Comfort Noise (September 2001) Musician, rock
critic, television soundtrack composer . . . if it involves words and
music, Geoffrey Welchman has probably tried it. Which is why he feels
he's come full circle with the release of his first solo album, Comfort
"Music was always my first and greatest love," he said
recently, "and Comfort Noise is like a culmination of a long journey
that began in New York City rock clubs, and took me to Bay Area cafes,
and finally here," in his adopted home of Baltimore.
distinctive blend of acoustic blues-pop is the result of that journey.
With songs on topics ranging from love (the bittersweet "Good Reason")
to monsters (a jaunty ode to a "Pterodactyl"), Welchman displays
intelligence and warmth, while "Happy Happy Blues" serves as a tribute
to the delta blues.
Throughout, his percussive guitar style
supports his lyrics, sometimes stepping forward to serve as another
voice. "Yeah, I make a lot of noise," he laughed, referring to his
playing. "I always felt I play guitar like a whole band: guitar, bass,
His style gives the propulsive "One Drop Fool" an
almost techno-ish intensity, and brings a funky swing to "Talking to a
Machine," a songs that explores a fraying long distance relationship,
right down to the sound packets hurtling through the phone wire.
"That's where the title of the album comes from. Comfort noise is an
telephone industry term referring to the hiss on the phone line."
grew up surrounded by music. "It all started with the Beatles, and folk
and blues music," he recalled, "I was a blond kid playing songs about
'goin' down the levee.' Of course, I had to ask my mother what a
"Later I latched on to a lot of English folk-rock,
like Fairport Convention, and then I went off on my own with punk, new
wave, mbaqanga, Bulgarian Voices, you name it."
influences attest to a voracious musical appetite. He credits
songwriting influences as varied as the Sly Stone and the Pixies,
guitar-playing influences such as Jimi Hendrix, folk giant Martin
Carthy, blues legend Big Bill Broonzy, and acoustic wonders like Joan
Armatrading and Richard Thompson.
The rock influences played out
in a series of bands that played Greenwich Village clubs like CBGBs
(including the infamous Big Bug), but his acoustic side also burned
brightly, with his appearance on a late 80s Fast Folk compilation
album. He even provided music for a King World syndicated television
Frustrated with the music grind, he spent the early 90s
writing album reviews and interviews for such magazines as RayGun, the
New Yorker, and Rolling Stone. "It let me see the business from the
other side, which was weird," he explained, adding, "I was talking to
musicians I admired, but I had to keep reminding myself that they were
talking to a journalist, not a peer."
A five-year stint in Bay
Area California occasioned a burst of new songwriting and a lot of
musical soul-searching, which came to a head with his move back to the
East Coast. "I arrived in Baltimore and decided that I should just do
what I do," he said. "Solo, me and guitar, with no safety net."
result is infectious fun, as Welchman injects his shows with a sly
humor. "I wrote 'Freddie's Lament' because my son was watching a lot of
Scooby Doo cartoons," he said with a smile, "and I kept thinking a song
about the hidden love triangle of Freddie, Daphne, and Velma was a
The ten songs on Comfort Noise show Geoffrey
Welchman doing what he does best, blending words and music with a
dedication that yields magical results. "This album is a dream come
true for me," he concluded, "and I hope it communicates my excitement
about the songs and the opportunity to release them to everyone who