Friday, December 6, 2019

Steve Gorman, Once Of Black Crowes, Brings The Rock, Country, & Soul

Posted By on Fri, Dec 6, 2019 at 2:51 PM

click to enlarge Trigger Hippy - SCOTT WILLS
  • Scott Wills
  • Trigger Hippy
He might live in Nashville these days, but Memphis has always played an out-sized role in the life of former Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman.

A 54-year-old rock veteran, Gorman will be in town on December 20, when his latest group Trigger Hippy play Growlers. The rock and country soul four-piece have recently released their second album ‘Full Circle And Then Some,’ five years after their first and with two personnel changes to boot. Bassist and long-time collaborator Nick Gorvik has remained, while guitarist Ed Jurdi and singer Amber Woodhouse are the more recent editions.

Groman - who released band memoir Hard To Handle: The Life and Death of the Crowes with acclaimed music critic Steven Hyden earlier this year - says he’s feeling good about the latest combination.

“I’m not staring at the clock, but I am 54 years old,” Gorman says. “I don’t have another band idea. If one happens, that’s great - but in my mind, and as far as something I’m looking at and trying to build out with an eye towards an actual future, this is the band for me. So, for me, let’s take it easy, let’s slow down and make sure we do it right.”

Back to the role of Memphis for Gorman, who - for the first time - won’t be part of the Black Crowes when they tour next year.

Jeff Dunn, son of the legendary Booker T. and The MGs bassist, was the Black Crowes sound man in the 1990s, while Luther Dickinson, son of legendary producer Jim, played with the group the following decade. The first time that a pan of [Jim Neely’s Interstate] BBQ spaghetti was bought on the tour bus was in Memphis too, he recalls. “That was a life-changer,” he says.

From the personal impact of Big Star’s Alex Chilton on the Black Crowes to his de facto fanship of the Memphis Grizzlies - and plenty more, Gorman opened up to the Memphis Flyer in a wide-ranging conversation recently.

Memphis Flyer: I recently read a quote where you mention that, for the first time in your career, you’ve helped create an album that you didn’t feel the need to change upon its completion. How does that feel?

Steve Gorman: It’s wonderful to get finished with a project and realize … that it was the perfect amount of time because the record is exactly what we wanted to do. When I said that [in The East Nashvillian], I was specifically referring to parts I played or little things. I don’t have regrets on albums that are over-the-top, I look back on anything and go ‘I could have done better there, I pushed that turn around a little, I was too dramatic on that chorus’.

When I said it, I was really referring to that - but this album, across the board, because it ended up taking as long as it did, it wasn’t a lot of work - it just took a long time to do the work. Having that long to sit with every track, you know what I mean? There were things that we did and then, six months later, Nick or Ed or me went ‘you know what’s bugging me?’ We could go right back back in and address it. That ended up feeling like a real luxury. That said, I certainly don’t think the next one will be that long of a process.
Be it with the Black Crowes or other projects, you’ve been taking bands on the road for more than 30 years now. Is there a fresh excitement to do it with Trigger Hippy this year?

SG: The last time Trigger Hippy played, it was the summer of 2015. To go four years between gigs, flying this flag, it was necessary [and] made a lot of sense, but it made that much more exciting to go out and do some dates. On top of that, everyone does get on very well. It’s a very nice, very copacetic group of personalities. That was a big part of deciding to ring it back around this time, too. We went in just jamming, me and Nick [and] knew that was a great fit, [but] we were not in a hurry to fill out the rest of the pieces because it was far more important to me to find the right people across the board.

Nashville, like Memphis, you can throw a rock and hit a great musician, you know what I mean? That’s the easy part. Then it’s like, what about the third or fourth time you have a long conversation with them? How many red flags are flying? Do you really want to get into a band with that guy? Do you think your understanding of the word commitment is the same as theirs? There’s all those kinds of questions that, a lot of times, bands don’t think about at all, or if they do, they just think about it on a surface level. With Trigger Hippy, for this album, we knew we had a bunch of great songs, and loved the way the album was shaping up, so it was important to just slow down and make sure it’s right. I’d rather move really slowly, all aligned in the same direction.

In many respects, your time with the Black Crowes will always be the defining aspect of your creative career - and life. What was it like reflecting on the arc of the band, in your book, all these years later?

I had processed and kinda made sense of all it before I started writing the book. The book was not a journey … it wasn’t a question of ‘I’m going to wade into this forest and see if I can come out the other side.’ I’d already done that. It was really just that I had a story I wanted to tell. There were very few surprises and very few moments that were actually trying on me, emotionally, to recount. That said, it was an exhausting process. It was mentally taxing.

Memphis is obviously a city with a colossal amount of music history. Creatively, what does the city mean to you?

You’re talking to a guy whose first hit song was [a cover of] an Otis Redding song. For the glory years of Black Crowes [in the early 90s], our sound man was Duck Dunn’s son, Jeff Dunn. Duck came to a lot of shows - we got to know Duck and June. We had cook-outs at Duck Dunn’s house in Florida. We’d run through his polaroids from a lot of those sessions that no one else has ever seen. Memphis is just one of the home plates, it’s a church in the world of, not just the Black Crowes and very much Trigger Hippy, but anyone who is a fan of rock and roll music. Memphis holds a place that is equal to anywhere else you want to name. It’s just that simple.

[The one thing] the Robinson brothers and I were equally obsessed with was the band Big Star. We opened for Alex Chilton once - it was one of the biggest nights of our lives at that point. Alex stepped into our dressing room. It was December 8, 1987 and we played the Cotton Club in Atlanta. We played our forty-minute set and he poked his head [into the dressing room] and said ‘how old are you guys?’ We were all just looking at him. In our minds, it might as well have been John Lennon standing there. I think Chris said ‘umm, well I’m 22, he’s 20 and I’m 19.’ He was kinda flustered. Alex just said ‘well, y’all got a good little band - keep it up’ and he walked off. You might as well have injected pure heroin into our veins. We were like ‘holy shit’. There’s nothing better in the world than that.

Beyond music, you have a healthy reputation for your knowledge - and opinion - on sport as a former sports radio host. What’s your thoughts on the Memphis sporting scene right now?

[Since ending the ‘Steve Gorman Sports!’ Show last year], I literally stopped paying attention to sports on a major level, I needed a detox - and one area I’ve not jumped back into is college sports. I know there’s been some trouble over there with the recruiting [with James Wiseman] and the football team looks good, but I do pay attention to professional sports.

My biggest problem with the Memphis Grizzlies - and I’m going to make a lot of enemies saying this - is that they didn’t come to Nashville. I would kill for an NBA team right now. For all of the ‘boom city’ [stuff with Nashville], we don’t have an NBA team and until we do, I’ll never say we’re the chosen place. I come over to Memphis to see Grizzlies games every year, my son and I, two or three times a year since forever. I’m a de facto Grizzlies fan, but that’s as far as it goes. If you want to talk about Memphis State University back in the old days, and they had Keith Lee playing basketball in the early 80s, we can go there if we need to, for sure.

Trigger Hippy play Growlers on Friday December 20. Doors open at 7:00 pm, show after 8:00 pm. $18.

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