Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys debuts Sunday, February 24, at 7 p.m. on WKAR-TV. Here’s an extended excerpt from the BackStage Pass Interview
Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys
Interview with Gunnar Nyad
Interviewed by WKAR producer Mike Mihalus
How did the band start?
Rob, the bass player, and myself have been playing music since we were 13 years old in church together. And growing into high school band and jazz band and then we played in a punk rock band. We both went to college and I found some friends in college and that would be Shane and Chris and Jakon, who are the drummer and the two guitars. Then Joe Root, also from my home town, jumped on board, too, about November 2009. So almost three years ago now. We started playing in an attic in Michigan State here, right on Center Street, and then we started playing shows.
Grizzly is the name of the band that backs up Gunnar, it's just the band name: Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys. And we find our fans are grizzly, our music is grizzly, and a grizzly is a little rougher than, say, a panda. So, I think that we are fast, we're very agile, we look cute, but we will kill you if you get within 50 feet. So grizzly is definitely our personality.
About Rob Mason
He's an excellent fisherman. He has been on many fishing excursions. And he goes fishing at least four times a week. And he's also a wonderful harmony singer who has been correcting my loose vocal chords for too many years now.
About Joe Rood
Joe Rood plays the acoustic guitar, is an excellent song writer, loves to hunt, used to fish more than he does now. And he hauls a lot of dry wall. If you look at Joe Rood on stage, he is very ripped. He's about two percent body fat.
About Shane Grehan
I would consider Shane a founder of Gunnar and the Grizzly boys. A forefather. Because we both met on Center Street, at an intersection and that's when he said, "I can play guitar" and I said "really?" and I went up and it was in that attic I heard him play guitar. And I've wanted him in my band since.
About Chris Newberg
Chris was the last member to join the band and it was about two months after the birth of our band. And we really matured when Chris came along. He plays the guitar phenomenally and also manages our website, sends out stuff, manages the facebook really well. We are an independent band so we all definitely put in our part and Chris keeps that up.
About Joe Connolly
Joe Connolly has the nicest, most expensive drum set you will ever see on a stage and you can't touch it. So, he's a Michigan State grad and he helps a lot in the management and the booking of Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys and keeping my brain somewhat in the path of writing songs and performing shows and not worrying so much about the business stuff. He really helps take a little load off that.
What’s the best part about being on stage?
The best part about being on stage is when I'm half way into one of our songs and I have the realization that I no longer play that song for myself – late at night, just singing it – because I realize that I physically can't sing these songs unless I'm performing them. And when I have my body, my whole 100 percent, from my toes to my head, shooting these songs out, that's my favorite part. I mean, the band is awesome, the music is awesome, playing the guitar, the crowd, when you feel like those songs are, that's what they need to be, they finally made their way somewhere. There are so many songs out there that don't get to be performed.
Homegrown Country is…?
Homegrown County is the name of our first album we ever recorded. It's actually called "Homegrown" but if I had it my way, I would have put Country after it. But we recorded that our first summer after we won battle of the bands. We got 1400 bucks and recorded twelve songs and we're selling them to this day. It's helped us win a lot of fans over, more and more people singing the words to every song from that album.
Describe the kind of music you play.
I always tell the guys, I've told them since the beginning, about the kind of music that we play and what we should play. I look at Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum and these bands as real inspiration. You're looking at these bands that are in the country genre and they're pulling so much from the pop genre, and you can hardly tell what it is.
And where some people can deny that or complain about it or say that it doesn't belong, I like to tell the guys whenever they say "that might be too rock and roll, that might be too hard," I say "guys, just think of what they're doing on the other end with pop."
"Let's take country music and do the same with rock, there is no limit. There's no limit. There’s country music here -- with the lyrics and the simplicity of understanding the song -- and the rock and roll music that we can make, over here. And that is what we are. People say it's country rock, I still just call it country, because there's a very suited, wonderful spot in country music for us.