If you want to hear music that is as comforting and finger-licking good as your mama’s homemade chicken pot pie, then honky-tonk singer Jack Grelle is the man for you.
The up-and-coming country singer will play at Rose Music Hall for the Rose Saturday Night After Party during True/False Film Fest at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Grelle’s music is like a fusion between Johnny Cash and Father John Misty. With a traditional, twangy sound combined with messages that bypass standard pop-country stereotypes like misogyny and classism, Grelle seems like a perfect fit for True/False; his sound reflects a perfect balance between the expected and unexpected.
According to True/False’s website, the St. Louis native’s music “blossoms like a desert cactus with unexpected lyricism and heartfelt twang.”
“I write and perform my own take on the honky-tonk and country-folk tradition,” Grelle said in an email. “I try my best to constantly expand my sound while staying in the traditional realm; there is a lot of room for exploration in country music. Rock & roll, honky-tonk, folk, old-time, Cajun, Tex-Mex, western and western swing ... There are a lot of authentic traditions that can blend with other sounds.”
Grelle said he first realized he wanted to make a name for himself in the music industry when he began to immerse himself in the do-it-yourself “underground punk scene,” a community in which artists are independent and often influenced by politics. Once Grelle did just that, he realized he could soon expand to other nearby towns and go on tour.
“That idea seemed impossible until I started going to house shows where traveling bands were performing,” Grelle said. “Since then, it has been an endless game of, ‘Where else can we play?’ So it has been less about a career and more about playing that next show and writing another song.”
Although Grelle currently only has 752 monthly listeners on Spotify as of Tuesday, he is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. In addition to performing at True/False for several years, the Independent Music Awards awarded his album Steering Me Away Country Album of the Year. Rolling Stone also featured Grelle as one of the top 10 country artists you need to know for January 2017.
According to Rolling Stone, Grelle is “a progressive honky-tonk hero arriving at just the right time in Trump’s America.”
Grelle has made his voice heard through the progressive political messages that back his current album. “Got Dressed Up to Be Let Down,” the title track of his 2016 studio album, is told from the perspective of an empowered woman. Grelle also toured as part of the most recent incarnation of Seattle-based gay-country band Lavender Country, which released the first known gay-themed country album in 1972.
“Performing and traveling with Lavender Country has been incredible,” Grelle said. “As a songwriter, I strive to connect with the listener or audience on an emotional level. [The lead singer and guitarist’s] songs and performance takes that to the highest level. It is revolutionary music. It is protest music. It is so powerful and loving at the same time.”
The country artist mentioned that he looks up to is Patrick Haggerty, lead singer and guitarist of Lavender County. “Patrick is able to hold a large room’s attention … crying with everyone in the room … then sing a beautiful song about a traumatic experience,” Grelle said.
“People leave empowered, validated and heard,” Grelle said. “Patrick has told me that he knows that the timing of the rebirth of Lavender Country is political and no coincidence. The world, especially the LGBTQIA community, needs bands/artists like Lavender Country at the moment.”
In addition to drawing inspiration from Haggerty and Lavender Country, Grelle mentions several other figures that have inspired his music, such as Doug Sahm, Chuck Berry, Terry Allen, Johnnie Allan and, according to Grelle, “[his] friends are always a huge influence as well.”
“Song inspiration can come from anything,” Grelle said. “Most of the time it comes from an impactful experience or an overwhelming emotion. Hearing my friends and peers’ music is always a driving inspiration. It makes the process more accessible or realistic when someone you know is creating something great.”
Although Grelle mentioned that he is always trying to find a more consistent songwriting approach, “it seems like it is different every other time.”
Seasoned True/False veterans might recognize the familiar face at Rose Music Hall.
“This will be my fourth or fifth time performing at True/False,” Grelle said. “It gets better each time.”
Grelle said that in addition to the musical performances, he finds the films become increasingly more powerful year after year.
Although Grelle said the festival can be overwhelming at times, it is worth the energy and hard work.
“I am very excited for our showcase at Rose Music Hall Saturday night,” Grelle said. “Our friends Max and the Martians are opening the night, and one of the bands I am most excited to see, Very Be Careful, [will perform] as well.”
Grelle’s schedule will not dwindle after True/False.
“This year is shaping up to be a busy one for us,” Grelle said. “[My contributors and I] released a new record this past October, so we are planning on hitting the road quite a bit.”
In the next month, Grelle plans on taking his western sound to Europe, where he will be performing in Norway, Sweden, Germany and Spain.
“Other than touring, I am focusing on writing the next album,” Grelle said. “My goal is always to write that next song and expand from the last.”
Edited by Katherine White | firstname.lastname@example.org