JJ Grey & Mofro

JJ Grey & Mofro at the Fillmore.

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JJ Grey probably won’t read this article.

Grey, the front man of JJ Grey and Mofro who will be in Bozeman on Sunday in support of their latest album and live DVD, “Brighter Days,” said he usually gets whatever news his mom and dad choose to tell him. Reading stories and reviews about his music won’t change it.

When he spoke with the Chronicle last week, Grey was headed to the airport in Jacksonville, Fla., to pick up the bass player, Todd Smallie, and drummer, Anthony Cole, from his band Mofro. From there, the three were set to head into the studio, where they would learn the 20 new songs Grey has written since his last studio album, 2010’s “Georgia Warhorse.” Before, or perhaps during recording later this year, the songs will be whittled down to 10 or 12, a 40-minute album.

“I’m a big believer in the old-school album,” Grey explained. “You don’t need 15 or 20 songs unless they’re like three-minute Beatles songs.”

Instead, he turns to the classic vinyl records of his youth that are usually about 20-minutes per side and make sense as a whole. He doesn’t like to front load the band’s albums for radio play or include tracks that don’t make sense with the rest of the recordings.

Critics said the band’s sound went through a significant change between their first and second albums, “Blackwater” and “Lochloosa,” but according to Grey, many of the songs just didn’t make the final cut.

“I never know how anything’s going to turn out on a given day,” he said. “It’s like editing a movie: you always shoot way more than you need.”

Grey said his style is more a list of influences than it is a genre, and even then he can’t put a finger on exactly what it is.

His influences range from Jerry Reed and Otis Redding to a smattering of country singers. He’s also a big fan of Metallica and AC/DC, and jokes in his drawl that he “just ain’t done no metal record yet.”

It’s kind of like being so close to something you’re unable to see what it really is, he explained.

“After 40-odd years of looking in the mirror, I don’t think I really know what I look like,” he said.

Producer Dan Prothero may have said it best, according to Grey.

“He called it ‘front porch soul’ back in the day,” Grey said. “I like that”

Whatever it is, Grey said it comes from somewhere within.

“I think what makes the music richer is something I don’t have much control over,” he said.

Songs, taken from experiences, such as “The Sweetest Thing,” written about how his “little baby girl” came along and changed everything.

“They really just happen,” he said. “Stuff that doesn’t just happen, that I put a lot of effort into to try to be clever, usually sucks.”

So Grey sticks to simple subjects, to the stuff that lasts. He doesn’t need big sweeping moments or intense lyrical ideas. Life, he said, shows you things.

His life is full of travel: Mofro, which is currently signed with Alligator Records, spends seven to nine months a year on the road. It’s where they shine, Grey said, drawing from the fans who come see them.

“The audience is part of the show, helping make the show happen, playing their instrument,” he said.

And it doesn’t matter if they’re in Montana or back home in Florida, if they’re clapping and cheering in an orderly fashion, or creating a raucous, as long as they’re in the moment.

“The real energy is behind all that,” he said. 

For an idea of what to expect at the show Sunday, Grey recommends checking out the DVD and live album.

“It’s a cross-section of everything, a few tracks of every record,” he said.



Rachel Hergett may be reached at rhergett@dailychronicle.com or 582-2603.


JJ Grey and Mofro with The Dirty Shame

Benefit for Headwaters Academy

July 8, 8 p.m.

Emerson Center

Tickets are $19 at Cactus Records and blueindianevents.com

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