Community backs local musician’s debut work

LINCOLN — Lincoln’s Nate Gusakov has created a new kind of CSA. No, not a community supported agriculture farm, but rather a community supported album.
Born from the talents of local musicians and propelled by his community’s financial support, the 31-year-old banjo-playing singer-songwriter just released his debut solo album called “Running Clear.”
“The process of making this album from start to finish was so creatively empowering,” said Gusakov. “It was the first time I composed something for other instruments, which made me realize that I’m not just limited (as a songwriter) to what I can play.”
After picking up a banjo when he was 20, Gusakov went on to tour the country with bands like Knotty Pine and more recently with Katie Trautz and the Tall Boys. The recording of “Running Clear,” which took 13 months, began on Gusakov’s birthday in May of 2010.
But for a period of time, this nine-track CD of original music — featuring intermingling notes of bluegrass, folk and soul music — almost wasn’t finish as planned.
Gusakov needed funding to master the tracks, press the CDs and print the covers. When his grant application for the Passim Iguana Music Fund for upcoming artists was turned down, he didn’t know where to turn. That’s when he learned about the website Kickstarter.com, where people looking to fund projects can organize grassroots fund-raising campaigns via the Internet.
He requested financial backers to pledge on Kickstarter anything they could toward his goal of $2,900. If that target was not met, he would not have received any funding — that’s how Kickstarter works. But by meeting or exceeding the goal, he would be awarded the funds. By providing backers with incentives like autographed CDs, he raised $2,956 to finish the album and record an additional two tracks.
Most of those supporters, said Gusakov, were his neighbors and friends.
“It’s a CSA. It’s a community supported album,” he said. “It’s the same exact principle as community supported agriculture. People paid in advance to make the thing happen and they get to hear the result.”
The album, however, weaves deeper into Addison County’s fabric than just its financial backing. It was recorded in the Lincoln studio of Michael Chorney — the artist well known for starting the jazz-fusion band viperHouse — and features local artists like fiddle player Caleb Elder of Starksboro, mandolin player Jamie Masefield of Monkton and Gusakov’s father, David, of Bristol on the violin.
“All the influence and all the skill — it’s all local,” said Gusakov, who himself grew up in Bristol. “All the musicians and all the recording and mastering … everything happened right here.
“The quality of musicianship and the creativity coming out of this state and the way that everyone is willing to help one another … it’s been incredible,” he said. “There’s just an amazing bunch of talented people in this state, and I attribute that to the soil. It’s coming right out of the water.”
The album was recorded on older equipment with only four tracks. This setup meant that most of the songs needed to be recorded live.
“It was amazing … everything that could be recorded live was,” said Gusakov. “It was really intimate and really magical every time.”
Many of the songs on the album also pay homage to Gusakov’s Addison County roots. The eighth track on the album, called “In the Maples,” draws from Gusakov’s experience tapping maple trees after the big snowstorm that hit Addison County this past March.
“Midwinter snow came floating down … last night,” goes the song. “Three feet of snow, I’m still working … oh I’m still in the maples.”
The album showcases a wide range of songs from the blue-grass blended “Grapefruit Juice,” which was written for David Gusakov on Father’s Day, to the more traditional bluegrass tune “Bellingham,” which he wrote while waiting for a ferry in Bellingham, Wash. Gusakov also reveals an introspective look at his life as he copes with the passing of his grandmother on the track “Cold January Day” and divorce on “Song for Divorce.”
“The whole album itself is like this big catharsis of what’s been going on in my life,” he said. “The way a lot of the musicians are friends of mine … the way the emotions were just carried by everyone, it just felt like every recording session was really intimate and really powerful … everybody was on a certain plain together.”
Nate Gusakov’s album “Running Clear” is available locally at the Vermont Book Shop and Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury and Art on Main and Emeraldrose Gifts in Bristol. It’s also available online, see www.nateguskov.com. Gusakov will perform on Saturday, Oct. 1, with Katie Trautz and the Tall Boys at Champlain Orchard’s Cider Festival.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at andrews@addisonindependent.com.

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