Interview With Gilly Nils

Q: On "Heart Gallery," you performed all the instruments and vocals, and you also engineered, arranged, and produced the entire album. Did you ever (or do you ever intend to) work or perform with a band?

A: I've worked with bands since I was in high school, but there were always money problems regarding equipment. We could never afford the "big picture." Nevertheless, I was always writing and implementing original material for my bands, but changes in personnel throughout the years made it frustrating to continually "re-group." As much as I enjoyed playing with my fellow musicians (who were also close friends), I always knew I had the ability to do it all myself, on tape. I regarded this yearning as a personal challenge. I seriously hungered for it. Fortunately during the ensuing years, when recording technologies became more affordable, I siezed the opportunity and my quest began. Multi-track recording also provides me total control of my material and arrangements, which I admit I am somewhat strong-minded about.

Regarding any possibility of working with bands again? I'd like to, but only if I get lucky enough to get a major label to carry me on contract. It takes a lot of extra time and work to put a professional band together, so I would need a serious reason to do that.

Q: Where does the creative process of songwriting begin for you?

A: Inspirations are often personal interpretations, opinions, or observations about the world around us, above us, or inside of us. However, ideas tend to hit me when I least expect them. For instance, the song "How Long Is Love?" popped into my head when I was driving across the San Mateo bridge. I had to pull over into a turnout so I could jot down a few notes about it. When I got home, I picked up my guitar and worked out the song. So who knows? Maybe my next album will include a song that "came to me" while I was sitting in a dentist's chair..... (pause).....Probably won't be a ballad, though! (laugh).

Regarding my songwriting in general, I first tend to write the music and melody for the chorus (or "hook"). Then I decide what vowel-sounds will best compliment the existing phrase structure of the melody. Shortly thereafter, I usually find some specific words that include my chosen vowel-sounds, and eventually end up with a sentence that "works for me." The story comes later because the options are endless. Revisions are an ongoing process until I decide it's time to hit the studio.

Q: How do you go about the multi-track recording process?

A: Without getting into details, it's like baking a cake. You add the selected ingredients in your preferred order, beat and mix, taste along the way, and save the frosting for last (i.e. lead vocals and instrument solos). And yes, the frosting is my favorite part because the cake has already been made. Then I finally go shave.

Q: What's ahead for Gilly Nils?

A: That's easy - my next album! I've got about a third of it layed out right now. Although I expect that some of my style-characteristics may carry forward, my next project will be recognizably different in concept. "Heart Gallery" tours various archives in my head. In comparison, my next effort will probably be considered more contemporary, yet a little off-center and twisted. At least that's just how I currently envision it with regard to the material I'm writing.

In the long haul...I'll never quit recording. There will always be a new forthcoming album as long as my sun keeps shining.

Interview conducted by Joyce Hayward, January 12, 1997.

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