to play with.” It’s a simple explanation. Now, four years and some albums later, he’s ready for some special Davis time.
“I just couldn’t get my head on straight in the city,” he shares, noting that S.F. life was “a little hectic.” He laments not writing enough in the Bay. And he almost chastises himself for partying too much.
But now he’s back, a newly inspired songwriter—and a prolific one, at that.
“I think it has a lot to do with boredom, to be honest. Cities seem to move me to go do things,” he explains. “I was constantly needing to go out and see bands and constantly meeting friends at bars and cafes.
“I was always on the move, like there was something underneath the city moving me.”
Pierce describes a “stillness” in Davis that is, simply put, an ideal place for him to write. A willow tree in his new front yard, where tons of birds flock, awakens him. As he puts it, it’s the “typical hippie shit that gets you writing.”
He’s been back less than a week, but already has penned a handful of new songs.
“I think that there’s a different sound here,” Pierce explains. “It’s definitely rootsier and, honestly, a little more lighthearted.”
Going back to the city, Pierce confesses feeling “demons” and a “strange anxiety”—which he also likes to blame on the city “as much as possible.”
“I spent a lot of time in my room wishing I was somewhere in the natural world.”
Perhaps the culprit for this unrest is all the traveling Pierce did while writing his latest album, All Masks, which came out this week on local label Crossbill Records. Italy, Greece—the musician left for two months, backpack and guitar in tow, interested in the region’s culture and mythology.
And All Masks is ripe with mythological allusion. The first song (“Your Feet in Wet Cement”) references Hermes, the second (“Running From the Face”) the Fairy Man, the third (“When All We Knew Was No”) an ode to the Greek island Santorini. While chatting, Pierce likens Dionysus to Jesus. He’s impassioned by epic mythological analogies.
“I think that mythology is a main connector through time,” he says. “[And] the title of the album, All Masks, was a really good connector of all the songs. I feel like each one paints its own story, and together they all had some kind of archetypal roots in me.”
And while Pierce sings of epic cultural grandeur, his lyrics are bleak—as is history, in the end. “I think there is a grayness and darkness in my lyrics on All Masks,” Pierce admits.
This brings us back to San Francisco. Or Davis. Or whatever the future holds for Pierce.
“The rock world tells you to party and ruin yourself and wake up in the bed of somebody strange,” Pierce begins. “[But] I think the best writers … are literally on the road and being inspired by the world to write anything good.”