INTERVIEW: Memphis bluegrass collective Graber Gryass

As frontman of Memphis, TN bluegrass collective Graber Gryass, Michael Graber fashions a vast and eclectic background into an immersive journey into an original expansive, exploratory song catalogue. The first record of two, Late Bloom (due out October 30th) reads with straight-arrow storytelling, but carries a remarkable importance about the human experience. It exudes some of the most exemplary songwriting and musicianship you’ll hear all year.

Hi Michael, and welcome to VENTS! Can you talk to us more about your single “Marijuana”? Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

The times are right for a new anthem celebrating the virtues of this age-old plant medicine. Many people are being called to experience marijuana in a new way, in its healing modalities, and seeing great benefit. Plus, it’s time for a psychedelic revolution—and this is the gateway to open mindedness and open heartedness—it may be the key ingredient in which we take communion with our beloved planet and inspire a green revolution. The single evokes this important role that cannabis plays in life and celebrates its virtues and gifts. Taking away the “Reefer Madness” stigma and singing out the positive role marijuana plays inspired the song. 

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Yes, we have the band footage, but want to go further. It’s on a slow burner. 

How was the writing and recording process of your new record?

I started a weekly facebook livecast series, called Microdose, to raise money for my full time musician friends where I’d play two originals and one cover. We raised a lot of money, thanks everyone. After hosting several, I ran out of songs. To keep up, I had to write. 26 series later I had twice that many songs. So I got the band and a few other friends—none of whom were on tour due to Covid-19–in Royal Studios for two days. We cut live in one room, usually in one to three takes. They learned the new songs in the studio. We cut 24 original songs, and four wild, ecstatic poetry ceremonies in two 12-hour days, then mixed. It was a joy. 

What role does Memphis play in your music?

It’s everything, my whole sensibility. In another band in which I play, the Bluff City Backsliders, they used to call me Memphis. With Graber Gryass, we play “Low and Lonely” music, instead of high lonesome because we are at sea level and the blues permeate everything. 

What other influences can you point to in your music?

Hoagy Carmichael. Bob Wills. Bing Crosby. The Grateful Dead. Bill Monroe. Jimmie Rodgers. Chicano Batman. Ott. Liquid Bloom. Gong. 

Rumor has it that your upcoming record Late Bloom (October 30th) will be followed soon by a second album — any tentative release date or title in mind?

We recorded 24 tracks. the more traditional 12 will be on Late Bloom, our first release. The next 12 will be on Spaceman’s Wonderbox (Spaceman is a nickname given to me by bandmates.) Spaceman’s Wonderbox pushes the limits of genre, joy, and instrumentation further. It’s due out early Summer 2021 and includes a song sung by my daughter of which I am fiercely proud. Due to an illness she couldn’t sing until this year, now she’s bursting with voice for the first time of her life at age 25. 

With Graber Gryass we plan three more albums: an original Children’s album, a third collection of original tunes, and a concept album about the rise and fall of an eco village/commune. 

What’s it been like being unable to tour on the new material? Have you done any livestreams or plan to do any?

It’s weird. We have three Live-streams planned so far for the release of Late Bloom.

What else is happening next in the world of Graber Gryass?

We are safe, we plan to take the show with all of its odd shamanic rituals out of Memphis and into the world—it’s good medicine. 


About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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