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SoundCheck: In a world of boxes, Grady Philip Drugg stays out of them

Grady Philip Drugg does not want to be pinned to one style of music. His most recent album, Real Life, is an explosion of so many different genres. One minute he’s got me thinking about the Beach Boys. The next, I get real strong Twin Peaks vibes. Then the Americana sound hits home.

I sat down with Grady for this episode of SoundCheck to talk about his free-range music style.

“I’ve always just kind of, I guess, written what I was feeling like writing and mostly done just a lot of writing by myself. I was always kind of skeptical to start a rock band or something, ‘cause I didn’t want to just like play that kind of guitar music or whatever,” said Grady.

“That really surprises me to hear you say that, as good as you are at being in a rock band,” I said.

“I mean, it’s fun. It’s just hard to, I don’t know. Maybe I’m too scatterbrained to just stay on one idea or something,” said Grady.

“Sometimes if I just like sit down and write something pretty quickly, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this would be cool if it was, you know, this kind of thing.’ But a lot of the time, a lot of the songs on Real Life were just kind of like, you know, I would set up mics in my house and record one part and then sit down and listen to it and add something else and then eventually was like, ‘Oh, this sounds like a song.’ And then I would just kind of finish it.”

“So, they layers create the mood of the song?” I asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Grady.

“Interesting,” I said.

“A lot of the time it’s kind of backwards,” said Grady. “I don’t know, I don’t have any song written and I’ll just start recording before I have anything written and then eventually I’ll just write to whatever I come up with.”

Grady performs the majority of his solo projects by himself, being a multi-instrumentalist with very few limitations. On Real Life, he calls in a few friends, but he can be found playing drums, guitar, bass, and doing most of the vocals.

“Do you ever write with any particular band’s style in mind when you go into and be like, ‘I want this to sound like a Beach Boys tune,’?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” said Grady. “I think my two, well, I’m still working on one of them, but the next single I have coming out is absolutely a Beach Boys worship-type thing. So, it definitely started as like, yes, this is going to be a Beach Boys things, but maybe put a little ELO vibe into it. Yeah, I definitely write with other people in mind.”

When it comes to getting the sound he’s looking for, Grady knows that perfect isn’t always best.

“There’s one song on Real Life that’s like a country song, called ‘Sahara Lounge,’ and I think a big part of the sound of that song was the guitar that I was using is, it’s kind of like an old, student model guitar from the sixties and it doesn’t sound very good, it’s almost like a percussion instrument than it is like a guitar. I like when things kind of sound bad and then you can just think, ‘Oh, that’s kind of more interesting than if it sounded really pristine.”

You can hear Grady Philip Drugg on Studio Live this Friday at noon here on KSMU.

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. When she's not wrangling operations and compliance issues, she co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. Jessica plays bass in local band the Hook Knives. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, Ellie and Jean-Ralphio, and way too many house plants.