Article by: Jamie McCormick | Photo Credit: Luca Venter | Posted: 05/10/2012
The speakers blast a constant stream as the radio station alternates between the latest hits and the traffic report, and all the while, we laugh loudly at a joke from the other end of the phone line as a horn honks somewhere in the distance. Or, the clicking of a keyboard cuts through coffee shop background noise and the easy listening mix CD while we work our way through the latest episode of our favorite podcast, listening for the barista to shout our name.
This modern life we have fashioned for ourselves provides a plethora of noises and infinite opportunities for procrastination. So often, we find ourselves surrounded by an overwhelming din. It was from precisely that cacophony that Aurora, Colo. native, Gabriel Jorgensen, hoped to escape when he made an ambitious and fateful decision to cut himself off from music -- both listening to it and playing or writing it -- and live in silence for a week. And what he heard in the silence rattled him to the bedrock.
Just as it happened with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s mariner, (from which Jorgensen took his moniker), a seemingly serene tranquility transformed in merely seconds, into a swirling force of destruction. Jorgensen lived a peaceful, nearly charmed sort of life in Aurora. Youngest of a musical family in a non-musical town, he seemed to know early that there was something special about music, both in and of itself and for him specifically. But as he grew, playing for his church youth group, “writing songs about girls, because that's all [he] had to write about back then,” and filling his tunes with “obligatory references” to his religion, the music became stale.
“When you grow up in a very Christian atmosphere,” he says, “everything felt very cookie cutter.” When Eisley came to town, however, the budding artist experienced something new -- music about God that didn't have to be exactly about God. Instead, it was simply spiritual, soulful, and honest. He fondly says, “It was something unique and imaginative.”
But the winds began to whirl and whip as Jorgensen tried to replicate what he had heard. He set out to write more honestly and with more personal meaning, discarding all of his old music and focusing on a new approach to writing and creating. “Music couldn't keep me sane from music anymore,” he says, explaining why his old paradigm would no longer work. He continues, “Music could keep me sane from high school, but it couldn't keep me sane from itself, because sometimes I'd just drive myself crazy writing, or practicing, or whatever it was.”
For Jorgensen, the act of creating itself had become the impediment to true creation. And the storm began growing in strength as he lost sight of the right words. “I'm very interested in making very good music,” he asserts, “but I think I let that sometimes get in the way of what I need to say. It's very easy for me to want to create some mind-blowing musical masterpiece instead of just writing what I need to write.” But what he needed to write would not show itself. It was hidden behind the tempest.
To clear his mind, Jorgensen decided that for one full week in February, he would shut himself off from all forms of music -- both around and inside of him -- hoping to locate the eye of the storm, and in the calm silence, hear the gentle calling of God. Instead, he heard nothing and saw only a glaring light that he says exposed his worst qualities – the imitative and the counterfeit, the arrogant and the assuming. Distraught, he fell deeper into the darkness, descending until he crashed onto the bottom. From there, he says God had only to pull him up, and pull him up He did.
Storm-tossed and seasick, the Ancient Mariner redefined his agonizing experience into a cautionary tale of sorts, releasing his latest EP, In Solitude, which records both his descent and his subsequent ascension to hope again. Although writing comes as much more of a struggle now, Jorgensen finds the experience more rewarding, more truthful, and, though not quite halcyon, definitely more peaceful.
“I think lately I've just been trying to not focus on writing songs, in a weird way,” he laughs. “Because when I just sit down and just set out to write a song, it becomes very forced and rigid, and very redundant overall, in trying to get out what I need to get out.” Instead, with soft, dreamlike melodies and fantasy-simulating riffs, he lets the stories simply flow through him as he drifts gently back into the harbor, finally home from a long voyage. Now both he and the music world can only hope for a short respite ashore, with no more squalls to whisk the sailor back out to sea.