Friday, November 25, 2011
FRED GILLEN JR WITH ERIC PUENTE
101 South Division Street, Peekskill, NY 10566
Fred Gillen Jr. is his work. As a songwriter, singer, musician, producer, engineer, and poet, he creates art with purity of intent, an open heart, honesty, and tireless dedication to craft. Part folk singer, part indie rocker, and part poet, he writes and sings songs about the human experience, honestly and fearlessly addressing pain, injustice, and isolation in his work, but also acknowledging and celebrating the hope in everyday existence. His work often tells the unglamorous yet compelling stories of the lost and forgotten, the marginalized and ignored. Veterans, drug addicts, and sick and lonely souls populate his songs and tell their stories in their own voices, yet the overwhelming tone of Gillen's songs and stories is one of hope. Gillen involves his audience and encourages participation, and his live performances are reckless celebrations of being alive.
Gillen's musical influences range from Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie to Queen and Elton John, to Yes to Elliott Smith. From James Brown and Stevie Wonder to The Clash and Johnny Cash. His parents listened to Jazz and Country around the house, but Gillen gravitated to Rock N Roll, then to delta blues, and then became obsessed with Woody Guthrie. Gillen is a folk singer and a rocker, a roots musician and a modernist, as at home playing washboard or acoustic guitar as playing with drum loops and samples. Whatever the instruments and genre, he's always been attracted to music which is reckless and in-the-moment.
A prolific independent songwriter, Gillen has released seven full-length solo studio CDs, one live CD, and two solo e.p.'s. He has toured all over the U.S., Ireland, Germany, and Czech Republic and has built a devoted, cult following everywhere he's gone. He's received a NY Foundation For The Arts grant, has been President of the Hudson Valley Music Collective Tribes Hill, and has spoken on panels and been a mentor at several Folk Alliance conferences. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, he was invited to read his poetry at congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich's New Years Eve event. His music has been played on independent radio all over the world, and has appeared on national television on All My Children (ABC) and NYC Soundtracks (MSG Network.) In 2008 the Gillen & Turk version of his song "Fall Down" appeared on the CMJ Music Marathon Sampler CD, given to 10,000 CMJ conference attendees and radio stations. His long-time friends and collaborators Red Molly had him sing a duet of the song Gulf Coast Highway on their 2010 CD James, which was a hit with Folk, Americana, AAA, and Adult Contemporary radio. Hudson Valley band The YaYas released their own versions of Gillen's songs Devil's Bluff and Conversation On A Train on their second CD Paper Boats in late 2010, which also appeared on the Folk, Americana, and Roots radio charts.
Gillen is also a member of and co-writer for the band Hope Machine, with Steve Kirkman and Eric Puente. Hope Machine is an "official program" of the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, and has performed at venues from Irving Plaza in New York City, to the Clearwater Festival, to peace events all over the country. The band has released two critically-acclaimed CDs, and is currently writing new songs for their third release in 2012. In 2010 their song "Peace Rant" was included on Folk Alliance's "War And Politics" compilation CD, a benefit to create a fund to provide instruments to returning combat soldiers.
Besides recording and performing his own music, Gillen is a busy Producer and engineer for other artists. He has created a project studio called "Woody's House," producing and/or engineering 30-something records over the past few years there, including the two latest, critically-acclaimed records by Carolann Solebello, the debut and sophomore releases of the Solar-Powered eco-rock band Solar Punch, several releases for teenage prodigy Anthony daCosta, and many others. Gillen has also recently recorded scores for several documentary films at Woody's House.