Concert preview: Singer/guitarist Steve Gunn takes a more impressionistic approach with Way Out Weather

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Steve Gunn, like a classically trained painter gradually shifting toward abstraction, has allowed his music to grow more impressionistic with time.

On Time Off, released in 2013, the singer/guitarist favored detailed character studies, modeling his songs after the odd, random individuals he encountered in his day-to-day existence in New York, including one overly zealous neighbor who served as a neighborhood block captain of sorts.

"I get inspired by the stranger, kind of shadowy people - the people who don't necessarily get songs written about them," said Gunn, 36, reached in Lockhart, Texas at the end of a Southwestern road trip timed to the South By Southwest music festival. "I try to think about characters you wouldn't normally hear about in a song. Outsiders, if you will."

But with Way Out Weather, which surfaced last year, the stories are more fractured and obscured, with cryptic lines suggesting similarly shadowy inspiration (there are mentions of savaged faith and "sickness in the mind") while painting a far murkier portrait overall.

"I felt like I wanted to reveal a little bit less of myself and kind of keep it open and put it out there for people to interpret in their own way," said Gunn, who visits Spacebar for a concert on Sunday, March 29. "I mean, some of it is [personal], but more often I tried to string words together to create images. These are snapshots of certain things - not so much a story from point A to point B."

The music itself is generally unrushed, with most of the pastoral, acoustic-guitar-driven songs unfolding gradually over the course of five or six minutes - a deliberate pace at odds with the harried recording sessions, which stretched over a mere five days in February 2014.

"It was a challenge. It was something, like, 'We're going to make a record and we're going to make it quickly and we're going to see what happens,'" Gunn said.

It's a freewheeling approach that has carried over into the live shows, which find Gunn wrestling with the material, bending and muscling it into new, wild forms.

"It gives the songs a bit more life, rather than keeping them precious and pristine. I've developed a bit more of a rock 'n' roll attitude about it," he said.

Following this tour, Gunn expects to spend a bulk of the year recording hisMatador Records debut. He's scheduled his first sessions for April, and wants to allow time for new material to develop naturally.

"I kind of came from the locked bedroom door school where you're privately crafting, and I still have that mentality," he said. "We're trying to create a place where we can let the things flow and sort of let them live on their own."

Photo by Constance Mensh


8 p.m. Sunday, March 29

2590 N. High St., Old North

ALSO PLAYING: Ryley Walker, Nathan Bowles, No. 4