Nothing happens quickly in Jerry Greene’s world, at least when it comes to developing and staging his erstwhile music project Cowgirl Radio. The Boulder-based guitarist has staged the band, with varying personnel, off and on at The Laughing Goat for a couple of years now, nipping a little bit of local press in the process (usually prompted by lineup changes), even releasing a CD’s worth of material (Innocent) last June.
By one set of band blueprints, Cowgirl Radio would be copping its share of blogger and periodical column space and giving the odd interview in faraway towns, previewing the band’s upcoming live appearance. But the project continues to evolve, and with the exception of an about once-monthly appearance at the Goat, where Greene also works sound, it swoons and breathes its murmured paeans of loss and yearning, exhausted hope and rusted redemption in the confines of its self-produced YouTube video presence and Greene’s studio.
Informed heavily by Mazzy Star and probably less heavily by Cowboy Junkies, Greene’s aesthetics lean toward the lonely-highway ballad and first-person confessional. Lots of space in the arrangements, slurred and distorted guitar fractals scarring a hazy tonal bed, light synths in the background, songs seemingly rousing themselves from drowsy half-dreaming, their humanity buoyed warmly and richly through lead singer Allison Langley, pitch perfect but treading the line between singing and whispering.
Stage validation is all well and good, and Greene concedes that bigger stages and bigger crowds may be a logical destination for this band, but in the meantime there’s a sound and feeling he’s mining. He says he’s getting there.
“We’re kind of thinking out of the box,” he explains, “in terms of the sound and the instrumentation. We’ve had to do some experimentation and try different people who could think out of the box with us. So it’s been kind of a journey to get the right concept and to be able to pull it off live.”
Greene knows where the key is with this group: his singer Langley.
“She’s phenomenal,” he says. “But as well as having a great voice, she’s great at recording. I’ve worked with a lot of singers — probably 40 or 50 singers — and she’s got the best voice of everyone. We go down in my studio, and from start to finish, after never even hearing a song, she’ll nail it in 45 minutes.
“I kind of make a sketch of a melody and then she puts her own twist on it, and inevitably it’s exactly what I was looking for. … We’re trying to steer away from something that’s really cliché; lyrically, we’re influenced by stuff like The Doors and Counting Crows. Lyrics that make you think and make an image in your head.”
And the songs — delicately crafted and impeccably produced — reside neatly as subtexts to their videos, usually hand-held camcorder vignettes of street scenes (Boulderites will recognize some locations), diffident and abstract. And they are in fact, in some ways, practice for the kind of trade that Greene envisions for Cowgirl Radio.
“One of things I’m trying to do is get songs into film and TV,” Greene explains, “and I’ve actually signed a couple of deals with some agents in New York and Los Angeles, and one that works with MTV. A lot of TV shows and commercials have this kind of ethereal background music, so I’m kind of writing for that market. I’ve got a couple of agents who really like my stuff and are shopping it around.”
For now, though, taking the project on the road doesn’t appear to be an active option for Greene.
“Eh, probably not,” Greene says. “We’re all pretty well tied down in Boulder. I have a full-time job at CU and I’m raising a 10-year-old son. … I mean, if all of a sudden some record company wants to put me on tour for six months,” he trails off.
What about his son?
“Take him with me. Like Jackson Browne, take him on the tour bus with me,” Greene says.
Which could be a dicey proposition, since his son, indirectly, is the reason Greene appears with a cast on his right hand in some press shots from last year.
“It was a serious thumb sprain that I got playing after-school football with my son and a bunch of his friends,” Greene says. “I stepped in a hole on the field. It’s weird because I spent a lot of time doing extreme sports — rock climbing, kayaking, wind surfing — and the worst injury I ever got was playing football with my son.”
Cowgirl Radio plays the Laughing Goat at 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22. Flock opens at 8 p.m. 1709 Pearl St., Boulder. Call 303-440-4628.