FLOWERS ON MARS
This year, the Recording Academy has launched an initiative to provide Spoken Word with its own category during their esteemed Grammy Award presentation. Though the project is in its early stages, the poetry community is thrilled! This initiative is what led The Poet’s List to learn about Flowers on Mars, a spoken word album by poet Curtis Nathan Curry and musician Dave Gajda; two artists who are gearing up to be early entrants for the Academy’s consideration.
Little did we know, Nathan and Dave embody The Poet’s List’s mission to the fullest. They are two unique individuals who are boldly convicted to their truths. And yet, they share a deep friendship, a passion for the arts and a desire to help those who need it most.
We are so grateful to have conducted this interview and we hope you enjoy!
“Dave and I are so opposite on so many things. He is an Atheist. I’m a Church boy. He’s very liberal. I’m very conservative. And yet, we love each other dearly and we can still find common ground within music and art. And it’s that mutual respect and admiration, that quest for commonality, that will really drive the poetry community forward and help her to thrive.” – Curtis Nathan Curry
On Flowers on Mars
Can you describe the album?
Dave: The album is eleven pieces over ten tracks. In terms of feel, I wanted to give each piece its own musical identity, letting them each hit a bit differently. In the end, despite my inclination to pack every second with as much musical information as possible, I wanted it to have space to breathe. It’s an album of poetry, and the poems aren’t long, so I didn’t want to overwhelm them with music. I wanted the poetry to be the focus.
Nathan: For me, simply put, this album is all about longing to take a leap of faith. Struggling to let go of the past, but going for it anyway… regardless of the outcome. Because, let’s face it: that’s the only way any of us grow and see change in our lives.
Dave: I’m a massive nerd at heart and, for this, I wanted to show myself through musical composition as Nathan does through his poetry. As a result, this thing is littered with musical references, whether it’s to Muse, U2, classic jazz, the Bioshock games, or Twin Peaks.
Nathan: Dave did such a tremendous job with the instrumentation and I cannot sing his praises enough.
Which track is your favorite and what is it about?
Dave: I’m sure Nathan has his own takes and stories about these pieces. The words are so personal to him, and so I can only talk about everything from a musical perspective. I did want to touch on the eleventh piece – the second half of the tenth track – “Before the Throne.” I don’t consider myself a very religious person, so I struggled with this piece for a long time. Then, unfortunately, a good friend of mine – a guy we both knew in college – committed suicide. It was awful, but I went to his funeral here in Nashville and, sitting there, listening to them singing hymns that he would have hated, I was struck by the weight that it all carried. The gravity of just a few notes on the piano. I can’t listen to that track without being transported back to that pew, surrounded by people I hadn’t seen in years. It was heavy.
Nathan: It’s so hard to pick because I truly love all the tracks for different reasons. Every one has its own unique strength and personality. I personally have always loved “Wax Souls”- it’s just such a break from the rest of the album… in tone, in subject matter. But I think it also best represents where I was at that point in my life. I was trying so hard to make a name for myself, driving myself crazy in the process, but finally coming to a place of ultimately realizing and accepting the beauty of my mortality and my limitations. It was a very freeing moment for me.
Nathan: Louisville, Kentucky. My family is very close. We all live here and we all spend a lot of time together. So that down-home closeness and community and bonding is very important to me. It’s helped me to cherish and appreciate all my relationships and it’s made me fiercely loyal to those closest to me.
Dave: I grew up on an island on the coast of Florida, right on Tampa Bay; a place called Anna Maria. The mainland is where Fernando Desoto first landed, and it’s amazing. Pirate culture was huge there, with a pirate festival every year and a men’s service organization that always seemed to involve a bunch of island men getting drunk, dressing up, and riding around on a trailer made to look like a pirate ship. It was basically a cartoon, and I’ve got multiple tattoos either in tribute to or in reference to how big pirate culture was in my life growing up.
The other big thing was music. I don’t know if we were a disproportionately musical community of kids, but you were weird if you DIDN’T play something. And many of the kids I knew played at least two instruments. That kind of childhood shaped me. It helped instill in me a sense of looking out for your people, of finding ways to make bad things better. Like, enjoying hurricanes because it meant that the beach actually got waves, even if they were threatening to wash away everything you’ve ever known. [It] conditioned me to see music as an essential part of every day life.
What are some of the topics that you are most passionate about, even if you’ve never written about them?
Dave: Oh boy. I’m very political. I believe that society only works if we’re trying to make life better for EVERYONE, regardless of race, beliefs, sex, sexuality, where you came from, or anything else. You take care of your people, and that means EVERYONE. Not just the people you want it to be, not just the people who look like you, not just the people who can afford it. From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs. I’m a big time BLM supporter, very much into children’s education, very much an LGBTQIA ally.
Nathan: I work in the education system at the elementary level. Therefore, I see a lot of the divide that happens politically and culturally. I am always a big advocate for engaging the community and bridging that gap between the races. Poverty, unfortunately, is a big determination in our systems. And money has all the say-so. These kids are no longer human beings; they are job security and a means by which the higher-ups can keep their pockets cushioned. It’s all about testing and stats and numbers and IEPS. The humanity of it all has been severely diminished, and that is both saddening and frustrating.
Other than poetry, what are some of your interests?
Nathan: I have been drawing cartoons ever since I could hold a pencil. Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera were a big part of my Saturday morning ritual. I have: illustrated a few books; I’ve had my work published in a short-running newspaper; and I am currently in the process of illustrating a children’s book series. I love classic Disney animation. I’m a Disney trivia freak. Just ask my wife.
I love music. I play piano and I lead worship at a Nazarene church in Louisville. My taste is very eclectic. I can listen to just about anything, but early 90’s alternative rock, jazz, and classical music are probably my go-to’s. I really like listening to movie scores, too. My degree was in dramatic arts so I did a lot of plays in college. I would love to be in a feature film someday. I would also really love to try my hand at voice-over acting. Simply put, I want to be a cartoon when I grow up.
Dave: I love music. It’s been integral to my life since my dad would sing “Silent Night” to me before bed as a kid. I’m also a big comic book nerd. I love reading in general, though. I just finished getting blown away by Asimov’s Foundation universe. I’m a big sci-fi guy.
Nathan: I have always loved books. Ever since I was about six years old, I would write my own stories and attempt to put them in a book format with my own illustrations and everything. There was just this freedom, a “no rules, anything goes” mentality to it all, and the lure of that was pretty intoxicating.
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I really developed a deep love for the English language. I would read the dictionary a lot and I loved Shakespeare. I just wanted to have all words and their meanings at my disposal. At that same time, I also experienced a really rotten break-up. So my remedy was to immerse myself in words and to use them to express my deepest feelings. So I was about 16, 17 when I really started to call myself a poet.
We are so excited for Nathan and Dave. We plan to keep an eye on both their individual careers and collaborative works. We hope you will do the same! Keep up with them, here:
*This interview has been condensed and arranged for brevity and flow.