erin petrie speaks with the southern musician …
It was Bobby Long who first introduced me to Grayson Capps.
If you’re not familiar with Bobby Long, then you haven’t seen John Travolta play the New Orleansean drunken writer in the 2005 film A Love Song For Bobby Long, which happens to be based on a novel by Capps’ father, Ronald Everett Capps. The younger Capps — who recalls the real Bobby Long from his childhood — provided a number of songs for the soundtrack, including the title track, and even had a cameo in the film.
But from the howlin harmonica that opens “Highway 42,” the first track on Grayson Capps’ latest album, I forgot all about Bobby Long. Part bigger-than-life Southern characters and part heartfelt reflection on a tough life, The Lost Cause Minstrels is perhaps the most cohesive, solid effort to date from Capps. The album title shares a name with his new backing band — how they got together is “boring, really,” Capps says — but regardless of backstories, they are a strong and welcome addition to Capps’ infusion of rock, dixie, blues and every other kind of southern influenced music you can think of.
Born and raised in Alabama, Capps spent a good chunk of his life in New Orleans, until relocating to Tennessee and then full circle to Alabama after Hurricane Katrina hit. The devastating storm makes an appearance on the album — Capps’ first in three years — on one of the best songs, “Paris, France.”
Capps is an avid tourer — his list of tour dates even includes a stint up the East Coast this fall where he says he definitely has pockets of support, and prefers to play before it gets cold, like a true southerner. Pop-break caught up with him by phone on a hot, sticky August day as he sipped — or rather, choked on — his morning coffee. After surviving the hot liquid in his lungs, Capps got down to the knitty gritty of his songwriting and southern roots.
Pop-Break: One of your strongest skills is as a songwriter. Your lyrics tend to play like short stories. You also have a background is in theater. Do you have any interest in writing books or screenplays or anything like that?
Grayson Capps: Yeah. I’d love to write book. Right now, I’m just so busy touring. It’s hard enough just finding time for writing songs. But yeah, I’d love to write a book. Maybe when I get older and I’m not touring anymore.
PB: Now, do you find that most of your songs somewhat autobiographical?
GC: Umm … I write a lot about different characters and stuff. Sometimes I create a character and write it from their perspective. [coughing] I still have coffee in my lungs. I try not to be narcissistic or whatever… all about me, me, me. So I write songs about somebody on the outside.
PB: You’ve lived all over the south — Alabama, New Orleans, Tennessee. Do you find that each place influenced your music in a different way?
GC: Yeah. Particularly Alabama and New Orleans. Those are the biggest influences. New Orleans in particular just because of the bluegrass and dixieland and funk. And just the city itself. But yeah, mostly Alabama and New Orleans were the biggest influences.
PB: Are you back in Alabama now?
GC: Yeah. We’re near Fairhope.
PB: Do you plan to return to New Orleans eventually? I know you spent a long time there.
GC: Yeah. well, I have kids, so right now I’m not going to move back. I live about two and a half hours away so I play regular gigs there. I’m raising the kids out in the country. Me, I’d love to move back to New Orleans. Maybe when my kids are older or something.
PB: You can move back to New Orleans and write your book there.
GC: [laughs] Yeah, I can write my book there.
PB: As a fan of the movie, I have to ask: What was it like being a part of A Love Song for Bobby Long?
GC: It was very much a part of my life. I mean, I grew up knowing Bobby Long. He used to live down in the neighborhood. Meeting John Travolta, he was a really, really nice guy. I didn’t know who Scarlett Johansson was at the time. That was right when she was becoming famous. It was surreal. We were on the set almost every day, they were coming to me for all kinds of advice — like on how to say certain words and stuff like that.
PB: Where is your favorite place to play?
GC: Pirates Cove. It’s in Josephine, Ala. Its a bar. There are dogs that come up on stage while you’re playing. Women in bikinis, while you’re warming up. It’s right on the water.
GRAYSON CAPPS TOUR SCHEDULE
September 15 | Rooster’s Blues House | Oxford, MS
September 16 | Rooster’s Blues House | Tuscaloosa, AL
September 17 | Oak’s Cafe | Brewton, AL
September 18 | Pirate’s Fest | Orange Beach, AL
September 21 | Downtown Event Center | Opelika, AL
September 22 | The Garage | Winston-Salem, NC
September 23 | Purple Fiddle | Thomas, WV
September 24 | PJ Kelly’s | Clarksburg, WV
September 28 | Crossroads | Richmond, VA
September 29 | 1919 | Baltimore, MD
September 30 | Nightown | Easton, MD
October 4 | Hill Country BBQ | Washington, DC
October 5 | Burlap & Bean | Philadelphia, PA
October 6 | Sullivan Hall | New York, NY
October 7 | Hungry Tiger | Manchester, CT
October 8 | Nectar’s | Burlington, VT
October 9 | West Kortwright Centre | East Meredith, NY
October 12 | Music City Roots | Nashville, TN
October 14 | Fly Creek Marina | Fairhope, AL
October 16 | Callaghan’s | Mobile, AL
October 21 | Magnolia Festival | Live Oak, FL
October 22 | Bennie’s Boom Boom Room | Hattiesburg, MS
October 29 | Frog Pond | Josephine, AL
November 11 | Barking Legs Theater | Chattanooga, TN
November 12 | Wayfarer Music Hall | Monroe, GA (solo acoustic)
November 18 | The Downtown Tavern | Gadsden, AL
November 19 | Chrome Horse | Silver Hill, AL
November 20 | Callaghan’s | Mobile, AL
November 30 | Duling Hall | Jackson, MS