Israel Nash Gripka

Great story tellers – if I was alone on a desert island, the one person with me better be a damn good story teller (and have the body of Brooklyn Decker, of course). Good story tellers are the best people to be friends with, the best people to talk to. You can have a guy with adventures like Indiana Jones, but unless he can provide the rewind with the kind of passion, enthusiasm and character the story deserves, I’d rather listen to a guy like Israel Nash Gripka tell me about his latest trip to the grocery store. You see, good story tellers don’t just make the most entertaining of friends, but they also make damn good singer/songwriters. Just reading about Gripka’s story about growing up in the Ozarks and heading off to the stark contrast of NYC paints a wonderful picture in my head – and tells me a lot about the artist himself.

Just listen to how Israel talks about the making of his latest record, “Barn Doors and Concrete Floors”: “BDCF was recorded in an old hay barn in the Catskill Mountains. We brought all the gear up there and lived in a farm house. The record captures that whole experience in a sonic picture. You can hear birds and dogs and doors, and laughter throughout the record. We just wanted to create something that took us away from NYC and put us in the arms of the country.” The follow-up to “New York Town” is a change in many ways for Gripka, but parts of his 70’s folk style of playing are still there – he says “I think my sound is something that is constantly changing and you can hear that from my last record to this new one. Still familiar, but always changing. I am devoted to the whole 70's sonic vibe.  Live takes, analog gear, etc… I hope that I can give fans something to listen to that makes them feel.  Whatever that feeling is, I want people to feel something and get some shade out of it that lets them know they're alive.”

“Barn Doors and Concrete Floors” arrives later on this month, and Gripka will be starting out in Europe to promote the record (so our friend overseas should keep an eye out). Don’t worry – he’ll be stateside again soon. You need to learn more about Israel Nash Gripka, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Israel Nash Gripka

PEV: You’ve been compared to such heavy hitters as Ryan Adams in your sing along folk rock that is very 70s styling. With that, how would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Israel Nash Gripka (ING):  Well it's definitely an honor to be compared to the reconized heroes of folk rock, Americana, Roots, or whatever the going name is for the genre today.  I think my sound is something that is constantly changing and you can hear that from my last record to this new one.  Still familiar, but always changing.  I am devoted to the whole 70's sonic vibe.  Live takes, analog gear, etc.  I'm not really sure what makes me stand out more than the next singer songwriter, but I hope that I can give fans something to listen to that makes them feel.  Whatever that feeling is, I want people to feel something and get some shade out of it that let's them know they're alive.  If the artist is real in delivery, the emotion received will be too.  I guess I just want to be the best medium I can to deliver that.  

PEV: What kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

ING: I really had a lot of music around me growing up.   My father was a southern baptist minister, but had a pretty mean collection of The Stones, CCR, Elton John, Neil Young, The Who, even the Doobie Brothers.  Then, on Sunday mornings it was all gospel music.  Though different genres, a good song can be found in a lot of different places and big harmonies always win.  I think my main influence was my uncle Joe.  You should of heard the way he played Johnny B. Goode.  

PEV: Having played in the business for a good time now, what was it like for you when you first started out?

ING:  When I first played live, I was 15 or so.  I had no idea how anything worked.  I just thought I would write songs, get paid, buy my mom a Cadillac and hang out with girls.  Someone told me that they call it the 'business' for a reason and they really do.  The lion's share of music seems to often be the business side so you have to make sure you have a good grasp on the artistic side.  You have to wear two hats.  Now, I realize it's still about writing songs, but you simply hope to get paid, you hang out with any girl who will take you in (I was lucky to find a good one), and hopefully, one day, mom will get that Cadillac.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

ING:  For me, it was the first time I got a 4-Track recorder.  That was my first recording experience and I played every damn instrument I could find.  Guitars, dulcimer, keys, harpsichord.  I have no idea where those old recordings are of me when I was 14 or so.  But hearing your music played back for the first time, that's aces.  

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Israel Nash Gripka show?

ING:  I hope I can give fans a real experience that they can take with them.  I like the duality of going from a solid rock song to an intimate ballad.  From full band to solo.  You know, I like musical movements in a live set.  I want people to experience the gamut of emotions that music can give.   I just hope they don't expect revolving stages and fireworks.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

ING:  I don't really know.  It's kind of like from that time you get on stage to the time you step off, you're in a different state of mind where most everything else just stops for a little bit.

PEV: Any preshow rituals before going on stage or do you just wing it?

ING:  Just winging it every day.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

ING:  I keep on going back to the theme of being real.  I think what makes a song cool is the reality of it.  You can hear that.   Real emotion is heard in a voice and felt by a listener.  So I just do that.  These are real experiences from real lives.  I just take in things around me and sometimes, they become songs.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, "Barn Doors and Concrete Floors". What can fans expect from this work?

ING:  BDCF was recorded in an old hay barn in the Catskill Mountains.  We brought all the gear up there and lived in a farm house.  The record captures that whole experience in a sonic picture.  You can hear birds and dogs and doors, and laughter throughout the record.  We just wanted to create something that took us away from NYC and put us in the arms of the country.  I'm from Missouri, so I felt at home there.  We just didn't have the stresses of the city.  Just wanted to make a record.

PEV: What kind of mindset were you in when you sat down to write “Barn Doors and Concrete Floors” and how did you choose this title?

ING:  I had been dealing with the fallout from a friend and mentor, knowing that I wanted to try something new.  Not that the new record is some crazy departure from the last one, but it's really loose, has a band feel, and moves all over genres.  I also had just met this group of guys from Texas who started backing me.  I had played with a lot of hired guys here and there for back up.  So, now, I had a real band.  Like a Crazy Horse thing I guess. I hadn't had one of those in a long time so I started writing with them in mind.    

PEV: How is “Barn Doors and Concrete Floors” different than your past work, “New York Town”?

ING:  Barn Doors has a lot of guitar solos.  NYT didn't have any and is a pretty intimate record.  The new one feels like a band and flows.  We did almost everything live in a couple of takes.  Once again, that's real and you can hear that.  

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Israel Nash Gripka?

ING: I make a really delicious chocolate tart dessert.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?  

ING:  I think it was the time that I figured out how to play Long Cool Woman by The Hollies when I was in 5th grade.  When you turn up an amp, you realize that you don't want to do anything else.

PEV: What one word best describes Israel Nash Gripka?

ING: Tomorrow.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

ING:  I love life on the road.  You get to be around people you love and make music with them too.  You don't worry about anything else like bills or evening plans.  You just know that you have to drive from here to there, play a show, unwind, and go to bed.  The worst part is probably getting laundry done.  Any time there is an easy opportunity to get your laundry done, take it.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

ING:  My mom definitely loves it and has a wall of fame for everything I've done in her hallway.  My family has always been supportive of my art and I make sure I keep them informed of everything that happens.  I couldn't of done it without them.  I recently played a show to 70 or so people in my hometown.  I just played acoustic and nothing was amplified.  It was great to give back something to a group of people who have been there from the beginning.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

ING:  I like playing Angry Birds.  Game on.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

ING:  Up and coming is a tough term.  I think I am up and coming still and many great artists are too.  One of my favorite records of the year has to be Phosphorescent's new release though.  It's great.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

ING: Well, I have a masters degree in Political Science.  I think I might be a professor of political theory.  I'm glad I'm not, but might of been cool.

PEV: So, what is next for Israel Nash Gripka?

ING:  The record comes out in March and I'm out on the road in Europe for a tour.  Then back to the states for some shows, then I'm moving to Austin, TX.  It's too cold here.

No votes yet