Chris Koza recalls that when he was a student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, he was overwhelmed by the musical talent of his colleagues in music classes.
“The music majors there are such brainiacs,” he said. “They’re incredible. I felt a little intimidated.”
So Koza, who came to St. Olaf from his hometown of Portland, Ore., majored in studio art and philosophy instead of music.
But, more than a decade after graduation, Koza is the one with the musical career. As both a solo artist and member of the band Rogue Valley, Koza is seen as one of the brightest lights on the Twin Cities music scene. His new solo album, “In Real Time,” is chock full of melodic pop songs.
Saturday, Koza will perform a solo acoustic set at the Chatfield Center for the Arts in a concert that also features Six Mile Grove. He talked by phone from the Seattle airport last week on the way back from a trip to Hawaii.
How did you end up staying in Minnesota after college?
I bounced around for a couple of years, but I came back to Minneapolis-St. Paul. I had some friends from college. We were playing music together. It seemed like a good place with opportunity to grow as a songwriter.
How would you describe the music scene in the Twin Cities?
Thriving. There are a lot of artists who are successful on the local circuit, and some who can tour nationally. There are a lot of opportunities to play. It’s a scene where people are not trying to make excuses that they’re in the Midwest.
In your songwriting, it seems like you can write strong melodies almost at the drop of a hat. Where does that come from?
On this album, I put a little more time into trying to improve the melodies. These were songs I had sung for a while, and when I got down to recording them, I wanted to make them better. I tried to use some of my St. Olaf music smarts.
Why were these songs right for a solo album but not for a Rogue Valley album?
I feel like these songs didn’t fit into what Rogue Valley was doing on those albums. There were references to nature and the countryside on those albums. For me, that storyline was tight. These songs were outside that. At the same time, I feel these songs I can do as a solo act, or with the band and they don’t lose their energy.
What’s the status of Rogue Valley?
We haven’t put out anything in a while, and now, I come out with a solo album. But we’ve been working on new recordings. We have about 15 songs in various stages of incompleteness. Our target date for a new album is August.
You’ve been incredibly prolific as a songwriter. Are you writing all the time?
Lately, I haven’t been able to spend as much time writing as I’d like. I love to write. I’ve got some songs and in the next few months, I’m going to be pushing them toward completion. I feel my best song is one I haven’t written yet.