Layoffs, zombies and sarcasm


Watsonville musician releases latest album

(Photo by Larry Colen)

WATSONVILLE — In his songwriting, Michael Gaither focuses on three things: sarcasm, nostalgia and gratitude.

But when the Watsonville musician was laid off from his Silicon Valley job last fall, he found new material that was perfect for his sarcastic take on the world: “corporate speak.”

“I loved her / Thought she loved me / But learned I was a redundancy / When she said you’ve got to go,” Gaither sings in “It’s Nothing Personal (The Layoff Song).” “These are unplanned actions I’ve had to take / Changes I couldn’t anticipate ... I’ve been restructured and released.”

The track is one of 11 in Gaither’s latest album, “Hey Karma,” set for release today. A release party is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Jansen Music, 7960J Soquel Drive in Aptos.
“Hey Karma,” Gaither’s fifth CD, addresses topics such as angels, lawyers and even zombies.

Calling it a record that is “sparse” musically, with only four tracks featuring a full band, Gaither said the goal was to concentrate on the lyrics, but he still was able to include a wide variety of instruments, such as guitar, banjo, accordion, pedal steel and mandolin.

And unlike his previous albums, there is not so much a focus on local issues, but Gaither managed to squeeze in a dig at Highway 1 on the titular track: “There’s a guy who cut me off on southbound Highway 1 / He thinks this parking lot is something he’ll outrun … Fat chance.”

What’s different about this album, Gaither said, is that he produced it, making the “hard calls” while at the helm with the engineer, Justin Mayer of Bear Creek Studios. Co-producer Dayan Kai advised “via lots of phones calls and lots of time trading files on Google Drive,” Gaither noted.

“It was really a lot more work having to produce, but I’m really glad I did,” he said. “A record is like doing 11 little projects.”

The cover art was designed by Mike Samuel of Los Gatos. Gaither recalled a story last summer when he was performing in Felton. After the show, Samuel had drawn a caricature of Gaither, with two road signs in the background.

“Once I saw the drawing, I said, ‘There’s my record cover,’” Gaither said.
After playing songs from the record over the past year in concert and gauging audiences’ reactions, Gaither said the response has been positive, and KPIG has picked up five of the songs on its playlist.

“I think it’s a pretty fun record,” he said. “I’m really happy about it.”

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“Hey Karma” is available for purchase at www.michaelgaither.com. The release party is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Jansen Music, 7960J Soquel Drive in Aptos. A $15-$20 donation is suggested.