Local band Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys sat down with The State News to discuss their music in anticipation of “Home Grown,” the CD the band is releasing this month.
The band consists of communication senior Joe Connolly on drums, interdisciplinary studies in social science and health studies junior Shane Grehan on guitar, MSU alumni Gunnar Nyblad as lead singer and Chris Newberg on keyboard, Grand Valley State University student Joe Rood on rhythm guitar and back-up vocals and Ferris State University student Rob Mason on bass.
The group has opened up for big country names including Gretchen Wilson and Justin Moore and plan to continue with their band in to the future.
The State News What do you think makes your band unique from other local artists?
Joe Rood Different style. We all come together … I have an ear for folk and things like that and writing. Joe (Connolly) is a percussion master, and (Chris Newberg) is the “fingers of a generation.” Shane’s just a blues guitarist who can shred and (Rob Mason’s) got the harmonies and the bass line. We each bring something different and it works well together. We have good drive — some people are better leaders than others, some people help us run and some people try to communicate the best they can (to) get everything in gear to drive this machine.
Chris Newberg We’re just making noise together.
Joe Connolly I think what also makes us special is that if you were to pull out our iPods right now, we would all be listening to something completely different — from rock to blues to country. It’s all different and we all play music together.
JR We all have a love for music, in general. You go through Chris’s CD book and find just the widest array of music from early ’90s country to Bob Dylan to the Gorillaz to Spice Girls to Ace of Base. He knows it all and he appreciates music.
SN What do you love about music?
JR It’s an escape. For however long you’re on stage, you’re on stage playing a song and that’s the only thing that’s on your mind. You’re just trying to do the best you can and even when you’re just (playing) in your spare time, sitting at your house … everything goes into what you’re doing at the moment and you don’t think about the big deals or your problems. For the three minutes and 40 seconds you’re playing a particular song, you’re just there — you’re in the song.
JC I’ve found with more and more people coming to the shows, the part I love about it is that we work really hard at creating this sound and this music, and it affects a lot of people. Everybody always leaves the show having a good time. It’s almost like another way to party.
JR It’s connecting with people in order to party hard.
Shane Grehan Everyone brings their own unique personality to the band, which makes it extremely interesting.
CN Instead of a Nashville band, where everyone’s trying to play country at the same time, everyone’s playing something different.
JR We still play what we like to play and what comes out is going to fit in the country genre, I guess, but we’re far from that.
Gunnar Nyblad We are the country genre, no guessing about it.
JR We are, but we’re individuals.
SG If we play “Achy Breaky Heart,” (by Billy Ray Cyrus), we’re definitely in the country genre.
SN Is it difficult to take all these individual personalities and make them in to one sound?
SG At first it was, because I didn’t expect this.
JR It took a while to learn everyone’s tendencies. Like how Joe (Connolly) drums and how (Rob) plays the bass and Shane with the guitar and Chris with the keys, but once you figure that out you know what to look for and how to read each others’ body language and by that time it’s easy.
CN That’s when you become a band.
JR That’s when you really do become not a group of guys playing together, but you become a band and you can work together on stage.
GN I have to commend the band for how much they enjoy playing ever since day one. We really do like to rock out, but just sort of how humble they are. Each person gets their own time to shine and then they can sit back and play the right music at the perfect place it’s supposed to be played. That’s the biggest thing — there’s no egos and there never really has been. Just how we all come in (and) do our job.
SN Who do you guys count among your influences?
GN Bruce Springsteen.
SG Probably Stevie. Stevie Ray Vaughan.
JR I like the old-school folky-country, like Ricky Skaggs and Shenandoah. Like the late ’80s, early ’90s — that kind of stuff really tuned my ear to listening to country. These days you have Zac Brown and Eric Church. They’re great and that’s what I want to be like some day. That good at what I do.
JC I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a huge Blink-182 fan. I know Joe (Rood) has said in the past that it’s a big part of what he’s done, but that’s 90 percent of why I started playing drums.
CN I like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Troy Yocum. I like music that is band-driven, because I appreciate the band.
JC I think one artist we all agree on is William Hung … or Susan Boyle.
Compiled by State News Reporter Cole Bertsos