There are few more satisfying feelings as a fan of music, than unwittingly coming across a talented act in a live setting. This has happened to me a few times in my concertgoing, where the opener blows past all expectations to become the most memorable part of an evening. The most notable occurrence of this instance was when I went to go see Vampire Weekend in St. Augustine on their Contra tour nearly five (!!!) summers ago and was left breathless by an opening set from Beach House, who have since gone on to become to one of my absolute favorite bands.
A similar wave of awe came across me at The End sometime last month, when I caught the Nashville-based five-piece I’m An Island open up a five-band bill on a random Tuesday night. Immediately entranced by the deployment of a saxophone and two keyboards in addition to the traditional instruments used a “rock band,” I was pulled in further by the magnetic charisma of frontman Justen Gardner. I had the chance to catch up with him to pick his brain and see what these guys have bubbling for the near future.
What gave you the inspiration to pursue a musical project so unlike anything else that’s happening in Nashville?
The easiest answer would be that the project didn’t start in Nashville, it started in New Orleans. But there aren’t really a ton of similar musical projects in New Orleans either, and I’m an Island didn’t even begin performing live until I moved to Nashville.
I remain inspired because I’m making music that I like and believe in. That may sound kinda self-absorbed, but I think it’s also a powerful and helpful message to share. Creative individuality is so important. I don’t want to sound too much like an idealist, but I’m pursuing something that I love and I hope everyone else can as well.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I don’t have a specific favorite place to write. That’d be like saying I have a favorite time to write. I guess I usually write at home, but that’s not unusual. Writing is something good writers should do every day, but it can be difficult to do that with the busyness of life. If I’m working hard to get something finished, I’ll work on it anywhere I can. Otherwise I try to be as spontaneous as possible and let the ideas come whenever they’re ready.
What are your top three albums of all time?
Such a hard question. In no particular order:
Tropicalia: ou Panis et Circencis by Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Ze and Os Mutantes
First Recordings by Junior Kimbrough
Person Pitch by Panda Bear
What is your favorite movie and why?
Again, this is hard to answer with just one. I gotta take a three part approach again.
Bottlerocket because the Wilson brothers are so hilarious in it and it’s Anderson’s first film.
High Fidelity because Cusack is awesome, every audiophile can relate to it, and it’s one of the best book to film adaptions I’ve ever seen.
There Will Be Blood because.
If you had the chance to choose any musical collaborator, dead or alive and regardless of money, who would it be?
This is an especially hard one to answer and I can’t force myself to choose just one. It’d have to be one of three: either Nick Drake (which would probably be almost impossible because he was plagued with social ineptitude), Marc Bolan, or Caetano Veloso.
What is your favorite venue in Nashville?
I think so far my favorite place that we’ve played in town is either Queen Ave. or the Stone Fox. We’ve had a couple of bitchin’ parties/shows in my backyard. We had a local brewery (Little Harpeth) and BBQ Team (Porks and Rec) sponsor it, and we even had a scaffolding stage. The next one is gonna be a huge crawfish boil in April.
What advice would you give to a musician that wants to move to Nashville?
I would urge them to think twice about why they feel moving to Nashville is imperative to their musical career. I moved to Nashville a year ago, but it wasn’t in the anticipation of furthering my musical career by living here. I moved to Nashville because I wanted to try a new city and because it seemed like a good place to sell cajun food (I’m in the process of opening a food truck). But I would be writing and recording music regardless of where I lived. I suppose that from a practical standpoint Nashville is in a good central location for touring, but it doesn’t really have too much over any of the other larger cities in our country in terms of ‘indie’ music.
Ultimately my advice would be that if you want to be a musician, work hard on making it happen wherever you are. Don’t feel like you need to move to a new place in order to make it happen.
When can we expect new recordings?
You can actually expect to hear new recordings very very soon. Hopefully within the next month soon. We’re very excited to share what we’ve been working on.
– Kevin B.