Interview | Geoffrey Louis Koch: “Learning how to accept the fact that my music may never have broad appeal is one of the most difficult challenges I face.”

As the end draws in there’s a calm inner peace
in the next life will you wait for me?
I often wonder what I’d say if I saw you again
because sometimes the one you love dies
before forever ends

Satellites. Geoffrey Louis Koch mentioned them in “Pro-War” — a song that I immediately loved when I heard it in 2009. And he mentioned them again in our interview that you can read below. This time he’s talking about his latest record, Follow the Voices, which includes the “The Storm.” Let’s have a listen to that now.

We’re thrilled to have Geoff open our 5th Anniversary Concert with Kopecky at Off Broadway on Saturday, April 18th ($10-12 tickets here). We recently caught up with him over email.

First up, you’re living in Nashville these days. What do you miss about St. Louis?

I miss being able to get Cardinal baseball whenever I want. I definitely took for granted how valuable it is to turn on a game or listen to Mike Shannon call it whenever you want. Going to a local bar for lousy beer and darts with friends while the Cardinal game is on in the background – damn I miss that. And I miss some things I never really did but would love to do now – like run around Forest Park or go to the new restaurant.

Tell us a little about your most recent record, Follow the Voices. What was the recording process like?

Follow The Voices I sort of short-handedly describe as ‘acoustic indie folk meets the symphony orchestra’. Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago and Gregory Alan Isakov’s This Empty Northern Hemisphere were two of the main templates for the mood I was trying to set. I recorded it in St. Louis with Ross Christopher. I came home for a long weekend family visit and I had an extra day to play with and a handful of songs so the idea to record with him literally fell out of the sky while I was in town. I called him up and went to his house a couple days later. We cranked out almost everything I did in one 12-hour recording session. Over the next several months Ross would sit with the songs and add instrumentation one piece at a time. It’s really kind of how The Postal Service recorded their record, in a way, in the sense that he’d email me mixes and options of what he came up with and we’d take it a step at a time like that. Amazingly, some of those songs have 40+ tracks on them, Ross really put in the time and effort.

I also wanted to provide high-quality album art that told the story. I distinctly remember putting on REM’s Automatic For The People and Nirvana’s In Utero and pouring over the liner notes, album art and pictures. Memories like that left a huge impression, and certainly added value to the records for me. So while Ross was adding to the songs and mixing them I was busy making visual decisions on how the cd art would read. And it’s funny because I’ve always wanted to avoid ‘the singer in a field with his guitar’ vibe because EVERYBODY has done that but wouldn’t you know it, that’s what we ended up with haha. Me in the field isn’t so much the story as it is about a character who is on a path to madness because he is hearing messages or ‘voices’ coming out of these gigantic radio towers in the distance, compelled to hear them more clearly. Culminates with the photo of him finally reaching his destination (the cd art). So in that way then, the music on the cd in the listeners hand is the ‘message’ or what the strange silent radio towers have been whispering. You follow? I’ve always thought satellite dishes and radio towers were extremely romantic. They’re so incredibly alone, and quiet. Yet they’re made of steel, and the signals they use are mysterious and invisible. I’ve always wondered what they’re communicating about, and if they know I’m watching them. I’ve probably also just given you plenty of Freudian insight as to the many ways I can see myself, sometimes. Har har.

So, “The Storm” is a finalist in the “Lyrics Only” portion of the International Songwriting competition. How did that come about, and what is the next step?

The International Songwriting Competition has been on my radar as a songwriter for a few years. Sometimes I think I should scour the internet for more ‘competition’-type contests because the exposure, recognition, and resume-building that comes with that kind of promotion is good. But I think I’m not alone in that I also struggle with the idea that a very specific group of judges deciding whose song is a ‘winner’ or not can be hard to swallow. Contests for the sake of feedback and maybe getting a little clout is nice. Through these experiences I’m reminded that ultimately I’m the one who has to know what I’ve made is my best effort, and let that be enough regardless if it ever gets heard. Learning how to accept the fact that my music may never have broad appeal is one of the most difficult challenges I face. It can be a gut-carver if you’re not careful with your thoughts.

So ‘The Storm’ has made it as a Finalist in the Lyrics portion of that contest. I’m incredibly proud, and thrilled about that. It’s one of 17 Lyric finalists, and there were over 18,000 total submissions in all categories. Unreal, right?! So now what’s next is I wait till the end of April when they announce the winners. All the Finalists are judged by a lot of celebrity judges and higher-ups in the music business. The list of judges is on their website but I think it’s pretty cool my song might have landed on Sarah McLachlan’s or Jason Isbell’s desk. What a treat!

My favorite song of yours is still “Pro-War.” Tell me about that one. What was going on in your life while you wrote that?

I was living in an apartment in Valley Park by 141/Big Bend when I wrote ‘Pro-War’. I was going through a ‘politically pissed off’ time in my life and just tortured by the hypocrisy and pageantry of Washington, DC. The song started on the piano and something told me to have the guts to write it from a villain’s point of view, much like a Vincent Price character from 50’s horror movies. He’s the guy who you think is the protagonist, he earns your trust and the story progresses. Then there’s a twist at the end and he turns out to be the bad guy and you feel duped as hell. That’s what makes up Washington, and a good horror flick. Depending on my mood I can perform that song (as the wolf in sheep’s clothing) towards any number of political phonies on my mind. Sometimes I get to either sing is as the person who’s gotten revenge on a terrible politician, or, I can sing it as someone saying ‘I told you so’ to people I know who are suffering because their political god turned out to be a turd on rye and there’s nothing else to eat.

Finally, thank you for playing our 5th Anniversary show with Kopecky. What can we expect?

I am so glad to be playing your 5th Anniversary Show, really thrilled! You can expect me to be in a great mood. Who doesn’t love Off Broadway? The sound is amazing and it always feels like home when I play there. It’s highly likely I’ll be joined by Ross Christopher on violin that night and we’ll crank out a mix of older songs and all of the new record. You can also expect some surprises, perhaps a cover song or two curated just for this big event.

Speakers in Code 5th Anniversary Concert with Kopecky + Geoffrey Louis Koch at Off Broadway // Saturday, April 18 // 8PM

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