Vikesh Kapoor’s music has always defied logic. Here’s a young artist—born in small town Pennsylvania to immigrants from India—who seems more inspired by Pete Seeger, John Jacob Niles and Woody Guthrie that any popular music from the last two decades. On today’s podcast, we talk to Kapoor about his upbringing, his influences and his favorite guitars.
Kapoor has a new single out this month, entitled “Down by the River,” though calling it new is a bit of a misnomer. “It was one of the first songs that I wrote and I never had it recorded in a way that I liked,” he says. A former punk rock musician, Kapoor became infatuated with Pete Seeger and folk music in general and wrote this tune as a companion piece to Seeger’s “Dink’s Song.”
“I wrote the song essentially in a day, right before my 23rd birthday,” he recalls. “I promised myself that I needed to write and finish this song before I turned 23… I was new to folk music and just mesmerized by that style of writing. It was an inspired moment, for sure.”
Raised in the land of Martin guitars (he has since relocated to Portland and now Los Angeles), the singer-songwriter also tells us the unlikely story behind the ’70s Gibson J-50 Deluxe that he wrote this song on (pics below). “I thought I’d need to get an old guitar,” he says of the time he decided to become a folk singer. “I went into the one small music store that is on the main street in my town where I took a few guitar lessons. It’s the shop that I lurked around in… They had this little back room… and there was this old, battered Gibson dreadnought. It was a beautiful sunburst, I picked it up and played it immediately and I was like ‘Yep, this is for me.’
“It was on consignment, it was maybe $700. [The store owners’] hated the guitar, they were devout Martin purists. They really didn’t like it, but it sounded so good to me. I ended up getting it for $500. The Ballad of Willy Robbins [Kapoor’s 2013 album] was written on that guitar, as was “Down by the River.”
“It was a magic moment; it was as if that guitar were meant for me.”
This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is brought to you by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Dying Breed Music. Kapoor’s new recording is available at all the usual digital music outlets and can also be purchased as a flexi-single from Mama Bird Recording Co.