Tyler Grant’s new band has roots, rock and ‘Crisco’
Although Tyler Grant is not a music newcomer, his band Grant Farm is relatively new to the scene.
The band’s first album came out in March and Grant Farm will play the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Music Festival at 5 p.m. Friday, June 15, in Riverbend Park, in Palisade.
The band comprises guitarist Grant, who spent five years with the Emmitt-Nershi Band, drummer Chris Misner, bassist Adrian Engfer and keyboard player Sean Foley. All call Boulder County home.
In a recent phone interview, Grant talked about awards he won for his guitar playing and why he left Emmitt-Nershi Band to form a new group.
Melinda Mawdsley: I read you were the National Flatpicking Champion. When did you win that award?
Tyler Grant: 2008. When I got into the bluegrass scene, I was living in Nashville. I didn’t have a lot of work yet and was trying to establish myself as a legitimate guitarist.
(Contests) gave me the opportunity to win prizes. I won most of the major contests in the U.S., including the national flatpicking contest and MerleFest, (a North Carolina festival dedicated to the memory of Doc Watson). Each of these contests offers a prize instrument, so I’ve won about eight guitars over the years. Most of them I sold just to get by because I was a starving musician. But my Gallagher Doc Watson is my most prized contest win.
Mawdsley: You spent nearly five years with Emmitt-Nershi Band. Why leave an established, successful group to go start one of your own?
Grant: I knew if I was ever going to build my own group and legacy in the music business, I had to do it. Honestly, I had just grown tired of my side-man role because I feel like I really do have something to offer, and I really wanted to create a band where everyone was involved equally. Most of the songs are mine, but the other guys are writing songs and bringing in new songs, and I’m encouraging that. We’ve really formed a tight brotherhood in a short time, not just in performing, but also in putting new music together.
This is something I’ve always wanted, my whole life.
Mawdsley: How did the band end up getting together?
Grant: It’s been a few years in the making. When I moved to Colorado as a member of the Emmitt-Nershi Band, (current ENB and Leftover Salmon member) Andy Thorn and I started (our own band) as another vehicle to play some gigs on the side and showcase some of our original music. ...
I was just feeling a need to present the world with a different kind of band, with more a country rock kind of group. I have a lot of history with that kind of music, and the songs I was writing were more in that style. ...
The drummer, Chris, has been with me a couple years now. ... But Adrian Engfer and Sean Foley were the last two additions. They were just buddies who we knew from the music scene around Boulder County and sought them out and begged them to join our band.
Mawdsley: I know Andy’s not a member of the touring band because he’s busy with his two other groups, so how long has this group of you, Chris, Adrian and Sean been together?
Grant: This lineup has only been together since November. We are a four-piece band dedicated enough that we’re starting from the ground up, sleeping on floors and sleeping in the van. It’s very much a fresh band, but we’re building on all the groundwork I had laid last summer with Andy and Chris and Keith Moseley (of The String Cheese Incident).
Mawdsley: How would you describe Grant Farm’s sound?
Grant: The way we describe our sound is roots, rock and “Crisco,” which is a contraction of country and disco. (Or the) outlaw country sound of Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings. In a way we’re reaching back to that kind of sound, kind of the ‘70s outlaw country with a little big of rock ‘n’ roll and a little bit of jam mixed in there.
Mawdsley: What is roots music?
Grant: I would define roots as any style of music connected to the legacy of the great American music tradition. The way that we’re thinking about roots is anything related to the traditional American music form — blues, jazz, old time country and things of that nature. Also, I would have to lump rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues and bluegrass as more recent types of roots.
Mawdsley: Why do you like roots so much?
Grant: I’ve always felt a connection to the traditional styles. I grew up listening to early rock ‘n’ roll like Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley. My musical past keeps leading me back to this broad area that I call roots music because I feel a sense of cultural connection to that sound.