Last week the students in my Writing Close to the Earth online class read George Orwell's classic essay, "Politics and the English Language." In it ... Read More
Stacy Grubb‘s new record, From the Barroom to the Steeple, has just been released. It’s beautiful and features some amazing musicians including Stacy (voice, wow) and Ron Block (banjo, mustache). It’s so good I’m going to prove it to somebody by giving a copy away to a randomly-selected person who comments on this post. —Sam
Tell us a little about how you became an international bluegrass sensation? Do not even think about answering this awesome question without mentioning Cathead. (Note: Alan “Cathead” Johnston is Stacy’s dad.)
I don’t feel there is an honest answer to this question. How did I drive my family into the poorhouse with bluegrass? Same as every bluegrass performer, mostly. Well, not really. I didn’t grow up listening to bluegrass. I grew up with the option of contemporary Christian or Waylon Jennings. That’s what ol’ Cathead gave me to choose from. At least, for a really long time. When I was a teenager, I got into Mariah Carey and pursued that kind of sound and developed my songwriting. And I’m picking on Cathead. He didn’t object to my Dolly tape I had (it was a gospel record she’d cut). I was probably 4 when I discovered her, and she has been my #1 ever since—even unto this day. But by the time I was in my 20s, I had this blend of Dolly and Mariah vocally (only with not one iota of a hint of Mariah) and my goals with it were just ridiculous. I really bucked the honest truth of my voice, which is that it’s just not designed for R&B. I know, right?
Dad had actually not been into bluegrass since his own teen days when he picked with his dad, but he had a re-falling in love with it around the time I was moving back to West Virginia after a few years in Knoxville. He assembled a bluegrass band and asked me to sing in it with him. I’d gone through a lot of years really denying my love of music. I won’t purge all that here. But joining his band flipped a switch for me. Oh, and seeing Alison Krauss & Union Station for the first time in concert had a real impact, too. Again, probably a longer story than you signed up for. The more I sang bluegrass, the more I felt my voice had found a home. God carved me a path that eventually led me into a studio in 2009 and I still can’t really believe it happened. Music and maybe just creating in general is hard. I haven’t always appreciated my opportunities as I should, especially when I’ve felt rejected. Still, I can’t quit doing this thing. What got me here? I guess, the short story is, “One foot in front of the other even when it was the stupid thing to do.”
What’s different about this record from the last one?
My last record had a more alt-country sound to it. Actually, in the planning phase, I thought we were gearing up to make a bluegrass record. But when I got to the studio, I learned that there may have been a breakdown in communication when I met the drummer and electric guitar player. I just rolled with it. The general consensus of that one on the marketing side was that it was “too bluegrass for country and too country for bluegrass.” Bah! This record is completely acoustic and the production is really scaled back in comparison. I think country music producers (such as the one who produced Hurricane) tend to use instrumentation as a bed to lay a vocal to, whereas bluegrass producers use instrumentation as an extension of the voice and the telling of the story. Clay Hess produced From the Barroom to the Steeple and he’s well accomplished in bluegrass having been a member of high profile groups like Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder and Mountain Heart. He’s also pretty good at dealing with the hurdles of accommodating girl sangers. We’re not so easy to accompany since the only keys we know are girl keys.
You’ve been around the Rabbit Room a long time. Has this community been influential in your life? If so, how?
Well, I met you in the Rabbit Room! I probably had missed opportunities to meet you in Kroger before, but because of the RR, I learned about you and have come to know your beautiful family, even as it’s grown in numbers. Ron (Block) first told me about the RR. He kept telling me I needed to check it out and I thought it was just for super smart theologians, so I took awhile to come around. When I did, I realized it was also for dingleberry riffraff (or at least that we wouldn’t be tossed out on our cottontails), so I stuck around like a canker sore. The people I’ve met have been life-changing. I think we all know what I’m talking about there. I’m still a Hutchmoot no-show, but I’ve been able to meet a bunch of y’all, anyway. Plus, there’s Story Warren. But there was this post—well, it was a series—that Ron made years ago called “Driving Out the Canaanites.” It dealt with the way God conquered sin and how He works that out in us to relieve us of the bondage of sin. I really can’t describe the impact of that. He also had a series about plugging into our Power Source. There have been so many posts, so many discussions. Honestly, I tell people I’m not actually a real rabbit, but I hang out with a bunch of them. My non-rabbit friends who know about rabbits don’t get it and I’m sad for what they don’t know they’re missing.
What’s your favorite color besides the ones we all know about?
The only color that I know about that none of y’all know about is maybe the color of the backs of my knees. It’s not a favorite. Kind of a greyish, ghostly white (like sausage gravy) with the fingerprints of a 3-year-old stamped in strawberry jelly. The strawberry jelly is a pretty color. Y’all probably know about that one. Oh, I’ve actually never seen my scalp. None of us know what color it is. It’s a mystery.
What can people who want to support you in your music do to help right now?
Buy the record if you think you’ll like it, review it (if you do like it . . . don’t be dragging down my star count), requesting me on Bluegrass Junction (SiriusXM), and one big thing that a lot of people might not consider is contacting venues and saying, “Hey, can you bring this girl over here to our town?” Most places have Facebook pages these days. Just leave a post on their wall requesting that they book me at their establishment or festival or living room or just wherever people pay musicians to entertain them.