Between the Lines: Grady Spencer

Grady Spencer of Grady Spencer & The Griswulds. Courtesy of the artist.

By: Thomas D. Mooney

Earlier this week, we caught up with Grady Spencer to discuss “Home” off 2010’s “The Seminole Optimists Club.” After living in Austin, Gatesville, and Memphis, Spencer has moved back “Home” and has been rising up the ranks as one of Lubbock’s best songwriters. And this past spring, he finished second in The Blue Light’s Spring Singer-Songwriter Showdown to prove it.
Later this October (Friday, the 21), Spencer and his backing band, The Griswulds, play a show at The Blue Light with Austin outlaws, Uncle Lucius, a show that will definitely be something you won’t want to miss. 
And tonight (Sept. 30), you can catch Spencer for a doubleheader; At the Funky Door from 8-11pm and at the 34th St. OBar to close the night.

What exactly is the meaning behind “Home?” What’s the story behind it?

I was the first one out of the group out of my college friends to graduate from Tech and leave. It’s kind of like song that was originally about leaving your friends that you’ve come to love, that you’ve got drunk with, partied with. The whole nine yards. That’s really what the song was based on. Then, I recorded it with a good friend of mine, and it kind of evolved. I recorded it for like a demo. A good friend of mine, Lee Tyler Williams, he drummed on it. And right after we did that, about a year-and-a-half later, he was killed in a car wreck. Then, it kind of evolved into a goodbye song to him. Then, it just got rerecorded and turned into a blues anthem type deal. It’s just gone through different phases. But the roots of it are about saying goodbye to your friends and moving on with your life.

When was the original recording done?

That was in 2006.

You mentioned you recorded it on your computer. Did you just record it at your home at the time?

Yeah. Up until last year, when I did the album by myself, “The Seminole Optimist Club,” I recorded that in the studio. But, for about two-and-a-half years,  I just had been experimenting with recording everything myself. So I’ve got like, a hundred versions of songs on my computer. Like acoustic, and then I kind of fooled around with a little bit of electric drums and looping stuff. It’s fun. I still want to go back and use some electronic stuff. I think it adds so much to this kind of scene that a lot of people don’t really know about.

How about “The Seminole Optimists Club” version; where was that version recorded?

That was done out at Acuff, at Route 1 Studios, where this guy named Alex Crossland built this studio out in his garage. He mainly works with a lot of super-country, old school country dudes and a couple who do newer country. Like Jake Kellen recorded some stuff there. But he’s just super effective, quick, and saves a lot of money and saves a lot of time. And, he really knows his shit so everything comes out exactly how you want it. We recorded it over about six sessions live and tried to minimize the overdub. I like that old school style where everybody gets in a room and plays and if it sounds good, putting it on the album. That’s how it came out on a lot of the songs.

You’ve mentioned a few of the different versions of “Home.” What’s your personal favorite way to play it? I can see it being something that would be great done in a real Bruce Springsteen “Nebraska” kind of way. 

Yeah, I go through a few phases on it. Sometimes, I like to just sit off in a room by myself and play acoustic guitar and have it really bare, [it’s] really good. But then sometimes, I like to drench it in reverb and give it a real wavy kind of thing. I think it kind of adds a little bit of mystery to it. The version that we do it full-band, it starts real mellow and then on the chorus, it really hits hard. And if everybody is playing it like it was designed to be, it has a large impact and it hits home. And, if everybody doesn’t, it can sound pretty shitty.

How long did it take to write “Home?

I’m pretty sure I wrote it in a day. It was a long time ago, but the meat and potatoes of the lyrics were pretty much done in a day. I went back and changed a couple of the rhyming schemes that were a little corny. But for the most part, at the time I really wasn’t doing a whole lot, I was just done with school and didn’t have a job, so I just played and wrote a lot. Like the majority of the stuff I was writing was pretty bad. Like now, it makes me cringe. But there are a couple of remnants like “Home” and a couple of others that we do, but a lot of that stuff just got scrapped. 

Was the writing process different than how you usually write songs?

It was really different because, usually I don’t start writing a song with a message that I’m wanting to get out and get across. Usually it starts with the music. Like, in a cool little guitar riff or some guitar part. And then I’ll start breaking up syllables and then I’ll find words that go into there. Then when I have a couple of words, I’ll build on that. But “Home,” I knew I wanted to write a song about leaving my friends and going on to new things. I was getting ready to move to Austin is what it was. I was going to try and play music down there. It didn’t really go over too well, mainly because I wasn’t ready musically I don’t think. Like I had some main ideas I wanted, but not really any of the words at the start of it, so that was a lot different. And, it’s also probably the slowest song I’ve written. Like to this day, I’ve never written a song that’s really slow and that bluesy.

When you’re playing it, what exactly are you feeling? What’s going through you’re head?

Well it starts out with a real great riff. Like I start it off. And it’s pretty power inducing and if you’ve got a really talented band–like a bunch of talented dudes who are waiting for you to really hit that lick. So anytime I hear it, I light up and get stoked because it means we’re going to be rocking out for a long time. Hopefully, we’re really going to rock it out and not ruin it. But yeah, that opening lick is really what gets me every time. The chorus, there’s a pretty steady build up of the chorus, and like I said, if everybody’s doing their job and we hit it right, that whole thing gives me chills a little bit.

“Home” Lyrics

Oh, my home
Will always be where my brothers are
Yes, my home,
Will always stay with my girl 
Yes, my home
Will always be where my family stays
Sure we may not share our blood
But we damn sure seen the days

Oh, my home
Has always been so good to me
Yes, my home
It always kept me straight
Yes, my home
Has always seen the good and bad
Now the road calls my name
And I hope my friends won’t be sad

Well it’s easy sometimes to not see the good
When you take a look around, you know you should
Oh God, why you got to call my name right now?
Yes, that road will call my name
I guess I got to go now

Well it’s easy sometimes to not see the good
When you take a look around, you know you should
Oh God, why you got to call my name right now?
Yes, that road will call my name
I guess I got to go now


2 responses to “Between the Lines: Grady Spencer

  1. Pingback: Five Quick Q’s: Grady Spencer « New Slang·

  2. Pingback: New Slanged: Grady Spencer | New Slang·

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