“It’s what I like about music. It doesn’t even exist. It can go through space and time. You can’t grab it. A live performance of songs is different every time. A song can be the same, but then the time and space when it’s performed, is different. And I hope to be growing and becoming more able to command time and space.” – Grayson Capps
The Twitter invitation from Vinyl Music Hall to Grayson Capps followers read “Tonight at Vinyl Music Hall! Come out for a night of southern soul, roadhouse blues and country stomp!” Grayson Capps honored the promise.
Days prior to his concert, the Alabama born artist and I talked about his life, his art, the birth of his children, his favorite album, his leg-raising concert at Pirates Cove and more…
*** Grayson Capps Interview ***
MS: I’m looking forward to your performance this Saturday (January 28th of 2012)in Pensacola, What are you looking forward to in 2012?
GC: To see if the world is going to end toward the end of the year. To see what the whole Myan thing was about (breaks out into a laugh that gets me laughing almost as hard)
MS: Being the son of a Ronald Everett Capps, going off to Tulane for theatre…art seems to have been around you all of your life, what made you decide the path of songwriting and music?
GS: It was fun. I like writing, but at the same time I studied theatre too, so writing and performing tied together just really appealed to me. I feel that music is the highest form of communication because it uses words and then sometimes words don’t express other things and music takes over at that point. So I think it’s the highest form of expression that I can do, so that’s why I do.
MS: For you as an artist, as far as songwriting, how much did theatre play a part in that or…versus your life. Storytelling I guess. How much of your songwriting is influenced by your life vs. theatre. How do you put it all together?
GC: I guess it’s just the sum of where I’m at when I write the song, including everything I’ve done up until that point, everything I’ve witnessed. So yeah, it would be my whole life involved. But then as I get older, then I change, grow or digress, go whatever. Everything in my whole life leads up to whatever song I’d written. I can’t help but do that, I guess.
MS: You’ve seen a lot, you’ve been through a lot, with all of your experience, what would Grayson Capps of today tell a younger Grayson Capps? (This question was inspired by journalist/author Neil Strauss who used the question oftern in interviews.)
GC: (pauses) Just keep going. (low, but hearty laugh) Just keep going. It’ll change, it’ll grow.
MS: Was it ever scary for you? Was there ever a moment where you were like, “Man, I want to do something else.” Did you ever have that kind of feeling?
GC: No. I kind of came to music a little bit different, where I haven’t been making a living at music my whole life. I did landscaping, we had a crew, kind of went in and out of different bands, touring but then I’d come back and that gave me the freedom to write what I felt, more than trying to write songs and learn songs strictly to make a living.
For me, Friday and Saturday playing was an outlet that came to a point where music took over and I’m still doing what I feel like doing, trying to get better to but, I came into music always wanting to do this. To be at this point where I’m at and keep it going.
MS: The writing process, does it come out of you or do you have to fight to do it, the way you write? Is it…
GC: No, hell. The only thing I ever fight for is a space to sit and let stuff flow through. I don’t have a problem writing songs, it’s just having the time because I have kids and touring and building a house this year. Been working on the house for seven months. Stuff like that will get in the way, it’s not out of a lack of inspiration.
MS: How do you juggle it all; family, touring, writing? Do you ever get overwhelmed?
GC: Oh yeah! I think everybody does if you have kids. Everybody gets overwhelmed. That’s part of writing too, I use it sometimes as an outlet to get myself out of the dark spot. It’s just always my salvation.
MS: Your shows are pretty legendary, what is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at one of your shows?
GC: Well, first time we played Pirate’s Cove it was a cold weather night and we were inside this place, a bunch of crazy people inside and it was just rockin’, just cookin’! It was steaming in there and the next thing I know, this guy pulls his leg off and waving his leg in the air. I guess it’s not that wild but you know, it first threw me back, there’s a guy…he just took his leg off and (mimicks the guy) “Woo!” I’ve seen all kinds of naked people and that kind of stuff. I think that was the one that was my favorite weird thing.
MS: That really is a standing ovation.
GS:Yeah! Guy took his leg off.
MS: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen in life?
GC: Wow. (pause) Probably seeing both of my kids being squirted out into the world. Popping out of a woman’s body.
MS: Did you pass out. Where you overwhelmed?
GC: No. It was probably the most profound thing I ever witnessed. I’ve seen lots of weird things, but yeah…wow.
MS: Of this list of artists, who moves you the most…Hank Williams, Tennessee Williams, William Shakespeare, Woody Guthrie, Chuck Berry, Tom Waits, Sam Shepherd or Grayson Capps.
GC: Well it would be Grayson Capps definitely. That has to be the case or otherwise, I’d be living the life of imitation. Second to me, I get a lot of inspiration from Woody Guthrie. That list is an incredible list of all huge influences in my life. But Woddy Guthrie, as far as what I’m doing and remaining simple and true. I have to figure out what I am and what’s true to me first and foremost.
MS: That truth, does it stay constant for you? Does it change?
GC: Of course it changes. Yeah. What do you mean? Staying true to yourself?
MS: Truth in your art and what you’re expressing.
GC: It’s elusive. It’s what I like about music. It doesn’t even exist. It can go by through space and time. You can’t grab it. A live performance of songs is different every time. A song can be the same, but then the time and space when it’s performed is different and I hope to be growing and becoming more able to command time and space. (chuckles) But you can’t pretend to do it.
MS: Thank you. That’s a beautiful answer. There’s a quote by Picasso about “Art is a lie, that reveals truth.” I’m paraphrasing, it’s weird.
GC: Nature is truth, art is an expression which you hope…usually becomes at its most powerful…when…you get it. (chuckles) just because you’re painting something that’s just complete bullshit too and just perpetuates bullshit. It doesn’t help anybody. It might be a picture of a titty or something. “That’s beautiful.” Can you put Andy Warhol up to Rembrandt? Who is more talented? Rembrandt I think.
MS: Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
GC: My father.
MS: Modern storytellers.
GC: On the indie circuit, it’s pretty good. I played a show with Malcom Holcombe the other day. He’s quite a character. Todd Snider is a great storyteller, almost more than a musician. There’s a lot of people who were raised on Tom T. Hall, John Prine out and playing today.
MS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
GC: In theatre, when you are performing, if you are true to yourself and true to your story, you tell the truth. People might not get your specific truth, but they will get a truth that rings true for themselves. Don’t expect people to get your truth, but be truthful because it radiates. Life repeats itself. Simply, if you tell the truth, people might not get your truth, but they get a truth and that’s helpful for the universe.
MS: Just hearing you say that, I think of the Shakespeare quote from “Troilus and Cressida” and Troilus says “What truth can speak truest not truer than Troilus?” and you just, “What truth can speak truest not truer than Grayson?”
GC: Yeah, it’s the same thing. Just a lot of people have to keep saying it to remind themselves what you already know (chuckles).
MS: What advice would you give to an artists who wants to be where you are?
GC: The advice I’ve given to my younger son, “Keep goin’” (chuckles). Just do! “Act and don’t react.” That’s what I would say.
MS: What is your favorite album of all time?
GC: It would probably be Leon Russell’s “Carney”. Yeah. That was when he was on top of the world in 1972 and it was just a magical record. Short and sweet, great.
MS: Last question; this is kind of a crazy one. What do you prefer, Crunchy or Creamy Peanut Butter?
GC: (Hearty Grayson Capps laugh) Neither one. I prefer crunchy sun butter, sunflower butter. That’s not fair, is it? (chuckles)
MS: No, no, no. Whatever you want. However you want, peanut butter or not. I’ve never had it… how does it taste?
GC: Yeah, Sunbutter. You can get it…it’s so good, man. Got a lot more stuff in it that’s good…
MS: You’re making me hungry.
GC: Yeah, man. Get some Sunbutter. Some honey (chuckles) definitely crunchy.
– Michael L. Smith