I was never interested in watching the “Gilmore Girls” TV series until my wife asked me if I knew who this singer playing the role of the town troubadour was. “Dang – that’s Grant-Lee Phillips” I said! I then proceeded to tell her all about this great singer and his band Grant Lee Buffalo. Well that was a while ago and with the Buffalo since disbanded, Grant-Lee has released ten solo LPs with “Lightning, Show Us Your Stuff,” his latest on Yep Roc Records.
It’s not just his trademark cowboy hat that makes the title “troubadour” a fitting one for Phillips., He is a modern-day balladeer with a deep but gentle and soulful voice that had Rolling Stone crown him “Male Vocalist of the Year” in 1995. Give a listen to “Mourning Dove” from his fine new record. Grant-Lee sings as great today as he did back then.
While this space has served as a great source for discovering new artists, it’s an honor and a treat to hear from a veteran who I have long admired. Thank you, Grant-Lee, for your 11 Answers and will be watching you weekly on Stageit.com until this pandemic ends. Looking forward to seeing you playing in person again and hoping for the return of Grant Lee Hitchcock with your friend, labelmate and 11 Questions alum Robyn.
Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?
I was born in Stockton, CA. My creative ambitions led me to Los Angeles when I turned 19. I came through Nashville while on tour with Grant Lee Buffalo in the 90’s and a couple of times on my own later on. I was taken by the small-town pace and the ghosts of classic country that I grew up with.
Local musician Duane Jarvis and his wife put me up at their place. Duane’s brother Kevin drummed on my album Virginia Creeper and we toured together. Duane introduced me to Jamie Ruben at the old Family Wash in East Nashville. I felt very at home. I could imagine Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison stepping out of the Ryman after a show.
Nashville drummer Jerry Roe offered to help me make a record if I ever got to town. Then, when my daughter turned five, my wife and I started talking about getting out of LA. A lot of our friends had skipped town. After 30 years, we were some of the longest holdouts. The cost of living was going up, it felt like an earthquake was overdue. Nashville was a new frontier. My wife’s a Chicagoan. She was longing for seasons, leaves, thunderstorms. All of that brought us here.
What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? Were they CD, vinyl or digital?
The first LP I bought was probably The Partridge Family Album. It came out in 1970 when I was seven. Along with the TV show, they had a big hit with “I Think I Love You.” I think my mom bought it at Tower Records in Stockton.
First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?
Neil Young at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on the Trans Tour in 1983. That was the first big concert. The last show I saw was a Nashville Tornado relief event that I took part in back in March. Steve Poltz, Rhett Miller, who was in town making an album with the Old ‘97s and a whole bunch of folks on one stage.
Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame?
Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?
Ugly Mugs in East Nashville and Five Points Pizza.
What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?
Neil Young’s Harvest. Much of it was tracked at Quad Studios in Nashville.
Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?
Back to Five Points Pizza. I’m easy.
The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.
Kevin Gordon, Will Kimbrough and Kim Richey.
What are your favorite music venues to play in town?
The Basement, City Winery and The 5 Spot. I’ve had good shows at all of these places.
Name a musician who you’d like to see move here.
Neko Case because why not?
Finally, what’s in your musical future?
My new album, Lightning, Show Us Your Stuff, came out September 4. I’ve got shows booked for 2021 overseas and like everyone else I’m hoping we can get a grasp on this pandemic. My Sunday night Live from the Parlor series on StageIit.com has been a lifeline. I plan to keep it going in the months ahead.