A Chat With JJ Grey

Read our interview with Florida’s soul singer JJ Grey

JJ Grey

JJ Grey – Photo by Todd Cooper

Hi. Do your friends call you JJ or by your real name – is it John?

It’s John and people call by both. JJ was short for Jon Jon which is what my

family calls me.

I read somewhere that the term Mofro was originally a nickname bestowed

on you by a co-worker? Does it mean anything or is it just made up.

Yeah a buddy of mine called me that but not all the time. I thought I’d use it

for a musical name since it sounded southern but didn’t mean anything in

specific.

I saw you and the band in Columbia Missouri at the roots n blues n BBQ

festival last year. I sort of knew what to expect musically from your albums,

but what struck me was the obvious fun you were having on stage with the

ensemble. You guys must have a tight bond? Has the band been in much

the same configuration in the past few years?

This group has been together for a couple of years now. I love hearing them

play and everybody enjoys jamming and hanging together. I can’t say enough

how much these guys rock! It’s a pleasure every show to hear them make my

musical dreams come true!

The other highlight for me that day was your heartfelt dialogue and honesty

about the ups and downs of life? It was a little evangelical to my mind? Is

there any gospel or religious influences in what you present?

I was definitely influenced by all of that. I grew up in it and I’m sure it

comes out whether I realize it or not. I just want to share an honest

moment with anyone. It never feels to me as if there is an audience there.

It always feels like we’re playing to one person at the time even if there are

50 or 5000 of them standing there together listening.

The new album Ol’ Glory has just been released world-wide and is about

your sixth studio release I calculate. It’s a terrific album and stands among

the best work you have done. How long was the gestation period?

It’s actually the 7th. Most of the album started happening right after

finishing This River. The song Turn Loose is a lot older. It was one of those

older songs that I had not finished all the lyrics for. I finally got it down on

this session. I had about 15 songs ready when we hit the studio and I had the

band familiar with maybe 10 of them at that point. From there the album

just sort of made itself.

I can’t stop listening to “Brave Lil’ Fighter” from the new album. It’s an epic

and I love the way it escalates well into its length with some passionate and

uplifting trumpet out front. Can you tell me a little about the song and its

derivation?

The song is about a good friend of mine and a fatally bad decision he made.

I demoed it in my studio at home by myself and then the band just jammed

with the demo. I kept hearing in my head a Sergio Leone type ending on the

song so I hummed the outro line of the trumpet solo to Marcus (who played

trumpet on the album). He started his solo with it then took it to a whole

other level. I am extremely fortunate and grateful to get to play with the

people I get to play with. They bring it to life.

Your Australian tour in April is your first visit to these shores?

I stayed in on the north shore in Sydney with my wife’s family for a month

back in the early 90’s. I loved it so much down there that it inspired me to

get off my ass back home and get a little more serious about my music. We

also played at Bluesfest 6 years ago. We’re all chomping at the bit to come

back and play there again.

You have two sets I think at Bluesfest and one other show in

Sydney. I am shattered that you won’t be playing in Melbourne! Is that a

reflection of the economics of moving such a large outfit around pretty

large distances?

A little of that but more of the fact that I won’t stay away from my family

for more than 3 weeks. I made that promise to myself a while back. I came

home from a long tour and my daughter had grown an inch taller. I vowed

then that, that wouldn’t happen again. We’re only in Australia for a week

this time, if we were there longer I would’ve brought the family down. BUT!

We will be back a lot sooner than last time and we will play in Melbourne.

I’ve always wanted to play in Melbourne plus my brother-in-laws brother has

a cafe there and I want to check it out too.

Thanks for your time. Congratulations on the album and I am sure that the

Bluesfest crowd will be blown away.

Thank you! We’re really looking forward to it!

 

 

JJ Grey & Mofro will be at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest between 2 and 5 April 2015 and at The Basement in Sydney on April 6.

 

 

Read our interview with Florida’s soul singer JJ Grey

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Author: Rob Dickens

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