Interview: Jack Grelle

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St. Louis-based country artist Jack Grelle has the most beautiful beard in the Western Hemisphere; witnessing it up close and in person, the sunlight illuminates and reflects its many golden and red-tinged highlights. “I do next to nothing besides the occasional trim to tame it. Otherwise, it’s au naturel,” he tells me with a laugh.

The songs on Grelle’s latest album, Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down, released on October 23rd via Big Muddy Records, are as diverse as the hues of his glorious mane of facial hair, featuring good-timing honky tonk, zydeco-flecked country, and folk, with commentary on everything from the memory of his beloved grandmother—“I thought I was musically cool, but she totally schooled me,” he recalls—to the racial tension in his recently embattled hometown. “I write about my own experiences and the events around me. For years, I hitchhiked around the country doing that whole hobo thing, and all my songs were traveling songs, train songs, songs about hitchhiking and sleeping in ditches,” he explains. “I’m a socially-conscious person, and I played in politically-bent punk bands for years. Due to the current political climate of my city and of the country, I’ve begun to incorporate my views into my songs, usually subconsciously.”

“People forget how originators like Woody Guthrie were very political, it’s a deeply-rooted tradition in folk music to highlight people’s struggles,” he adds. “I cut my teeth in the punk scene, and lived in a punk house that had an open-door policy for traveling musicians. People started showing up with banjos and fiddles playing Appalachian string band tunes and old country tunes, and it awakened me. I got more into writing, and fell into that style.”

Grelle will begin a tour in support of his new album on November 1st at The American Legion Post 82 in East Nashville (where Tuesday Night country shows are acquiring legendary status and being attended by the likes of Kacy Musgraves and Jack White), ending the tour with a New Year’s Eve performance at Delmar Hall in St. Louis. “My shows are a good time, I play honky tonk music and I want people to dance, but the lyrics might be a little more thought-provoking than other traditional country music,” he says. “Here in St. Louis, when Mike Brown was killed, it was a glimpse of a huge problem that is continually growing; at the end of the day, you have to decide where you stand when it comes to injustice. I felt like I had to say something. I’m reaching a demographic that doesn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with me or that hasn’t heard someone else’s viewpoint on some things. I feel like it’s an opportunity to question some things. I don’t preach, I don’t claim to have ay answers, I’m not trying to be a leader,” Grelle adds. “I’m just trying to start a conversation.”

Listen and watch: http://bigmuddyrecords.com/music/

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Tour Dates:

11/1- Nashville, TN at American Legion Post 82
11/2- Bloomington, IN at Players Pub
11/3- Cincinnati, OH at Southgate Revival House
11/4- Louisville, KY at Nach Bar
11/5- St. Louis, MO at Off Broadway
11/15- New Orleans, LA at Mag’s
11/16- Houston, TX at The Continental Club
11/17- Austin, TX at The White Horse
11/18- Austin, TX at The Driskill Hotel
11/19- Tulsa, OK at The Mercury Lounge
11/20- Fayetteville, AR at The Smoke and Barrel
12/4- Duluth, MN at Red Herring Lounge
12/8- Omaha, NE at O’Leaver’s
12/3- Minneapolis, MN at The Hook and Ladder
12/14- Springfield, MO at Lindberg’s
12/15- Oklahoma City, OK  at Anthem Brewing Co
12/16- Kansas City, MO at Westport Saloon
12/17- Columbia, MO at Cafe Berlin
12/30 – St. Louis, MO at Delmar Hall w. Pokey Lafarge
12/31 – St. Louis, MO at Delmar Hall w. Pokey Lafarge

Susan Hubbard

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