by: Thomas D. Mooney
Grady Spencer was one of the first New Slang interviews. Back then, we spoke with country-blues singer-songwriter about one of the songs on his album The Seminole Optimists Club (and Sunday’s Ships for that matter). The song, “Home” was discussed in detail in one of our first features called Between the Lines.
Since then, by my count, Spencer has been one of our most written artists in the New Slang “vaults.” And for good reason.
It sounds cliché, but Spencer has always had a sound that translates to most. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most die-hard Waylon Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver country fan or if your iPod is filled with The Black Keys and White Stripes songs. He fits among both. He transcends genres. There’s just a smooth aura that comes with Spencer songs.
And it seems as though we won’t have to wait too long for the next batch. Spencer, as you’ll read below, has been working on his third record, tentatively called Sleep over the course of the last few months.
We caught up with Spencer this past Tuesday on an afternoon call. Spencer and company will be playing tonight (June 28) at The Blue Light.
New Slang: So I guess the last time we spoke in an interview setting, you were still living here in Lubbock. Since then, you’ve moved to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. How has that effected your career?
Grady Spencer: I think it’s been pretty opportunistic. Getting to play new venues and with a new set of musicians, it’s kind of a fresh feel to music and the drive in general has been to get out there and see the bigger world sometimes. It’s been pretty awesome to get that move.
NS: Yeah. How’s the audience and locals taken you in, being the new, fresh face?
GS: Yeah. It’s definitely been taking it’s time. And I’m no where here as the following I have in Lubbock. That just takes some time.
NS: As expected I guess.
GS: Yeah. But the shows I’ve played here, they’ve been great. People have seemed to really enjoy it. Just think it takes some time, but I’m excited to take that time and hopefully to get people on my side.
NS: So you’ve also been working on getting a new band together. Tell me a little about those guys you’ve been trying to get in the band and everything. I’m sure it’s still a work in process finding the “right” guys, but how’s that been so far?
GS: Yeah. I’ve actually gotten about 80% solid. The drummer, his name is Blake Sager. The guitar player is named Trevor Powell. I got both those guys actually through church, playing music at church. They’re both really talented dudes.Blake goes to school and like a drum major. So he’s got more talent than I know what to do with. Probably overkill for my type of stuff, but he’s really, really good. So those dudes have been playing with me for several month now. And the bass player who is coming with me on Friday, his name is Steve Moore. Kind of stumbled across him on Craigslist [laughs]. He’s great though. I’m hoping to make him more permanent. It’s definitely got more of a tighter feel. It seems like with the Griswulds, we were pretty upbeat and rambunctious. Really energetic. This set of guys, there’s a little bit more focus. Not necessarily better in the sense of the word, just a little bit different. I’m really excited about how these guys are bringing out some different artistic things in me and likewise for them.
NS: The last time I saw you, it was down at the Cinco de Mayo street concert. There you mentioned you were beginning to work on some new material. Where are you in that process?
GS: Yeah. It’s going to be a full album. I’m 90% sure it’s going to be called Sleep. We’re going to go under the name Grady Spencer and The Work since it’s new guys. It has a much different feel from the old Griswulds stuff. We recorded it down in Kyle at this place called Studio 1916, which is owned by the guy named Blake Atwell who used to be a Lubbock guy. He played in Cellus and The Loose Grip. It was probably one of my favorite local bands of all-time. Anyways, he opened this studio in Kyle. We took two trips down there, two weekends, and knocked out 11 songs. We got them all tracked and now are in the mixing process. We’re about halfway done there. We’re optimistically looking for sometime in late summer to having it ready to go and ready to put it. We’re really excited about it.
NS: Can’t wait for that. So these 11 songs, what’s been the subject matter? There been a theme in influence and subject?
GS: I’d say about half and half–well, you know–I’m pretty into writing love songs [laughs]. A romantic type of guy. So half of them are written about my wife Kaci. The other half are kind of observational. Couple of songs are about moving to Ft. Worth and the move we had. I’d say it’s about 99% autobiographical. It’s all just about my life, this move that we made, and kind of where we are in life right now.
NS: For folks who have heard your previous two records, what would you say is going to be the biggest difference between them and this new one?
GS: I don’t want to it’s less flashy, but there’s less solos. It’s more song driven than performance driven I’d say. There are solos, guitar solos, keys solos on the album, but for this one, I was kind of wanting to tighten up the focus on the songs. So I think we did it in a way people can enjoy the songs, but also entertaining musically in a way that people will want to listen to it a lot. That was kind of my thought process on it.
NS: Yeah. Was there any moments during recording that you think were really cool? Anything that comes up as being different from anything you’d done before?
GS: Yeah. Kind of the whole process of micing up Trevor’s guitar. Probably not a lot of people will understand what I’m saying, but he was running stereo, taking his pedal board into an isolated cabinet, like a cabinet in a small room. But he was also taking his guitar into a Fender bassman amp in this big wooden room with I think it was six twelves. Just this huge, huge speaker. And the tone that we were getting throughout the whole album was just mind-blowing. Listening back, pretty much on every song, his guitar sounds awesome. So that was pretty cool. Blake, down in the studio, Blake Atwell, he has a lot of vintage gear. So we got to use a bunch of guitars that were way, way past my price point and probably nicer than anything I’ll ever own. He was really gracious to let us play on them. So just getting to use really high-end equipment was really awesome. And it just helped the vibe on the whole weekend.