Alt-country songwriter Dan Kirkwood to perform new songs at Folk Festival

Dan Kirkwood and his Juneau band will perform songs off his third major release at this year’s Alaska Folk Festival.

His five-track EP “All Lovers, Animals” invites the listener in with bright guitars and alt-country hooks. His opening track, “On Fire,” explores a new confidence and a romantic side to Kirkwood’s songwriting. 

“Songs that are about people as animals, people as lovers, lovers as animals and the common themes that run through all of that life,” Kirkwood said. “The experiences that people have in their romantic relationships are at one moment animal and at one moment something incredibly higher and I don’t think there is any difference between the two.”

It’s a stark contrast to his dark and scenic 2014 album “Space Country,” that he said was written after a hard year.

The first two tracks of the new album were recorded in New York with his college buddy and professional musician Tommy Siegel who tours with the indie-pop band Jukebox the Ghost.

Touch wood, every time we’ve gotten together one or two great things have happened,” said Kirkwood. 

Beginning with only a guitar riff and vocal melody from Kirkwood, they recorded the song “Manhattan, Montana” in just under a day in Siegel’s Brooklyn apartment. The song has a slinky, ‘70s vibe inspired by bands like Dire Straits and Steely Dan, and features banjo, vibraphone, backwards guitar loops and several acoustic guitars.

“We just threw the kitchen sink at it and hoped for the best,” Seigel said.

Siegel said they push each other and as a producer, he’s tasked with interpreting Kirkwood’s muse on the fly.

“He just kept saying like, ‘What if it sounded like wind on the prairie but through a tremolo effect and if there was a spooky organ?’ and I said, ‘OK, let’s try it.’ So I started downloading wind samples online and playing around with it,” Siegel said.

Even though he lives in New York, Siegel has been a great songwriting colleague, Kirkwood said. They send each other song samples on their phones.

“We have shared songs with each other that (we) both think are great songs. I’ve shared trash with Tommy, just trash songs and he’s been very supportive,” Kirkwood said. “He is far and away better at this than I am, and it is so cool to be doing anything with someone who is really good at it, in that they make you better at it. They bring out the best in you.”

The collection of songs featured on “All Lovers, Animals” combine Siegel’s pop sensibilities with the organic sounds of Kirkwood’s Juneau band, Goldwing. Local musicians Dan Desloover and Ben Higdon who play in Goldwing contribute bass and lead guitar on the tracks “Nomad” and “The Road Home.”

Kirkwood said there’s an element to Goldwing that will always be jazzier because of drummer Clay Good, sneakier because of guitarist Ben Higdon, and moody and melodic because of bassist Dan Desloover. Now with the addition of Juneau musician Steve Nelson on keyboards, Kirkwood expects the songs to take an even more dramatic turn for Folk Fest.

Goldwing plays at 10 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Hall and at 4 p.m Saturday at the Alaskan Bar for KXLL’s Showcase and Day Party. For a live stream, festival schedule and more coverage, visit our Folk Fest page here

Dan Kirkwood performing at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center during the Summer Shakedown during 2015 (photo by Annie Bartholomew/KTOO.)

Dan Kirkwood performs at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center during the Summer Shakedown in 2015. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew/KTOO.)

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