Photo credit: Shabreon Starks
Cortez Garza’s new single “Immortal” off his upcoming album The Low Album features an all star lineup of players including David Kirslis (Cicada Rhythm), Scott Low, songwriter Kaitlyn Bosveil, Matt Tamison (Flash to Bang Time), Cal Clements, and Bill Bacon (Sam Sniper). But central to the song is Cortez’s vivid narrative and trademark plainspoken songwriting style. “Immortal” is a lush song that depicts its subjects character flaws with extreme detail—listen to how Cortez blends the declarative chorus of “I won’t let you down” with Cal Clements mournful horns to a make song that’s in the beautiful space between redemption and complete devastation.
The best part? It’s available now as a free download on his Bandcamp page.
SC: This song has a very cyclical chord progression. How do you view repetition working in this song?
CG: As a solo artist, my approach to writing has always usually revolved around guitar licks, whether it be folksy or bluegrassy. My biggest influences are people like Woody Guthrie and Rambling Jack Eliot and of course Bob Dylan. For this song—and really for this album—I wanted to dumb down the guitar and focus on telling stories. I always try and make every song I write as unique as possible. In a lot of ways this may be the simplest guitar riff I've ever used in a song. That being said, it may be my favorite recording I've done yet (which was something I did not expect) or at least at the moment it is, which is why we decided to use it for the 1st single, that and because I think people associate me with dark material and this song is very middle of the road for me and I was intentionally reaching for something that would showcase some maturation in my writing.
SC: In the first verse the song speaker sings “I’ve let you down / you deserve the best / and that’s not what I give” but the chorus is “I won’t let you down”. I wonder if you could tell me how you view these tensions working in the song.
CG: This song is about someone coming to terms with the fear of chasing away someone they love, or better yet realizing they are not carrying their weight in the relationship, so to speak. Again for me, sort of new territory because I went with a very simple approach lyrically, where as before I was hesitant to come right out and say how I was feeling. So the verses are very much saying "hey I realize I'm not easy to deal with but here's why" and the chorus is sort of pleading for her to hang in there I guess.
SC: What was your writing process like for “Immortal”?
CG: Oh man—I wrote this a few years ago at this point but I remember it well. It's sort of like having a baby or something I guess, in that no matter how much time goes by I always remember most of the details of working on what I consider to be an important song. Like I said before, I would have never thought this song would have been so important when I sat down to write it but sometimes things just take on a life of their in the studio. This song came together quickly and I didn't really care for it. It started out as a sort of a writing exercise. I remember writing it in like 15-20 minutes with minimal edits after the fact. I literally just tried to come up with the most unique but simple chord structure I could so I could say what I had to say and be done. When performing this song solo, given it's simplistic nature, it never really did it for me. I actually thought for a long time I had written a bad song but for some reason it just keep popping back up in my set.
SC: Tell me about your normal writing process. Do you keep a songwriting schedule? Or do you wait for inspiration?
CG: Lately I have tried to maintain some sort of routine with writing. The thing is writing a song that you really love is a very unpredictable affair. It's definitely like lightning striking so I don't put that much pressure on myself. Obviously there are times when I feel this unbearable weight on me and I have to get it off my chest. I just try to constantly be working towards new material. From finding new riffs and chord progressions to jotting down lyrics. For me there's no rhyme or reason to it. It really depends on what type of song I'm trying to come up with. Any time I write something new that I like and want to perform live, I feel truly blessed. Whether it came easily or it was a struggle and I had to work at it.
SC: How does your songwriter community influence your work?
CG: Athens, GA is a great place to be for a musician of any variety. This community is unique in so many ways and I think for me to live somewhere that puts such a emphasis on it's musical culture is just about as cool as you can get. For instance, they recently started a new singer-songwriter of the year awards ceremony that was named after the legendary, Vic Chesnutt. I mean what else is there to say . . . this is what I do. It's almost easy to take for granted because I have lived here for so long that I don't know anything else. I have to remind myself that not every town is like this.
The Sound Connector is an online magazine for songwriters. We feature songwriting challenges, monthly interviews, and the opportunity to discover new songwriters. We are interested in all things related to the craft of songwriting.
Do you want to be featured on The Sound Connector? Send us your songs!