Many of the songs in Garrels’ catalogue evoke natural, visceral imagery, both from the Midwest where he was raised and attended college, and now from his home in Portland, Oregon. From the start of his career, Garrels has chosen to self-record, mix, produce, and distribute records without industry management or label representation, beginning with the lo-fi bedroom recordings Stonetree (2002), Underquiet (2003) and Over Oceans (2006).
In 2008, Garrels released Jacaranda. Senior Contributing editor for Paste Magazine Andy Whitman called Jacaranda, “complex, nuanced, and lovely.” The following year, Garrels finished the EP Lost Animals, a collection of B-sides and singles.
In 2010, Garrels relocated to Portland, where he now resides with his wife Michelle, daughter Heron, and son Shepherd. Garrels also collaborated with Brooklyn, New York-based collective Mason Jar Music in 2010, re-imagining the song “Words Remain” in a historic Episcopal church in Manhattan with orchestration including strings, handbells, and flute.
On June 15, 2011, Garrels released his latest effort, Love & War & the Sea In Between. The making of Love & War & the Sea In Between was completely funded through the support of listeners and offered as a free download for one year, garnering 125,000 downloads in the first year after its release. Named the number one album of 2011 by Christianity Today, the magazine described the recording as, “prophetic, incisive, achingly human, and longingly spiritual.” Love & War & the Sea In Between was influenced by the landscape of the Pacific Northwest, which Garrels calls, “mysterious and ominous.” A stark contrast to the four seasons he experienced during his youth, Garrels says, “The evergreens, mist, rain, rocky coast, and stretches of uninhabited woods feel wild and untamed. I think the terrain also influences the area’s culture and spirituality. Living here has deeply affected me and my work.”
Garrels has composed musical scores for several television shows and films, including the acclaimed Marc Havener short film And What Remains and the Fuel TV documentary Gum for my Boat. His song “Don’t Wait for Me” appeared in the CBS television series The Ghost Whisperer, with additional musical placements in Heart of a Soul Surfer (The Bethany Hamilton Story), surfing documentary Walking on Water, and CBS webisode Around the World For Free. In 2012, his song “Slip Away” appeared in the ESPN television show Outside the Lines.
Partnering with a number of not-for-profit organizations, Garrels has worked to raise awareness for HOPE International, a microfinance initiative working in developing countries; Invisible Children, confronting the LRA in Northern Uganda; and Light Gives Heat, empowering Africans through encouraging economic sustainability and creative endeavors.
Collaborating with Mason Jar Music for the second time in 2011, Garrels filmed the full-length, fan-financed 60-minute musical documentary The Sea in Between on Mayne Island, B.C. Currently in post-production, the film is slated for release in 2012. Garrels is presently composing original scores for film, as well as mentoring and producing music for other artists through his label Small Voice Records. In 2012, Garrels earned a regional Emmy nomination in Music Composition from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his contribution to the soundtrack for And What Remains. He plans to start work on his next album in 2012.