The iso­la­tion of Alaska is the per­fect breed­ing ground for songs, Port O’Brien’s Van Pier­sza­lowski tells

Sinéad Glee­son

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

“ALASKA IS the most emo­tion­ally charged place for me to cre­ate mu­sic in. All sum­mer, I work on my fa­ther’s fish­ing boat, and there is a smaller boat called a skiff, where I work. I can work on lyrics, melodies and ideas more thor­oughly here than any­where else in the world. There is no way I can’t be to­tally in­spired by be­ing so iso­lated from civil­i­sa­tion. It forces you to let go of all the dis­trac­tions that usu­ally bog down your life.

“I only take a lim­ited amount of lug­gage on the boat: a duf­fel bag full of clothes and my acous­tic gui­tar. I also bring a cas­sette recorder to cap­ture ideas. On our latest album, All We Could Do Was Sing, there’s a record­ing at the end called Valdez that was recorded on the boat. The gui­tar is the most im­por­tant thing to have with me; the creative out­let it pro­vides helps me in terms of not los­ing my mind up there.

“I spend four months out of ev­ery year in Alaska and this is the first sum­mer in my life that I’m not there. Iso­la­tion is an im­por­tant as­pect of the writ­ing process, and when I’m up north on the boat I’m as alone as you can pos­si­bly be. Songs usu­ally start with a sim­ple idea – a chord, melody, or even a lyric. There is no set pat­tern to de­vel­op­ing a song. It hap­pens very nat­u­rally and eas­ily. The best songs are writ­ten in 10 min­utes; if a song takes months to write, it prob­a­bly won’t end up be­ing very good. We wrote I Woke Up To­day in about five min­utes.

“What I like most about the space is my his­tory there. I have spent so much of my life on that boat. I can be in the skiff, look­ing up at the Shawnee Peak, and think about what it was like to be a lit­tle kid hold­ing my dad’s hand. I can re­mem­ber my first day as a crew mem­ber, ner­vous and ex­cited. I can re­mem­ber the best days of my life, and also the worst days. It’s in this iso­lated and charged en­vi­ron­ment that I am able to write and de­velop songs.”

Alaska is Port O’Brien’s mu­si­cal muse

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