There are only a few local musicians who are able to make a living via music—and that rather short list includes Derek Jordan Gregg.
The Hive Minds frontman plays gigs throughout the valley in hotels and restaurants, and that inspired him to make his first batch of solo recordings while The Hive Minds was on a short hiatus.
During a recent interview in La Quinta, Gregg said his solo material has more of a folk sound.
“I think when I play by myself, I’ve always gravitated toward that sound,” Gregg said. “I’ve always been a fan of Bob Dylan since I started writing songs. It’s not necessarily a new endeavor, but Hive Minds wasn’t the place for me to let this stuff out, and we were doing so much that that was where my creative energy went. It’s something I’ve always loved, and it’s a lot easier to do by yourself.
“The big difference between this and the Hive Minds stuff is the lyrics are so much more personal. I didn’t worry about any of the songs being upbeat or catchy, and they all cut really deep. They’re the heaviest lyrics I’ve written in my life.”
Gregg said these songs would probably not go along with the Hive Minds’ indie-rock sound.
“I think that Sean (Poe) and Sam (Gonzales) really like my folk stuff,” Gregg said. “I have a whole catalog of folk material, but I’m really more protective of these songs. If I did put these in a band, I wouldn’t want to play them as a trio; I would want a huge Americana band. I don’t know if that would change the trajectory of the Hive Minds songs or the Hive Minds sound, but it would mess with the cohesiveness of the album, because you’d have really mellow, slow and depressing indie rock.”
Gregg plays solo in a wide variety of venues, some of them rather challenging—ranging from clubs to restaurants to hotels.
“It takes a lot of energy just to come into these shows with a positive outlook and never look at it like a job. I’ve been in those head-spaces where I’m like, ‘Ugh! Time to go to a gig!’ and I have to snap myself out of it,” he said. “I do a fair amount of covers, and I make those covers my own, but the minute that it starts to feel like a job to me, I’ll quit, and I’ll go wash dishes. I’d rather wash dishes and hate it than hate playing music.
“Where I’m at now, it doesn’t hinder my creative process. I play a ton, and I’ll even create stuff on the spot at these gigs. If I get into a negative head space or a depression and start to look at this as work, I either need to learn a lot more stuff and make it my own, or I need to start doing more original music at these shows. That’s the tightrope that I walk.”
He even went so far as saying that a scene in the movie Fight Club—during which Edward Norton goes into a meditation and sees a penguin that says the word “Slide”—inspires his views on being a musician.
“I almost want to get that tattooed on my arm,” he said. “I think that it’s more about the place that he goes, and it’s like when you’re spacing out at work, and it takes you out of the moment. You’re pissing on the moment if you’re just chugging through your chords and letting the words come out.”
He’s recently been using a looper during his shows.
“When I bought it, it was supposed to be for me to practice at home with. Once I got it out of the box and started dicking around with it, I used it for the show I had that night,” he said. “I don’t think I have as good of chops as Calvin Williams—who plays with Eevaan Tre—Bobby Nichols or Kal David, but my rhythm (is just as good). It’s all about rhythm, which has never been an issue for me. I play with a really simple looper. I’ve never been much of a guitar nerd, which is why the folk music thing works for me.”
The Hive Minds have had some local success, including a few high-profile shows, but Gregg expressed humility regarding the band.
“When we first started, Patrick Mitchem was on bass, and then we went to being an acoustic duo with Sean and I, and then playing with Sam Gonzales … playing TED talks, and playing the Bernie Sanders rally,” he said. “It’s almost like it doesn’t feel like it’s happened. I don’t know if that’s how people feel when they do something they’re really proud of. … I’ve always believed if you’re living in the past, you’re living on memories or anxiety. If you’re living in the future, you’re existing in your imagination. But now that I’m thinking back on it, it is pretty crazy.”
For more information on Derek Jordan Gregg and the Hive Minds, visit www.facebook.com/thehiveminds.