RIDING THE WAVES

From emotion to ocean, songwriter emphasizes embodiment

Laura Jean Schneider
ljschneider@ptleader.com
Posted 10/21/21

 

 

A pandemic is a performers’ worst nightmare.

Singer-songwriter Keeth Monta Apgar was crushed when he was forced to cancel his 2020 tour; 40 shows that were going to give …

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RIDING THE WAVES

From emotion to ocean, songwriter emphasizes embodiment

Posted

 

A pandemic is a performers’ worst nightmare.

Singer-songwriter Keeth Monta Apgar was crushed when he was forced to cancel his 2020 tour; 40 shows that were going to give Harmonic Pocket the best season yet.

“For somebody who’s in the business of live events and bringing people together, the pandemic hit hard,” Apgar said during a recent interview.

Everything got really quiet. He found himself examining his life in stark detail, questioning his support network, but most importantly, who he was committed to supporting.

“Whose back do I have?” he wondered, when a friend posed the question.

That question has lingered on into 2021, as Apgar gears up for his first amplified performance since the lockdown. 

With the return comes new tunes. A track called “Sand Song,” from his brand-new 2021 album “Sing Your Song,” is catchy and imbued with as many layers as a sand painting. Based on family adventures at a secret beach spot on Indian Island, the music video depicts impish kiddos playfully sabotaging an unwitting Apgar with sand.

“On the meta level, the song is about problems in life,” he said, “how we can support each other.”

The challenges, the hard stuff, turns into songs for me,” he added.

CAREER CHANGING CUP ‘O TEA

Apgar did not grow up intending to write and perform music for children.

He did always have an affinity for salt water, growing up on Long Island; eventually he and his partner Nala Walla nested in a solar-powered cabin on Marrowstone Island.

“I just feel like there’s magic everywhere,” he said.

The journey to Washington was “a series of missteps and accidents, also just following our hearts.”

The kismet continued for Apgar.

On a mission to borrow a tool from a neighbor, he was convinced to come in for a cup of tea, first. It just so happened that one of the two women was a preschool director lamenting that a performance had just fallen through. They needed a substitute.

Might he and Walla be interested?

“I was reluctant to come in for that cup of tea, and here I am, 15 years later, playing music predominantly for kids,” he said with amusement.

The duo was instantly popular.

Apgar recalls thinking, “I hope no one thinks we’re creepy,” because they didn’t have kids but played for crowds of children.

Eventually, they decided to have their own child, and Apgar mused on how it’s changed his life.

“What I had to discover through the process was that my heart just had to grow,” Apgar said, because the love he felt was so overwhelmingly vast.

Montana, who is now 10, grew up immersed in music.

“I always just wanted to put real instruments and tools in front of him,” Apgar said. Now, he’s celebrating the uroboric buzz of co-creation. He co-wrote three of the album’s tracks with his son.

GOING WITH THE FLOW

When viewers watch Apgar immerse himself in the water in the “Sand Song” music video it’s obvious that he is a creature comfortable in the sea. He dives unflinchingly into bracing water. He splashes flat on his back, holding a ukulele, strands of kelp rolling in the water beneath him.

“When you sing, there’s nothing between you and the music,” Apgar said. “There’s one layer of separation with an instrument.”

Somewhere during the pandemic, and coming to terms with not being 20 years old anymore, Apgar was drawn back to surfing.

“In the case of surfing,” he said, “it’s you and the ocean.”

The surfboard becomes the instrument between surfer and wave.

“There really is a spirit to the ocean,” he explained. “It’s really raw, it just really makes you feel alive.”

Apgar emphasized the importance of self-care, and how surfing actually involves a kind of deep listening.

“I always learned to sit on the beach for 5 or 10 minutes to watch the waves,” he said.

Tapping in to the tide, the undertow, the weather, informs his approach to the water.

That deep level of connection is a theme that washes through his music, as well.

“I believe in the power of language,” Apgar said.

“I just feel like there is music everywhere.”

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