music:. Gabe Dixon In Conversation on his New Album ‘Turns To Gold’

a deep brown sea

photo: Shervin Lainez

photo: Shervin Lainez

At some point in life, we can find ourselves taking a new direction. Sometimes the turn is slight, barely recognizable, other times; it’s like a 360-degree turn. And, yet others, can be somewhat in between that place of recognizable and unrecognizable. Gave Dixon wants you to recognized him and so with his first independent album, Turns To Gold, he brings what he calls a “more rootsy, folksy sounding journey” to the ears of those who know him and those coming to know him. You ought to know, it’s an organic adventure that doesn’t preach such, but just acoustically is. Turn the water on, grind your beans, smell honeysuckle – its time to drink coffee and put this record on.

Now, in conversation with musician Gabe Dixon from Nashville, Tennessee.

Gabe Dixon: I like Nashville.

c.: Well, you should, right?

g.d.: I’m a little bias because I grew up here. There are lots of good things about Nashville.

c.: I’ve heard. I realized that’s a pun given that Dixon is a singer and we are talking today to discuss his new music of which some I’ve heard.

g.d.: I lived in Brooklyn for a little while – in Bushwick.

c.: How did you like that?

g.d.: I loved living in New York. It was very different then.

c.: I agree that Bushwick has changed even from the time since I’ve moved here. I’m curious about how he’s started his day. It was with coffee and somehow he asks me about my coffee for this day, which is a Monday. I admit that I don’t usually have coffee on Mondays.

g.d.: You don’t have coffee everyday?

c.: No. I enjoy it; I do, but I like to give myself some distance from actually drinking coffee every day.

g.d.: Every time I go a day without coffee and have one the next morning, its really special. I stop taking it for granted. Maybe some day I’ll be able to do that.

c.: No pressure though. I chuckle. You want to know something interesting, coffee isn’t my number one listed beverage.

g.d.: It isn’t.

He replies almost like he’slost for words.” [Don’t Make Me].

c.: No. Its seltzer, like sparkling seltzer. The fizz gets me every time. Then root beer, then coffee. I love them all; but if I had to order them, there it is.

He inquires of me a reason behind Coffeetographer and I explain it’s the culture of coffee that I’m supper passionate about, and coffee is a lens, a great muse. It doesn’t lessen its role in my life or my affection for it. Now, I quickly turn the questions back on him, as this is to find out more about him: human, writer, coffee lover, musician.

c.: How did you get into coffee?

g.d.: When I was a teenager, I’d finish school at three and then I’d have a piano lesson and I’d have an hour or two between school and piano lessons. I’d always go to this one coffee shop and drink coffee or write, as a teenager.

c.: I can picture that scene, that ritual.

g.d.: Yea, I’d write with pencil and paper and hang out with my friends. The whole thing represented independence. I wrote a song about it – “Corner Café. “It was on one of my first albums. It was about how the coffee shop for me was a place to not hide, but be myself.

I’m more introverted at the table. These days I’m going to the coffee shop to find a chance to get some work done and some writing – I kind of like it if I run into someone.

c.: Running into someone…That’s what I “love, love, love” about the coffee shop. [Flow Like Wine] Since you’re mitigating two spaces – the coffee shop and the stage – is the latter more of a function and the former, the stage, a connection tool?

g.d.: I think I connect better through music than any other way really. That’s how I communicate the best. When I’m on stage I can’t just play music, I talk between songs and tell stories. Since I’m the guy up there I gotta’ play that role and do that thing. And I can be shy and not outgoing that, but works with people that are extroverted.

We talk about me being an extrovert. We talk about environments. We talk about places of comfort.

g.d.: My constant is me; where I’m still singing my songs and playing music.

c.: Can we start with how you, as a constant begin your morning. What’s your morning ritual like and how is coffee involved?

g.d.: When I’m home, which I try to be home as much as I can – I’m married and I have a six-year-old son. I’m up early, by six, I’m up to help him get out the door and make breakfast. Sometimes it’s a bad scene, because I’ve had to stay up the night before. If I have to wake up early I have an automatic coffee maker set up at night, so its done by the time I go into the kitchen.

c.: Seriously? That’s serous love right there. I’m sure coffee “loves you too,” – that’s love. [If I love You]

g.d.: I was thinking about the ways I make coffee at home. There’s about ten ways I can make coffee at home.

c.: Ten! Do tell.

g.d.: Two drip coffee makers, an eight cup French press, a single cup French press, Turkish coffee maker – that’s for a special occasion, it keep grounds in the bottom – its fun but time consuming. If I’m at home and it’s two in the afternoon and I want one cup of coffee, I’ll go and have a pour over. Recently I found out about the Aeropress and now, I’ve started to take it on the road.

c.: I started out on an Aeropress. Good coffee on the road I’m sure can be elusive at times. How do you handle it?

g.d.: As the years have gone by, I’ve become a snob, a connoisseur. I strikethrough snob because, lets be honest, connoisseur is more agreeable. When I was 20, you could give me some gas station coffee and I was good to go. I don’t like to drink coffee I don’t enjoy. Now I have electric kettles with me on tour, some beans and a grinder and I use this Aeropress thing. I can’t believe it took me so long to find out about it.

c.: It’s a journey. And, that Gabe, sounds like someone “saved your soul.” [Redemption]

g.d.: Winston Harrison. I have to credit him for my growing appreciation over the years. We were in The Gabe Dixon band together, we were college roommates and we moved to Brooklyn and toured together. He was absolutely, unapologetic about finding the best coffee. I started to develop a taste for nothing but the best.

When you’re on the road, it’s often not the best. He got more into coffee roasting. Now, I think it’s the best coffee in Nashville, the best cup of coffee, purely by itself.

“If I had to die and could have one more cup of coffee, and they said ‘you’re done’ I would call my friend Winston and have him make me a cup of coffee, and then its done.”


c.: Is that right? I need to know about where to get this cup. Let my wheels hit that driveway. [These Wheels]

g.d.: He owns a shop called Crema.

c.: Crema?! I’ve heard a lot about them. Their reputation precedes them, in a good way. So, I’m looking forward to coming to Nashville and having a cup of coffee with you at Crema. How fair is it to say that coffee is a major part of your life?

g.d.: Coffee is a big part of my lifestyle. I guess I go through phases; I do drink coffee everyday especially when I’m on the road, the road takes a lot of get up and go.

When it comes to lyric writing, it would be hard to do it, without coffee.

c.: Really.

g.d.: Yeah.

It’s been so long since I haven’t done it. My brains functions a little bit better when I’m drinking coffee. I have a cup of coffee and write lyrics, I have a cup and work on the piano. I don’t drink all day long, but when show time comes around, a cup of coffee is all I need to warm up my voice and get me ready to go on stage. . If I’m not well hydrated the coffee can affect my voice in not a great way. For me and I’m sure for a lot, I have such powerful positive associations with even just the smell of coffee and coffee beans. Sometimes it can elevate my mood. It’s a great thing to do with someone too.

c.: Tell me about your music, especially this album, which I hear is brought to the people, by the people.

g.d.: It’s the first album I’m putting out indie. The first one through Pledge music. As part of that, one of the rewards was to have coffee with me. And, I’d take them to Crema, we can sit there and have coffee and talk.

c.: Just like when you were a teenager.

g.d.: Yes, its all very personal for me because [the coffee shop] is where a lot of my first real friendships as a teenager started. We’d go have a coffee, and talk forever and have everything. I know I’m not unique in that but I felt it.

c.: How did the music on its own, allow these relationships?

g.d.: Being independent as an artist, goes hand in hand with my personal history with coffee shops and coffee culture, its where I asserted my independence when I was coming of age outside my parents and brothers and sisters.

c.: This is “the one thing” that I think is beautiful. [The One Thing] The independent spirit that occurs in the founding of small communal spaces, like a coffee shop that can nurture the identity, individuality and growth of a human.

g.d.: Coffee shops are where I developed as a human being, it was my way of finding independence as I was coming of age, so in that way it connects with making an independent record, but not the songs per say.

When I think of aesthetics of coffee shops I think of artistic expression, not beholden to any other interests besides their muse or inspiration. That’s what I’ve done on this project; I haven’t sought out a label or put myself in a box. Its like, here are some songs I’ve been writing on my own and with other people. I think they fit well and I’m going to fund it and go directly to my fans.

c.: You’re saying, ‘This is the art that I want to put out into the world.’

Dixon admits he was riffing for a moment on connections of independence and coffee culture. I didn’t mind; I indulged him.

g.d.: Thematically, the album itself, didn’t have a set theme, but lyrically what you hear the most is that I’m trying to stay in a long term relationship an be committed to that relationship. I’m trying to open myself up and be there for others.

c.: I believe that we can only be for others what we are first to ourselves.

g.d.: They say write what you know. Its weird being an artist for that reason. I’m private but I put these things in my song for all of the world. But, a lot of people connect with it and go through similar things; I feel like its what I’m supposed to do.

c.: Yes. So being there for myself. It’s a big lesson, to treat people how you want to be treated. If there is a theme it’s about becoming a better person. I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.

That statement might as well be one that Turns to Gold.

For more of Mr. Dixon’s music, support the independent album here and visit him here.