The music that comes from Fred Argir's mind filters through his fingers moving instinctively across guitar strings, as though guided by spirits, the lyrics carried to us on his rich and soulful voice, distinctive for its character and how the stories create individual responses within each listener.
This is how he works and what his works do.
"I write the music and the words at the same time," says the Denver-based artist, with more than 25 years of recording and performing experience. “What I enjoy is capturing the emotion within the music, and the space between the words, and the words themselves.
“The silences within the song are sometimes more important than the words or music. For me, it would be difficult to capture all three without creating them at the same time.”
Becoming a musician with much to say was a path largely chosen for Argir by the roulette wheel of life. Born to a mother and father who were both professional musicians, young Fred clearly remembers thinking that everybody's dad was out on tour and could be heard on the radio, and everybody's mom played in clubs five nights a week.
"I didn't know my dad as a youngster, but I had his albums," he recalls. "My mother was always singing around the house, and she was very talented. My mom was the biggest influence on me. That's where I found my hunger."
Growing up in Minneapolis, Fred dealt with the good and bad, in the process gaining musical-and life-experience far beyond his years. "I wrote my first 12 songs when I was eight years old," he says. I formed a group with another kid my age and we performed for anyone who would listen to us. That started everything and I never let up since."
The drive to release artistic inclinations can be a noose for some people, but Argir embraces it as a harmonious way to sort out the cards and come to terms with forces he cannot control.
"I often say that I need to write music, as a form of therapy," he says. "If I didn't have a studio to work in, I would record music to my cell phone. I would find a way to do it."
Music swallowed him as a kid, he surrendered to it, and to this day he devours music from other artists as much as he plays and creates his own.
"I have always been influenced by the last band I saw," notes Fred. "There's always something to get from listening to a song, watching a performance. I always have a napkin and a pen to write things down, whether it's how they did a certain song, or the settings on the amps or the board. It's all fascinating to me."
Enjoying Being Nowhere
Fred's musical identity is that of a master guitarist who produces consistently compelling lyrics, then combines a variety of additional elements to produce memorable songs. It's a formula that allows him to ignore boundaries. Argir's art manifests itself in sometimes starkly contrasting styles that cross and even blend genres.
Whether he's creating soulful acoustic folk songs, high energy rock and alternative sounds, or innovative music that stitches together supposedly discordant styles, the process and motivations remain the same.
"I kind of enjoy being nowhere," says Fred, a nod to the fact that his music can be hard to classify. "I like it when I change corners from one project to the next. I've been part of the punk scene, the grunge scene, the rock scene, the acoustic scene, and it's all fun, it's all music, all different forms of expression. But even when the music sounds different, it's not because I changed the approach. I always come at it the same way."
Life as One Big Painting
Partly because he developed such a wide-ranging palette of musical styles, Fred initially believed that each had a mutually exclusive box it belonged in.
"I used to think", he says, "that every song, and every album, was a body of work that could be hung on a shelf and stand on its own, that they all had a start and a stop that were easily discernible. But I don't believe that anymore. Now I believe that every song, record, action in my life, everyone I meet, is simply one brush stroke that together make up the entirety of my life. It's all one painting, that will only be complete when I'm gone."
Within that mural of his life stands the music, all of it, offered up for whatever it provides to anyone who hears it, feels it, is moved by it.
The music belongs to him only until it enters you.
Argir believes that music should be allowed to shape itself to individual interpretation in order to be most meaningful. He doesn't like to talk about what each song means to him, because he wants his audience free to make associations with their own lives, creating a strongly personal experience that's different for everyone. That, he says, is when music becomes magical.
Destiny shaped him to an extent, but as with all true artists, the impact of Fred Argir's craft comes from what he makes of it, a body of work in full bloom sprouting from within a place where new brush strokes constantly seek his canvas. I do it simply for the love of creating, writing, and performing music," he says. "Picking up a guitar and sitting outside knocking out a few chords and jotting down a song - that seems like the closest I can get to where I want to be."
– Mark Strand