Fifteen albums into her career, Geri X is finally opening up.
Okay, that's not entirely true. The Bulgarian-born singer-songwriter is one of Tampa Bay's most visible artist, thanks in part to her passionate, confessional music. And her packed performance schedule over the past decade means local music fans have had plenty of time to get to know her.
But her new seven-song EP The Low Road "is basically a collection of songs that are new and songs from eight to 10 years ago that have never left my bedroom," Geri X, 26, said. "I think I've only played one of them live, ever. It's sort of a passion project."
Self-recorded at home, The Low Road chronicles one of the darker years of Geri's life, in which she struggled with anxiety, alcohol and the pressures of the road. The resulting EP, she said, is one of the most personal things she's done since her teenage 2006 debut Radioactive Drool. She's hand-making a limited batch of 150 copies that'll include artwork and a lyric "zine."
"I got really exhausted with labels and big studio s--- over the last five years, and being let down on the outcome of it," she said. "I'm taking it back to 2006, where I was recording at home and hand-making every single CD. Just going back to my roots, I guess."
You can get the EP when Geri X (born Geri Micheva) holds an album release concert on Saturday at New World Brewery in Ybor City. Beforehand, she took a few minutes to chat about the album. Here are excerpts.
Have you really only just played these songs at home? Have they only existed in your head before you decided to record them?
Yeah, because when I play live, everyone wants to hear Kiss on Both Eyelids or The Perfectionist. They want to hear the songs that they want to dance to. These are songs that I wrote for myself in order to get through difficult parts of my life. They're such personal songs, and they're a little inappropriate and very revealing, so there was never the right place to play them, honestly. So I never added them to an live show, because I would feel offended if people didn't listen to them. I think I feel a need to be heard. (laughs) I'm a little bit of a baby about it.
The temptation to try one or two out on occasion must've been there.
One of the songs, Mirror, I've played it a few times out. I played it last night. I will play those types of songs if people are being really rowdy and drunk. I'll play one for myself because I know I won't have to defend myself afterwards, because no one's listening. I sneak them in. But the rest of them, I haven't played out, ever.
Are you still playing every night?
Well, I went kind of crazy last year. I suppose a decade on the road eventually catches up to you. I lost my s---, just lost my marbles completely — a lot of drinking, a lot of not sleeping, no personal space. July 25 was a year off since I've actually been on the road, because usually I'm out eight months out of the year. I've been around here, playing three or four times a week, just keeping to myself and recouping. This record will be the reason to find my way back to being on the road and touring — sort of a motivational tool to keep going.
For that year, you were just off the road, but you were still playing around here?
Absolutely. Still writing and playing, but not touring, enjoying the fact that I have my own bed and my own shower.
And how are you feeling now?
I feel a lot better. The panic and anxiety attacks have gone down significantly. I'm happy. I've finally been able to make friends. I'm close to my family. It's nice to feel like I have a sense of belonging now. Every time I come home, back to St. Pete, I feel like I'm a part of a community, as opposed to just visiting (or) being elusive, always on the road, never really having any roots tied down anywhere. I feel a lot better.
Were any songs from The Low Road inspired directly by this past year-plus, the drinking and anxiety and panic attacks?
Oh, yeah. The majority of them. There's a song called Chemical Imbalances. There's another song called Poison Is the Cure. There's one that's called My Friends Forget. "I don't bring up anything up anymore; we just sit around and drink," is one of the lines. (laughs) We don't even talk about our issues; we just self-medicate, essentially. I've gotten a lot better, and I think a lot of it has to do with growing up. I's a rite of passage to have your debauchery years, and figure out, "All right, I need to slow down and go buy groceries and pay my electric bill, and be able to have a sober conversation with my friends."
You're a name that people see on a lot of calendars, and they may not immediately think that you're constantly pushing out new music or writing new music, or plumbing these new areas of inspiration. Do you find that people forget to pay attention to what you're singing about?
I've felt like that since I've started playing, honestly. That's a complex that I had to work through really early in my career, not being taken seriously — one, being a girl; and two, at the very beginning I was playing seven nights a week. I don't focus on that anymore. It's been a few years since I've actually started realizing that, you know what, I can pull my own weight and crowd. I can be playing tonight and tomorrow night, and I can still bring out a solid crowd. The venue will make money, the door will be healthy, and people will come out.
People know what to expect when they come out to hear me. They come out for the words, most of the time. I don't dance around on stage and flip my guitar around. I sit in one spot with my eyes closed (laughs). They come out to listen to you storytell.
From your perspective, has the scene changed in any meaningful way over the past couple of years?
Yeah. It's awesome. Even four or five years, ago, I used to say this is my favorite place. There's so much camaraderie between bands, venue owners, the audience and local media outlets. Everyone's really supportive of the arts scene. Now it's like, quadruple that. There's so much good music, so many great bands, so many awesome venues, and there's something to do every night. I f---in' love it here.
-- Jay Cridlin