Interview by Peter Coates – www.facebook.com/InsideEdgePhotography
Texas-based country music singer/songwriter Granger Smith is in Australia with a headline appearance at the Groundwater Festival on the Gold Coast, along with sideshows in Sydney, Melbourne and Townsville. Granger kicked off the mini-tour at the Rooty Hill RSL in the heart of Western Sydney.
We sat down with Granger in Sydney shortly before he hit the stage and got to talk about his career to date.
Granger has been writing, recording and performing for nearly 25 years, with much of that being self-financed and produced, before landing a publishing deal in 2000 and moving to Nashville for a few years to learn more about song-writing and recording gear, after which he went home to Texas to finish his college degree and start a band.
“We learned a bunch of new things every time we recorded some new songs, and tried to incorporate these into the process – the unknown is the real challenge, and we learn so much from making mistakes, again and again, and it all feeds in to the final product”.
After 8 years of hard graft in his ‘Mom & Pop’ studio in Texas and out on the road, a couple of things changed the game for Granger. He and his brother Tyler had started to work on social media initiatives in building a brand as well as a band, and in the process they created a couple of videos featuring the country-boy alter ego that is Earl Dibbles Jr, which proceeded to go viral on the internet, and raised the profile enormously.
“Earl came from some messing around with video with my brother, as something of a creative release for me – never intended to be that way, but as a simple video that should extend back into the music, and he keeps popping up in some of the songs, and generally makes an appearance in the flesh at the very end of the live set.”
“Earl has just written a bunch of jokes and stories around the topic of City Boys and Country Boys, and the book If You’re City If You’re Country comes out on August 21st – its’; another step toward developing the brand, and has not been done before – this is all about developing and extending the brand into new territories which is really fun and exciting for us. If nobody buys it that is just fine – we will have something to sign at the shows for anyone interested at least.”
Album number 7 for Granger was Dirt Road Driveway, and this was the catalyst for the current success – reaching #1 on the iTunes Country charts, and resulting in a contract with Broken Bow Music that saw the release of Remington in 2016, with a massive hit in Backroad Song, and another hit in If The Boot Fits from the same record.
The latest record is When The Good Guys Win released in 2017, and it is this material that is the focus of the current stage show.
“The new record has been going really well in the US, is streaming better than anything we have done before, and BMG have been supporting us here in Australia, so it is great to be here to play a few live dates”.
I asked Granger about his past and current influences, and the apparent collective push by a bunch of the new breed of country music stars which sees them supporting each other in songwriting and touring.
“George Strait was my main influence growing up, and I was in his fan club he was the guy I followed around to shows, and gave me the motivation to get into music. I wanted to be part of this travelling circus. Nowadays I look at my peers, having finished a tour with Luke Bryan – looking at what they are doing, and seeing what I can take from each of them into my style. There is lots of helping out between the artists, with the lines between genres blurring more than ever. Country, Folk and Blues music were the mother genres which form the basis for southern rock, hard rock, pop and punk , and they are just as relevant today.”
As an artist who has taken a long time to break into the mainstream, I wondered if there were any barriers created from the established artists.
“I don’t believe so. We all look after each other, and really believe that if Country music as a whole wins, then all of us win, and it’s important for us to win big, so we thrive on healthy competition and mutual support.”
Granger got married back in 2010, and has three kids, and finds it tough to fulfil the role in the family alongside the pressure of the music industry, and touring in particular.
“The most difficult thing for me is the touring – I want to be a great Dad and good husband – that’s my major goal in life, and is a passionate influence on everything I do.”
In addition to the book release, Granger revealed that he has been working on a file documentary to come out later in the year, focussed on 5 fallen US heroes killed in war, following how they lived their lives, with interviews from their families, narratives and some new music around the story, and he is so proud of this, being yet another expression of what he finds important.
Before we finished up, I asked him for some tips for future stars of the country scene.
“Jordan Davis is doing some great stuff right now, as is Russell Dickerson. Then you have Morgan Wallen who is brand new, and having released a song with Florida Georgia Line, is likely to go huge”.
A last word from Earl Dibbles Jr – “Yee Yee!”