Colorado folk singer Gregory Alan Isakov began writing the song “San Luis” while in the state’s namesake southern valley. The music video for it taps into the region’s natural beauty — placing the Great Sand Dunes and the San Luis Valley front and center.
The open skies and arid landscapes of the national park were captured by adventure film director and conservation photographer Andy Mann, along with filmmakers Keith Ladzinski and Chris Alstrin. Sand dunes, starry nights, campfires and scenes from Isakov’s camper pair with the singer-songwriter’s almost-whispered lyrics and soundscape of strings and percussion.
“We camped a couple nights and talked about writing, photography — and got caught in a gnarly sandstorm, our tents blowing away in the distance,” Isakov told NPR’s World Cafe in an email. “It was a surreal and beautiful few days.”
He said he later reached out to Mann to get permission to use some of the footage from that trip for the “San Luis” video: “I wanted to make sure the landscape that we had experienced together made it in. I loved collaborating with [Mann]; he really is a master at what he does.”
“San Luis” is on Isakov’s latest studio album, “Evening Machines,” which he released earlier in October and recorded in a barn on his 3-acre Boulder County farm. Before a recent sold-out show at Red Rocks, Isakov told Colorado Matters he recorded 35 songs for the album, but only 12 made it. Some of the tracks simply didn’t gel with the storyline of the new release.
The first track “Berth” reflects on the plight of immigrants. Isakov and his family moved to the United States, Philadelphia specifically, from South Africa during apartheid. His interest in horticulture is what eventually brought him to Colorado.