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New Artist Of The Week: Grady Spencer & the Work

By Jof Owen

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Grady Spencer & the Work is a band built from blood, tears and West Texas sweat. After spending several years cutting his teeth on the live music scene of Lubbock, Grady and his wife Kaci decided that the time had come to head East to the cultural hotspot of Fort Worth for a new beginning.

In late 2019, Grady Spencer found himself struggling with the constant juggle of a blossoming music career with a full-time, 60-hour-a-week construction career. After his wife convinced him it was time to talk to someone, he eventually felt strong enough to step out and pursue music full-time.

The forthcoming album, Wait – the band’s fourth - is a nod to the strange turn of events that led to Spencer quitting his long-time career in construction, only to sit at home through the emotional rollercoaster of 2020.

Leaning heavily on his faith, his family and the band, he emerged from the year with his dream and career in music still alive. Spencer and the band – made up of drummer Blake Sager, bassist Johnny Hatcher and lead guitarist Tyler Martin -recorded Wait in their now-hometown, and it was brought to life with the help of the band and producer Reese Murphy. Cleanly arranged, they mix a sound of West Texas red dirt with the deeply cut modern grooves of today’s alt-funk music.

The video for the band’s new single ‘Grown’ is premiering exclusively on Holler. Watch below now.

"This was the song that sparked in my mind, wow, I think it’s time to record another album", Spencer explains. "The instrumentation and melodies of the song seemed to carry a weight that signified a huge growth and maturation in this band’s sound. This song was written from the aspect that we were finally starting to travel more for shows and experience the growing pains of extensive touring mixed with the responsibilities and duties waiting for us at home."

"We were playing a lot of shows but also having to do a lot of post-show, overnight driving to get home for the guys to be at their full-time jobs. The lyrics could easily be summed up in saying, 'I love playing music as my job but I hate driving late at night. But if it gets me home to the woman that I love, I’m all for it'."

With songs like ‘Grown’ and ‘Here’s Your Chance’ from the new album, Spencer continues to look into the themes of therapy and introspection, written around the moment when, he says, he “finally realized that we only have so many days allotted to us in this life, and people were going to dance whether it was my music or someone else’s. I was tired of only giving a partial effort to many aspects of my life and that I was ready to give 100% to my true calling as a husband, father and musician.”

Holler sat down with him at the back end of 2021 to talk to him about the band's plans for the coming year and how they got to where they're going.

Where are you from and how has that influenced your music?

I grew up in the thriving metropolis of Paducah, Texas. Actually, more specifically, 15 miles out in the country outside of Paducah. So to say that I grew up "country" couldn’t be any more literal. That being said, I think from a very young age, I was influenced and inspired by that small town hard-working attitude that I saw throughout my entire childhood. While I no longer live there, the grit and dust of West Texas will always be evident in my music.

What did you listen to growing up?

I always joke that I almost feel somewhat like I grew inside of an Amish or Puritan cultural upbringing. We didn’t have TV, didn’t have internet and only had one radio station. And that radio station was Top 40 country all day, every day. So I was steeped in the waters of Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks and wouldn’t even become aware of "outside" music until my late teen years.

You’ve worked in construction for some time. How did your understanding and experience of manual labour inform your songwriting?

Much like growing up in a small town, spending years and years on job sites was absolutely crucial in how I understand and view the world. While the work was extremely taxing and rough, the reward of looking at a building at the end of a project and knowing that you played a part in its existence was unlike any sense of accomplishment I had ever felt.

To look around every day and see some of the funniest and kindest humans I’ve ever known do some of the hardest, least-appreciated work was inspiring. Now that I have the opportunity to play and write music as a job full-time, I never forget where I came from and always cherish those lessons I learned while wearing a hard hat.

While you were working in construction, where did music fit into your life?

I always very much had a love/hate relationship with music while I was working on job sites. On one hand, I was an extreme fan who was constantly inspired and challenged by artists that I discovered while being a construction guy. But on the other hand, music was this different side of my life that took a big part of my energy and focus from my "real" job, and also my family.

The harsh reality I was quickly realizing was that there were only so many hours in a week and if I didn’t do something to combat the constant plate-spinning, I was going to eventually have some sort of a mental breakdown. But at the same time, this push was no accident - it ultimately gave me the bravery to step out and attempt to do music full-time.

'Here’s Your Chance' off the new album has such a beautiful message. Can you say a little bit about how it came to be?

This was a song that was talking about the chapter of my life where my wife and I were trying to decide if stepping out to do music as a full-time job was a good choice or not. At this point, I was working 40-60 hours a week doing construction, then turning around and playing shows almost every weekend.

With this constant workload, there was very little left of "me" for my wife and kids at home, which made me incredibly sad, to say the least. This song is kind of the illustration of where my wife and I landed on the matter: people are going to be dancing to someone or something anyway, why not let it be you?

What was your favorite song to write on Wait?

I think my favorite song to write was 'Therapy’s Good'. As a psychology major in school, I always low-key knew and understood the importance of mental health and self-care. But until I found myself at my wit’s end from an exhausting workload and lack of plans, I never really felt that importance until I met my counsellor, Tim.

He helped me to unpack what I had been through, what I was currently experiencing, and also helped me visualize my different path choices in front of me. He literally changed and shaped my life with his counsel, and this song is an encouragement to literally everyone to go find someone to talk through your issues with. It’s not always fun or easy, but extremely helpful and life-giving.

Who would be your dream collaboration?

There’s an artist named Theo Katzman who has been monumentally inspiring with the way he writes and records music. His lyrical honestly paired with some of the best production I’ve ever heard has put him at the very top of my dream collaborator podium. Hopefully someday!

What’s next?

We’re gearing up to make 2022 our most-toured year to date. With the help of my agent, Geoff, we’ve got a jam-packed schedule of live shows all over the country and we couldn’t be more pumped about that. The goal is to keep grinding to solidify our place in this scene, but paramount to that is to just enjoy the moment we’re finding ourselves in right now.

I’m getting to see the world by playing music and I’ll never not see that as the biggest gift ever. Every day that I get to wake up and take my kids to school instead of clocking in at a job site is an ultimate win for me so I consider myself extremely blessed and lucky to do just that.

Wait will be released on January 28th 2022