INTERVIEW: Charlie Cacciatore on solo project Good Morning Midnight

Good Morning Midnight’s eclectic guitar arrangements and poignant lyrical themes have carved out a niche spot in the Midwest music scene. The Iowa City-based solo project of Charlie Cacciatore has built its following on the bridge between Cacciatore’s folk songwriting tenets and his nostalgia for the catchy, overdriven guitar riffs and pounding beats of ‘90s era alternative rock.

This Wednesday, Cacciatore and drummer Ian Francis will pack up to meet the two Lincoln-based members of his current band, Marina Kushner and Robert Specht, to play at Duffy’s Tavern with Histrionic and Domestica. The Daily Nebraskan had a chat with Cacciatore to discuss what it takes to make his solo project something bigger than himself.

The Daily Nebraskan: What exactly is Good Morning Midnight as a musical project?

Charlie Cacciatore: Good Morning Midnight started around three years ago when I was living in Des Moines. It has been my solo project for that time. I’ve done the whole rotating-cast-of-musicians thing; the batch of musicians that played on my first record is pretty much totally different people than the batch of people on the second record. My live lineup has shifted a lot. Sometimes, I play solo; I played as a two-piece with a cellist for a while, played as a three-piece a lot and a five-piece occasionally, just whoever is willing to throw their weight behind this.

DN: You said this is a solo project; have you played in other bands?

CC: Something that’s interesting about Iowa City, I’ve noticed — I live in Iowa City — there’s a lot of people with solo projects here, so I’ve played in a couple people’s bands in town, just filling in basically the same way that people have filled in in my band. Elizabeth Moen is one — I think she’s playing at the Reverb Lounge pretty soon, actually. Anthony Worden is another one, and William Elliott Whitmore. This is the only project that I’ve been a creative member of for a while. I have tunnel vision. All of my creative energy goes toward this.

DN: Your songs can invoke the sounds of ‘90s alternative rock acts. Who are some of your songwriting influences?

CC: You know what’s funny about that is I always felt like the way that these songs are dressed up is stylistically like ‘90s bands — like the way that they’re arranged is a lot like Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Modest Mouse — and that’s stuff that is very close to my heart. I can’t deny that. The actual songwriting aspect of it, I never really understood why people compared that to ‘90s stuff. I’m really into just old-school folk — so like Fred Neil, Bert Jaunch, Townes Van Zandt, Tim Hardin, stuff like that. What’s interesting to me is that I always feel like I’m going at a song from the angle of more of a roots-folk songwriter, but it just comes out as sounding like Nirvana.

DN: How would you describe your music overall?

CC: I try to cover a lot of different territory. Shapeshifting is a keyword that I would not deny. There’s a writer that wrote a bio for me, and there’s a one-liner that’s “a cacophony in hushed tones,” and that really resonates with me. I’d say that my music is pretty dissonant, and I actively go for a lot of dissonance, but at the same time, it’s like a clean, dirty kind of thing. Like a dissonance with beauty kind of thing. The yin-yang to that. A totally different way to approach that question — me and my friends invented a term called I-80 emo because we all live along I-80, and we all play in each other’s bands.

DN: What does your songwriting process look like?

CC: The way that I do it, and the way that I’ve basically been doing it since I was 15 years old, is I collect snippets of words in everyday conversation, and I use a notebook. I’ve always had at least one notebook going for like six or seven years now. When I write a song, I open up a notebook and on the left page, I write down all of the snippets of words and images and stuff, and on the right page, I piece it together like a puzzle. All of the spaces in between end up getting filled during that creative writing when I’m actually sitting down at my desk looking at a blank page of paper. A lot of the spaces in between just get filled in in a way that I can’t really explain; it’s just the well of creativity or whatever the f*** you want to call it.

DN: What impact do you hope to make on your listeners?

CC: That’s something that I think about all the time, and I don’t really know exactly what the answer is, other than if one person listens to my record and feels less alone, then that’s enough for me.

DN: Where are your favorite places to play?

CC: My all-time favorite place to play is a venue in Iowa City called The Mill. It’s got a lot of history, and it’s been around in some way shape or form since the ‘50s. There’s a long history of roots music here. Names like Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey and David Zollo, Trailer Records, all those guys played at The Mill with regularity in the ‘90s, and that was kind of their spot. The Mill was synonymous with that movement of people. When I moved to Iowa City, I felt like when I lived in Des Moines, I didn’t have the same kind of generational connection to geography, to the land. Especially when I play at The Mill, I feel like I’m carrying on a torch that has been passed on for a while, and it’s tangible. I played in a band with one of those guys. He sat in just for one of our shows; it was an album release show — not my band, that was Elizabeth Moen —  but I hung out with him and talked to him all night. It was a very tangible feeling of connectivity.

DN: What are you looking forward to with the show in Lincoln?

CC: I’ve been to a bunch of shows at Duffy’s, and it’s always a really good time. It’s just a cool bar that seems like it’s a crossover between the musician-artsy crowd and more of just — I don’t know what the best way to say it is without sounding pretentious — but, you know, it’s not a pretentious bar from what I can tell. I dig that. I like playing places like that. I have a lot of friends in Lincoln, and I’d just like to hopefully see them and hang out.