Mike Gordon was enjoying some family time in Burlington, Vt., after another successful New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden to cap off 17 Phish shows in 2017 at the legendary jam band’s favorite venue.
WATCH: Studio Recording
“I’m in great spirits,” says the ever-eclectic bassist.
Back home, Gordon’s daily routine involves a hardcore morning workout and driving his daughter to school before frequenting one of his favorite local coffee shops or other nooks to work on a plethora of creative projects.
“I like this era because I get to work on a lot of tangential stuff that’s all sort of related. Things connect like pieces of a puzzle and each little project feeds into something bigger.”
“It’s kind of like a dream life,” he says. “I used to have these dreams that were all situated in one little part of a small town where I’m living on a hillside somewhere and I’ve got this band and I can go downtown and jam and go on this little musical ride and then come home.”
Lately Gordon has been corresponding with longtime collaborator Leo Kottke about another duo album, setting up a mini-recording studio at home and dialing in his bass rig with his tech, Mike Burns. While driving around town, he listens to recordings of his solo band’s fall tour to come up with ideas to improve the group’s sound and inform his work with guitarist Scott Murawski on new songwriting ideas.
“I like this era because I get to work on a lot of tangential stuff that’s all sort of related,” says Gordon. “Things connect like pieces of a puzzle and each little project feeds into something bigger.”
Gordon released his sixth solo studio LP “OGOGO” in September 2017. The album is an assortment of “dreamy, electrified and fluorescent” songs fused by the imaginative production of sonic genius Shawn Everett — he’s also worked with The War on Drugs, Kesha and Warpaint.
“I like to say that this album came together by gut feeling,” says Gordon. “We just kept following these whims until it felt right.”
This process is a perfect example of Gordon’s current philosophy on life. As the son of a successful convenience-store entrepreneur and a painter, he’s always found himself divided between his artistic impulses and a natural tendency toward business-minded organization.
“Doctors have shown that I’m a person that deal with details,” he says. “I do a lot of left brain stuff. When [Phish guitarist] Trey [Anastasio] writes his symphonies and fugues, it’s still all right brain. My problem is not seeing the big picture. It’s an addiction.”
Gordon’s New Year’s resolution finds its inspiration from the Rebirth Brass Band song, “Do Whatcha Wanna.”
“It’s not that I should eat every piece of pie just because it seems delicious,” he explains. “What it means is I want to challenge myself to go deeper than the surface level. Is what I’m doing today resonating or is it clouding what I really want to do?”
Gordon believes “OGOGO” was a landmark for him in terms of letting go and allowing his instinctive quirkiness to flow freely.
“Being in a jam out in no man’s land, that’s so familiar to me because I’ve had so many thousands of chances to do it,” he says. “Being like that in the writing or editing room when you could get more intellectual and holding onto the spontaneity the whole time is more of a challenge.”
Although most fans would refer to his solo group as a side project, Gordon says it’s Phish that’s the side band nowadays.
“It’s what I spend 1 percent of my time on, but that doesn’t make it any less,” he says. “We’ve had the incredible experience of 34 years of working together and flowing and telepathy and I try to bring some of that to my other band. With Phish it goes the other way, too. I probably gain some confidence being in my own band that I bring back.” Gordon will be performing with Phish when they come to Tahoe on July 17 and 18.
Finding a balance to the creative life has always been complicated. To the delight of family and fans everywhere, Gordon now seems to be discovering a way to make it all come together.
“The best feelings of being on stage feel like being at home,” he says with a smile. “And the best moments at home feel like being on stage, performing and jamming. It feels like this symbiosis and they actually sort of reflect each other. All of these experiences form the other experiences. Generally speaking, I’m feeling balanced.”
Feb. 11 | 8 p.m. | $30-$35 | 21+
MontBleu Resort Casino | Stateline, Nev.
Phish | July 17 & 18
Harvey’s Tahoe | Stateline, Nev.