I suspect that Seth Glier is an "old soul."
The 25 year-old singer-songwriter certainly has an impressive resume for someone his age, having shared the stage with the likes of Ani DiFranco, Martin Sexton, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knopfler, Ryan Adams and both James and Livingston Taylor. He has a reputation as a captivating performer who has headlined cross-country tours. USA today has compared his sound to Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. Then there is that little old Grammy nomination from a couple of years back.
After the hour-long conversation we had this past weekend at a coffee shop in Northampton, Mass., it wasn’t his musical resume that got me thinking "old soul." It was the pair of special 63-year-old friends Glier talked about at length: Livingston Taylor and Joe Nerney.
It turns out that moments after our interview, Glier would be taking the stage at The Iron Horse, opening for his elder friend and mentor. "I have learned so much from Livingston and of course I am very grateful. We love each other. And, we have these blistering arguments about what is a pop song and what isn’t a pop song."
Glier explained that each would spar by breaking out records to prove their point. "I will play a Diamond Rio song or a Katy Perry track and say ‘listen to this vocal performance.’ And he’ll come at me and play Killer Queen, or Sam Cooke live at the Copa Cabana.
"Livingston’s philosophy is that a great pop song does nothing more than allow the listener to sound good singing along. His examples would be ‘Sweet Caroline’ or ‘My Boyfriend’s Back.’ My philosophy is the purpose of any good song is to make the listener feel a little less alone in the world. And the reality is we are probably both wrong and both right, but it is fun to have those conversations as loud as they go."
I suggested that there is a sweet spot where those two points of view merge. Glier agreed. "That is called ‘Fire and Rain’ or ‘Imagine.’ Those are absolutely timeless."
I imagine that Glier is working to find that sweet spot for a record he has begun writing songs for slated for release in the fall. That record will feature Glier’s new touring partner, Joe Nerney, a blind, 63-year-old sax player, whom he credits with refining his expanding his live show.
"Joe has been a huge part of this year. Not only has he brought a totally different, refreshed energy to all of my old music but he has catapulted a new direction. And apart from music I have made a lifelong friend. Age has nothing to do with it maybe because we have music as that universal connector, and we are both in our hearts 12 years old!"
They met when Glier was 15, and Nerney needed a fill-in keyboardist for his R&B cover band at the Franklin County Fair. A decade later, the odd couple is finding strong onstage chemistry, and Glier is thrilled with the match.
"The one thing about traveling with someone who is older, it has instilled an incredible discipline in my craft. Also, I’ve learned this year is how when he smiles onstage it is the most genuine real thing I have seen in my entire life. So as I have dumped myself into this show business thing it is so cool to be reminded of that every night."
It is a credit to young Glier that his passion for his craft is being sparked and reinvigorated by a pair of old guys.
"I am more excited about music than I have ever been before."
Glier is performing Friday night at Next Stage, 15 Kimball Hill, at 7:30 p.m., in a double bill with singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 at the door, available at www.nextstagearts.org.
Dave Madeloni writes a music column for Ovation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.