Coming in at number ten on our list of the Best Albums of 2013 is Steve Gunn's album Time Off. Gunn is a critically acclaimed New York-based guitarist and songwriter whose work as both a solo artist and a member of his current band has gained him major recognition in the music scene. That reputation helped him score a spot on tour with Kurt Vile as an "auxiliary Violator" in May of 2013, giving Steve the ultimate bragging rights of being the only artist in our top ten to have toured in two bands on our list! Impressive, right? Not to mention a LOT of work. So take a breather, get to know our number ten artist and get Gunn's tips on how to chill out on your own time off.
Interview by Ally Mullen
Hi Steve! Could you tell us about your upbringing?
I was born in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. I had a really great group of friends there who have gone on to some considerable accomplishments. We're proud of our little borough. Joan Jett is from our town. My friend Anthony Campuzano, a talented and accomplished artist, made the work that appears on the back cover of my album. Anthony’s dad is now the mayor of Lansdowne.
After finishing high school I ventured into Philadelphia, went to Temple University, and worked at a video store. I moved to NYC a year after finishing college and have been here ever since. I've held various jobs in the fine art business over the years, and I now sneak guitars on airplanes and try not to eat fast food.
Let's talk about your album cover for Time Off. Where are all of those photos from? Are they your own?
I took most of the photos on the cover. My friend and bandmate, Justin Tripp, also took a few of them. I went to Justin’s studio with a box of photos, trying to figure out what to do for the cover. I tried to pick photos that had some relevance to the themes of the songs. Most of the photos are from my travels over the years and from around NYC. We threw the photos on a table, arranged them quickly, and took a photo of the pile. There is one picture of a small boy holding a puppy—that's me. I still really like dogs, and most animals.
If forced to choose, what's your favorite song on the album?
It varies, but right now my favorite song to play is "Water Wheel." I've been trying to play the songs differently, and I completely changed this song and it's now more comfortable and not as boring for me to play. I've played these songs a ton over the past six months, so I've been taking different risks with them. This one has always been the most difficult song to play, so I guess it makes it less tedious.
What's your favorite record of 2013?
One stand out record for me this year was made by my friend Jimmy Seitang, under the moniker, Stygian Stride. I've seen Jimmy play in various rock bands over the years, and this record took me by pleasant surprise. His composed synthesizer pieces harken back to a time when this kind of music was constructed with more care and wasn't made with merely a laptop. He's got all the old equipment, and he artfully recorded a fine album that could hold up to any German synth LP made in the '70s. A great listen for a dinner party—your friends will think you are cool if you play this. It's not easy to make a record that sounds like this.
What is your favorite memory from the past year?
Taking the subway to Ed Sullivan Theater and playing on Late Show With David Letterman with Kurt Vile was pretty great. Playing shows in Russia was also a highlight.
When you have some quality time for yourself, what do you like to do?
Catch up on rest, catch up on vegetables, exercise, and put on some different clothes.
Can you give us five tips on how to make the best of your time off?
1. [Hold off on] texting, checking posts, and e-mailing—they can usually wait! (At least a little.)
2. Hold a real book in your hands and read it.
3. Go to a library, get some interesting cookbooks, and have a dinner party with your friends.
4. Drink wine and listen to Fado (maybe at the dinner party?).
5. Take a mindless stroll.
Buy Time Off here on iTunes!