The Lost Cause Minstrels
Exploring the Greatest LP You Never Heard with Grayson Capps
Words by Alex Napoliello
New Orleans, LA — Always looking for ways to fill in the holes dug by major mainstream music publications, our column, ’15 Reasons: Rolling Stone Sold Their Souls’, focused on the disingenuous debauchery the corporate magazine has become. In order to live up to our promise to be the independent voice in music journalism, we will periodically roll out interviews with bands you may not find on the newsstand front covers or in the pop-culture blogosphere.
For our first installment of the ‘New Music’ series, we’re going to dive down into the dirty south with Grayson Capps. Capps is not a new artist by any means, but for the sake of this column, he has put together a new lineup and released an incredible LP that caught the interest of our NYC editors.
Capps’ fifth studio album, The Lost Cause Minstrels, is full of wandering vagabond-like characters that find a home in the hearts’ of Americans nationwide. With a new backup band, dubbed The Lost Cause Minstrels, Capps is continuing the legacy that the likes of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams pioneered roughly 50-years ago – but with a rougher edge. While Capps’ tour van cruised through the blistering southern heat, we talked shop on the new lineup, the struggles of Hurricane Katrina and the power of the singer/songwriter.
Was there any specific reason for the change in lineup?
GC: Well, it kind of starting falling apart. People wanted a break in a time; I was still going, so I kind of had to make a decision to get people who were more into it. We (The Stumpknockers, Capps’ old band) toured relentlessly from the Hurricane (Katrina) in 2005 till 2009. We tried to break through to a different level to make it more comfortable and it just became a burnout, I’m sure for them”. For me, its how I make my living. I can’t stop. I’ve crossed the road where I can’t do anything else — this is it. So, I try to make it work.”
You mentioned the Hurricane, can you tell me a little bit about the challenges you had to overcome with moving out of where you lived and the emotional impact that comes with that?
Oh man, well that is where I lived for 20-years — New Orleans — I loved it. It was horrible because I had a 6-year-old daughter and a 6-month-old son at the time. I had a real fragile baby and this destruction; I just wanted to get out of there and the logistics of getting out of there was emotionally devastating. It felt good to go to Tennessee after that because it was a good distance away and it felt more wholesome, safer. I’d never been in a place that had seasons. It was cool to experience winter, spring, summer and fall.”
On the new album, three of the songs focus on one character. Is there any specific reason you build songs around a specific persona?
For me, I find songs more interesting when people are outside of themselves. Like when guys go, ‘me, me, me, I feel so bad — you left me and I got the blues’, that stuff gets old. I kind of prefer stories. I do get introverted enough, I feel like those songs can counteract the darkness of the more personal things.
Do you see yourself in each one of those characters?
Of course. I love every one of them. I kind of think you are what you love. It’s stuff I identify with, so it is all part of me.
The two covers on the album, ‘Annie’s Lover’ and ‘Jane’s Alley Blues’ – was there any particular reason you chose to recreate those songs?
When I started playing ‘Jane’s Alley Blues’ a while back, it just felt good as a chapter two or a change; I like the way it shifts gears, basically. It kind of cleans your pallet. Like if you eat some kind of weird sushi roll and then you gotta go to a different roll, its fun to put some pickled ginger in your mouth (laughs).
What can fans of yours expect on The Lost Cause Minstrels that they won’t find on your previous albums?
Trumpet (laughs). That’s about it (laughs).
I kind of embrace a bunch of different styles and it becomes my own. It’s not like a Son Volt record. It’s got a little diversity, sometimes on the verge of quirkiness. And that’s typical of what I’ve been doing all along. I feel like I’m getting better at it. Me and Trina are getting better at working as a team to figure out how to make an adventure in about three-and-a-half minutes that is pleasing and true and interesting. That’s a craft I’ve been working on for a while now. Hopefully I’m getting better at it (laughs). I can only hope for that.
Do you get the same response from fans when you come up north?
There are different pockets. Places in New Hampshire, the turnout is incredible. I was in Kirkland, Illinois and it was is really good. Then you get into Philadelphia and it’s not so good (laughs). I try to hone in on the good spots that we belong in and when you go out (of those spots), sometimes you find yourself just lost. Most places it’s just like, ‘fuck this, we don’t belong here’.
Last night, we played a show in a theater with To Kill A Mockingbird being shown over us in black and white – we did the show to the whole movie. It was a real nice environment and a cool concept.
Do you think there’s a reason why folk music and some of the southern tastes in music haven’t reached north?
Yeah, money. I’ve always been on small labels. You get someone like Brandi Carlisle or something; they have a shit load of money, so they’re instantly famous. They might not have a grueling life of having to hit the road 225 days a year. I’ve never had anyone with money behind it, even smaller people like Chuck Prophet or Todd Snider have had a little more of a push than me. In this day-and-age, it’s word of mouth – the Internet. My fan base is completely dedicated enough, though. I had a couple drive down 10-hours from Canada to see my show last night. The people who have discovered this are fanatical and it keeps growing.
Do you think in today’s world, a person can go up on stage by him or herself and be successful?
I think it’s very possible. I’ve seen a crowded bar where it was just dickin’ around with a bunch of musicians, everyone’s noisy as hell; no one’s really listening. Then this chick came up and said, ‘Can I sing a song just A Capella?’ And the bar is noisy as shit. She starts singing and one-by-one people got quiet and within about 30-seconds, the whole bar is dead silent listening to this beautiful ballad. That’s music. That’s the magic people want. It exists, you can’t bottle it up and sell it, but the real shit exists and people experience it all the time at live shows.
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