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INTERVIEW: JEFFERSON GRIZZARD – October 2014

| 23 October 2014 | Reply

I got a chance to speak with newcomer Jefferson Grizzard as he headed out of Los Angeles in a van headed for San Francisco to hit the next city on his current tour with Glenn Tilbrook.  If you haven’t heard of him, just wait… you will.

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Toddstar: Jefferson, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for us today.  We really appreciate it.

Jefferson: Okay, no problem.

Toddstar: You’re out on the road.  How are things going?  You’re out there playing songs from Learning How to Lie.  How’s the tour going so far?

Jefferson: It’s doing good.  We’re about half way through.  I’m really enjoying up.  Opening up for Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze and it’s been really good audiences and great venues.  I’m just getting to see the country.  I’m currently driving out of Los Angeles right now.  I’m driving up to San Francisco.

Toddstar: Oh, cool.  You mentioned that you’re out on the road with Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze, with your sound the way you are and the Squeeze stuff, it’s not something that most people would pair up together.  How did this come together?

Jefferson: I don’t know personally how it came together.  Something my label must have worked out.  It was working with them and the juxtaposition is pretty monumental.  I get up there and sing a bunch of really depressing songs, then he sings a bunch of pop songs and that’s kind of how it goes.  Seriously, it’s been great because it is totally different, but there has been at least a pretty good connection, I feel like, with his audience, as an opener, and someone they’ve never heard of but they seem to really dig the songs, so it’s all good.  Yes, it is two extremely different sets.

Toddstar: You mentioned that you sing all depressing stuff.  I wouldn’t go that far.  You’re definitely not the pop sensation sounding stuff.  You’re not boy band material.

Jefferson: No.  Well yeah, and I was being a little bit facetious.  In comparison to the tone of his songs, they sound depressing even though most of them are quite hopeful, I think.

Toddstar: That’s where I was going to go with it.  You got songs like “Long Time Coming” which is a great track.  The title track Learning How to Lie.  Some of these songs really strike a chord.  They mean something.  They have a cool sound to them.

Jefferson: I was just going to say that yeah, I think that a lot of times trying to present the lyrics in an acoustic format on the record.  We really, I made the record wanting it to be a rock record.  Having taking those songs and boiling them down to an acoustic format, it doesn’t change the meaning of the words, but sometimes it can change the tone of the material and maybe change the way it’s delivered.  I don’t think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s interesting to deliver that material with a different medium.

Toddstar: You’re a singer/songwriter, you play guitar, and you talk about breaking these down.  Is that something that, when you start writing material you think to yourself “Okay, this needs to come across good acoustically, or this is going to be a rocker, or is it something that just as it flows, you think let’s go this route with it.”

Jefferson: I think generally what happens is I will write everything either on the piano or on acoustic guitar.  It doesn’t really take shape until I’m in a studio working with other musicians and a producer, in that creative setting where I thought okay well I think I want this one to really to be a rock song, this one is going to be a little bit more laid back, I’ll put some strings on this one.  You don’t really know, I think, right away.  There are a few songs right now that I would never put anything behind this.  I would only want to play this with just an acoustic guitar or maybe some sparse arrangements, if anything.  It’s really in the studio for me where those kinds of decisions are made.

Toddstar: In thinking back to when you were writing the material for Learning How to Lie.  Where there any songs that just fought you tooth and nail that you had the melody but you just couldn’t put the lyrics together or you couldn’t put the verse together.  Is there anything that fought you tooth and nail coming out?

Jefferson: Yeah, I think that I’ve never really had that problem because I don’t sit down and really try to write.  I just write when I feel like it and generally something good happens.  If I ever feel like I have to fight it, I just convince myself it’s not worth it and go do something else until I feel inspired to write again.  Maybe I’m not as prolific as some other writers.  I don’t pop out five songs a day, or whatever, but generally when I write something it comes easily to me and I feel like it’s worth it.

Toddstar: Sure.  That said, on the other side of the coin, are there any songs that just flew out of you, as like you couldn’t get it down fast enough.

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Jefferson: The one that comes to mind on Learning How to Lie is the song “Rough Time in Paris.”  I wrote the words in about three minutes, literally.  I didn’t change a single word to that song after I wrote it.  Probably within, in under an hour, that song was in the can as far as I was concerned.  That was just one of those things where I didn’t really know where it came from or what was happening, but it just happened and it was only after I got done putting it down on paper and humming a tune along to it that I realized what I was talking about, even within a fictional story.

Toddstar: Okay.  Going back and listening to other stuff on your back catalog, A Crack in the Door.  The song to me sounds more mature, which obviously with two or three years happening between the writing, where there any poignant points in your life that really made any of the writing different between the last release and this release?

Jefferson: I think that the major difference between the two records is, when you make your first record, if someone says “Okay, you want to make a record?  Well, do you have any songs?”  Well, yeah, I’ve been writing songs since I was 13-years-old, which ones do you want?  I think the biggest difference is you had a catalog of a hundred something songs that I’d written from 13 to 18 or 19, or however old I was when I made A Crack In The Door.  Then, when I did Learning How to Lie all of the material was much fresher.  It had all happened in one state of mind, more or less, one kind of moment in my life.  One emotional period that wasn’t good or bad but it was just where I was at that time.  I think all of the songs are very representative of things that were happening to me in a short span of time.  Whereas, the first record, you can’t really put a pin in it, or I can’t, to describe is there one singular thing I’m trying to convey?  I don’t think so.  I think the first one was just random fusing of my great hits, as it were, or the greatest hits I thought I had from five years of trying to write songs.  That was the biggest difference.  I think Learning How to Lie was much more, there is a message behind all of those songs in there somewhere.  One thing I’m trying to say.  I don’t know what it is but it’s definitely there.

Toddstar: You hit on it because one of my favorite songs on the release is the title track “Learning How to Lie.”  First of all, how did you come up with a track listing for this?  Everybody always wants that title track in the first or second spot yet you threw it just about halfway through.  Was there a reason for that or just how the record seemed to flow for you?

Jefferson: Whenever I’m focusing on track listing, I believe in making a record.  I think a record should be played front to back as like reading a book.  I don’t like skipping around.  If I’m reading a really good book and halfway through the book I see there’s an allusion to the title of the book, it always gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling.  Oh yeah, there it is, that’s where you got the title from.  To me, that’s how I wanted the record to be.  If you’re listening to the record and you don’t know what you’re getting into and then halfway through you hear that title track, I feel like it makes you want to keep going.  It’s a little refresher halfway through and it gives you that good feeling of this is really what I’m in for.

Toddstar: That happens to be one of my favorite songs and I think it’s because it really breaks down, in my mind, or it makes reference to in my mind, the state of society that we live in today.  What was your mindset behind that song?

Jefferson: I wanted to write a song that was like a series of flat of, it’s almost like you turn on the 24-hour news cycle and then watch it for 30 seconds and then write a song with all of the images that are brought up in between speeds or images they are showing from around the world.  I just think that we’ve never lived in a very relatively peaceful time.  There has always been stuff on fire, but I feel like when I wrote that song there was a whole lot of, well there still, is a whole lot of really bad stuff going on in the world and it was just how it was affecting me personally.  Every day getting up and flipping on the TV and seeing another story and also seeing the commercialization of that, just trying to appeal to people’s desire to witness destruction from their living room couch.  I think that was a big part of writing that song too was exploring why that is such a phenomenon in our society.

Toddstar: Cool.  Thanks for sharing that insight.  Let’s talk about you for a second.  You’re out on the road.  Like you said you’re driving right now from LA.  When you left home, and you knew you were going to be out for a little over a month, what were a couple of things, looking around your place, that you thought “I can’t leave home without that?”

Jefferson: Well, let me think.  I have my blue jean jacket, my cowboy boots, and a good pair of headphones because I have to be able to listen to good music.  I can’t stand not being able to hear my tunes that I want.  Between the basic articles of clothing, enough money for gas and headphones, I think that’s all I really needed.

Toddstar: Cool.  Your type of music has a certain connotation to it.  With that being said, if somebody were to go through your collection, through your iPhone, or your iPad, or whatever you’ve got with you, what songs or albums might they find on there that they would thing were just so far out of left field for you?

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Jefferson: Let’s see, far out of left field.  Well, stuff by like the Wu-Tang Clan.  I listen to a lot of old hip-hop like Grandmaster Flash and then my other Voivod, Metallica.  I listen to a lot of metal when I’m on the road, Tool.  Man, everything.  Then I got Beethoven on there too.  I just dance all around.  It’s just whatever I’m feeling in the mood for.  Sometimes, if I put on a Slayer song, it will inspire me to write a folk song.  You never know how it’s going to help out.

Toddstar: Very cool.  You’ve got this album out.  It’s getting accolades and great reviews everywhere it is.  You’re on this tour.  You’re seeing parts of the country that you may or may not have seen before.  You’re going to a great show in San Francisco tonight, with all of these things going for you, at this point for you, what’s the meaning of life?

Jefferson: What’s the meaning of life?  That’s a loaded question, man.  No, the meaning of life.  The meaning of life for me is trying to get over the fact that there is no meaning.  If that means traveling around, playing music, writing, just like I said on the record, man, it’s all about lying to yourself and trying to move beyond nihilism to a place of just accepting the absurdity.

Toddstar: Very cool.  Very good introspective answer.  Listen, Jefferson, we really appreciate your time for you.  We wish you well on the next couple of weeks of this tour.  Get home safe, but enjoy your show at the Brick and Mortar tonight.  Hopefully we will talk to you soon.

Jefferson: Yeah, thank you so much.  I appreciate it.

Toddstar: All right, brother, we will talk to you soon.

Jefferson: Bye.

http://jeffersongrizzard.com

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Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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