Joseph Giant on Seattle Country: "For Me, Country Is More Where Your Heart Is At. It's Not Necessarily Where You're From."

Robertsen Ashman
Last week I had a coffee chat with Joe Syverson--formerly of Pearly Gate Music, Throw Me the Statue, Final Spins, and a spattering of other Seattle bands you've probably seen live over the past 15 years--and currently of his very own first-ever solo project, by which he refers to himself as Joseph Giant. Syverson's had a history in punk rock, but his solo record, Joseph Giant, is a bare-bones country affair (you can stream the entire thing on Bandcamp). Here's what he had to say about going country:

What about country music appeals to you?

Syverson: The looseness of it. I was listening to a lot of trucker country from the mid-'60s. People like Don Slack know about it, but mostly shit that nobody listens to. Waylon Jennings, when he would put like three records out a year. To me it felt really active and prolific, and I wanted to be more prolific.

It's funny to me that a guy involved in so many different bands is wanting to be even more prolific. What does that word mean to you?

Taking the preciousness out of making a record. There's a lot of people that kind of cuddle a song and fucking record it three or four times and spend all this money at Avast or Bear Creek . . . I kind of wanted to do the opposite of that, just at home. I mean, all the songs, when they were recorded, were written like 20 minutes before. Then I just put the tape on and busted it out. And it was out of necessity too, because I did it down in my basement, and there's, like, kids running up above, you have to get it done quick. [My fiancée] would leave and go to the store with the kids, and I'd be like, 'OK, I'm gonna do vocals!' So it's not fancy, it's as real as playing music can get for me.

How do you think a musician from Seattle, or the entire Northwest for that matter, should go about making country music? You know, without the sort of country heritage that places like Nashville or Texas have?

Man, that's a scary question. Just relax, don't think about it too much. We were talking about this when Pearly Gate Music started playing. It was about the Ballard country scene. We were talking about how if those bands went to Nashville, they would get fucking laughed out of the room. So I guess for me, it's basically not thinking about it in a technical aspect, like as far as accents or how many bendy licks you can put in the song. It's more about relaxing, the soul of it.

My dad was from the Midwest, he's from Minneapolis, and there's a lot of country out there too, even though it's up North. There's a heavy rockabilly scene in the Midwest. There are bands out there doing the Americana thing, the rootsy thing, from Brooklyn, like Phosphorescent, and they're great.

For me, country is more where your heart is at. It's not necessarily where you're from.

Read more of my conversation with Joe Syverson in this Wednesday's issue. Also, Joseph Giant is playing the Comet Tavern this Friday, April 29, with Pearly Gate Music and Soft Hills. The show's at 9 p.m. and tickets are $7.

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