Patrick McGuire was living in Costilla, New Mexico, a tiny place just south of the Colorado border, when his life exploded earlier this year. The singer-songwriter, who performs as Straight White Teeth
, had been living in a spacious adobe house with his partner of seven years when their relationship fell apart.
“It was definitely one of those ‘Oh, my God, what am I going to do’ situations,” he admits. “I’ve never been through anything like that in my life. It’s been a total shock.”
McGuire did what many depressed people have done to assuage the blues — headed for Mexico. He insists that the last month or so that he’s spent in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City has been more of the Eat Pray Love
persuasion than the Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
variety. (As sad as a breakup can be, we can all take solace in that.)
“I would call this a dry run for traveling full-time,” he says. “In addition to doing the music thing, I’m also a writer...so I can do that. The music thing gets kind of complicated — like recording in a random apartment in a city you’ve never been to.”
McGuire has been putting the finishing touches on his third album using the shower in his apartment, which is the quietest place he’s been able to find.
"Mexico City is, I’ve learned, extremely loud,” he says.
He’s currently trying to sell his house in Costilla and planning a small tour, including a date in Denver. Beyond that, he wants to see Ireland, Spain, Vietnam and Thailand, to name a few countries.
“The rough plan is to make music all over the world,” he says, indicating that he's not giving up on making music, recording difficulties notwithstanding. Instead, McGuire plans to “write about things, and kind of journal about my experiences and, I don’t know, maybe make a YouTube series.”
He’s quick to say that he hates influencer culture and that’s not what he has in mind, so don't worry about one of those insipid travel Instagram accounts. He has something more profound in mind.
“It would be a more honest look at grief and losing something and asking what happened and how people find happiness and joy in their life,” he says. “It will be something more like that.”
He’s been using music to help himself get through this rough patch. Earlier this year, he released Costilla
, a stripped-down affair that evokes Elliott Smith and offers a marked sonic departure from his debut, the more synth-driven Charming Pet Gifs
. He named the second record Costilla
because, like the town he called home, the songs bear a lonely, isolated vibe.
After the breakup, he spent several months writing a third, as-yet-unreleased album to document the experience. He says the songs have the same minimalist sound of Costilla
. He was going for a sense of immediacy capturing the energy of the moment. It’s been excruciating, he says.
“I’ve never had a project where I’m so eager to finish,” he says. “As I’m healing and sort of adjusting and moving on to whatever the next phase of my life is, I’m like, ‘I don’t want to keep working on that song. I want that done.’”
As for his shift from the more polished pop sound of Charming Pet Gifs
to the whispery, layered vocal approach on Costilla
, McGuire says depression has been lurking within him for years. You can hear it, even in the more polished songs, if you listen closely.
“If you listen to the first album, the synthiness and sort of pop aesthetic, it’s a veneer to make the music palatable,” he says. “It’s pretty dark if you really went into the lyrics and everything.”
He’s planning to name his next release Intimacy Coordinator
. The title comes from the person on a TV or movie set who gets actors ready to film a sex scene.
“I didn’t realize that my partner was kind of acting like an intimacy coordinator and an actress,” he says. “It’s basically thinking about what intimacy means in a relationship and someone not being fully in it with you... and you being on the set and not noticing it as the other person.”
He adds that the new songs are not a complete bummer.
“It’s just very unguarded — like real, real music,” he says. “Sometimes you have to be completely destroyed to realize you were holding back a little bit.”
Intimacy Coordinator later this year. Straight White Teeth takes the stage at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 7, at Lost Lake, 3602 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are available online at the Lost Lake website. For more information on McGuire's music, visit Straight White Teeth online.