Five Questions For Bluegrass Sensation Stacy Grubb

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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

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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.

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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.


32 Comments

  1. redheadkate

    Excited to see Stacy here in the Rabbit Room. The RR vicariously introduced us through Rebecca Reynold’s song challenges. It’s been fun getting to know Stacy and her music over the last few years.

  2. gllen

    well… i met sam at hutchmoot this year, and really,really recommend stacey that you join the festivities in 2015 with us’allll…!
    (you don’t happen to own a corn-cob pipe do you?”
    after reading this post, all i can think of is a new menu item from Lewis to might be on the way –
    “Cajun Catfish with Dingleberry-Sausauge Gravy”
    Yummm!

  3. Rob Webster

    This West Virginia boy sure does appreciate this song. Thanks for posting a sample! Our family roots aren’t from there, but after my mother died 20 years ago, my father remarried a woman who grew up in Gauley Bridge. I love hearing her stories about that little town where so many worked in the mines, and how the coal trains would come rumbling by her house. What a beautifully made recording, too.

  4. Aden S

    Yay, love these interviews! They’re such a treat!

    Sadly, I’m not too familiar with the genre. So, I’ll need to put on my headphones and listen some, because if someone on the RR recommends it, it’s probably pretty good! 😉

  5. EJ Green

    I wasn’t going to comment, but the power of Ron’s mustache compels me. Lovely voice, Stacy; can’t wait to dive into the rest of this record.

  6. Stacy Grubb

    Thanks so much, Sam and RR. I’m thrilled to have this spot on the wall.

    Gllen, I hope it works out that I can make it this year. It’s held during a busy time of year for me, which has gotten in the way. I came thisclose to making it this past year, but had a prior commitment to a show in Chicago that got in the way. Hopefully soon!

  7. Jonathan Rogers

    I found these lines heart-rending and frightening at the same time:

    My mama cried for ten long years
    Over a man she lost to a mime.

    How has it taken until 2015 for mimes to find their way into the bluegrass canon? A mime brings all the terror a regular clown, and on top of it, that face–as pale and silent and mysterious as the blue moon of Kentucky.

    What woman wouldn’t cry if she lost her husband to a mime? Well done, Stacy.

  8. Stacy Grubb

    Jonathan, while on the one hand, yes, it’s long overdue that this subject would be brought to the forefront, on the other, you have to consider the obstacles. Very few people who are close to these stories are willing to open up and talk about them. It’s as if there’s an invisible wall or unseen tether that perpetuates the silence.

    P.S. You gave me heart palpitations. I thought I’d missed a typo.

  9. Hannah H.

    The interview was fascinating, the song beautiful, and the comments just plain strange. A job well done.

  10. Allison Redd

    What Helena said. This is one of the best interviews ev-ah on the RR. Plus, the title alone of her new album has me intrigued. I think I’ll have to buy one for us and one for my father-in-law! We’re bluegrass fans for shore ’round these parts…

  11. Paige Holland

    I’ve been following Stacy’s music since MySpace was cool! I’ve played it to get my babies to sleep, I’ve played it when I was sad, it’s just the kind of music that resonates with my soul!

    Oh, and our oldest boys were born a month apart, so we’re practically family!

  12. Glenn

    You don’t really think of West Virginia as being a hotbed for mime activity. Guess it goes to show you about re-thinking misconceptions.

  13. Jess

    Ditto Alyssa. I can never get enough bluegrass to feed my hungry soul, and I’m so pleased to have another bluegrass album to add to my wishlist. Beautiful voice, Stacy, and the song itself is gorgeous.

  14. Jennifer B.

    I will have to check out the album. We could easily be friends. I so realte to the Mariah Carey influence, the Dolly Parton love, and being part of the dingleberry riffraff they allow in the Rabbit Room.

  15. Stacy Grubb

    I don’t know what else to say other than thanks, y’all.

    Jennifer B, I was a diehard Mariah fan until the Mimi album. I don’t know if she changed her music or if I changed my taste, but I just completely didn’t care about anything on that album or any since. Dolly won’t be able to shake me that easily, though.

  16. Jennifer B.

    I still know every word to those first two albums and wanted to sing like her, but like you my voice is country through and through. I didn’t even make it to her Butterfly and Rainbow albums as I had a dramatic conversion experience at the age of 20 in 1998 (I didn’t grow up in church) and traded in all of my “secular” music for “Christian” music at McKay in Knoxville. So much story there. I have since retraded some of the CCM music to get back some of the good stuff I gave up including those first two MC albums (and lots of classic rock and country). Dolly has always been, is and always will be a fave. Everytime I visit the Smokies I have this crazy fantasy in my head that I’ll run into her and we’ll go back to her cabin and write a song or two together.

  17. Stacy Grubb

    Congrats, Hannah!

    Thanks again to Sam and everybody who took the time to read, listen, and comment.

    Tom, I will not be with Ron in Dallas. He’s got a better arsenal than me to join him on stage!

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