Seattle rapper Grieves returns to deliver his fourth studio album, Winter & The Wolves, on Rhymesayers Entertainment. The insatiable, devil-may-care MC is well known for his meticulous exploration of life, love and loss, through a unique medley of hip-hop and soulful music. Together with B. Lewis, Grieves created 14 new tracks, combining organic pianos and guitars with boisterous synthesizers, to paint a colorful backdrop for his unique blend of rapping and singing.
A reflection on growth and maturity, Winter & The Wolves is about the instinctual fight for survival. It’s about suddenly finding that you’re all alone, facing countless hindrances to your livelihood, and having the courage to overcome them all. Tackling difficult obstacles like addiction and heartbreak, Grieves wrestles with the realization that life doesn’t get any easier as you get older. His signature combination of humor and gloom culminate to depict the struggle of a man’s inner turmoil between abandoning the dreams of his youth, and carving out a new path for himself in this world.
Winter & the Wolves will be supported by full North American and European tours, with a re-developed live show including expanded band and light performances. But first Ghettoblaster caught up with him to discuss the record. This is what he told us while stranded in a b-rate “Chucky Cheese”.
I would like to start this interview off by telling you that I am currently sitting in a place called John’s Incredible Pizza Company (van broke down and this is the only place around). It’s more a less a rip off of Chucky Cheese and there are fat little kids running around screaming with pizza all over their chubby little faces while I sit here drinking a beer like a complete and utter creeper.
With that said…. Let’s do this
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
I sat down to write Winter & the Wolves in late 2012, but really didn’t hit my stride until 2013 when I finally had the time and the state of mind to write a record like this.
I was writing and producing songs in Seattle and wasn’t really happy with how things were going until I met B. Lewis. Once I started booking flights to San Jose and going out there to work with him is when things really started to fall into place.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome? And which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
I took a different approach to this record. Every song that Brad and I did was made from scratch and molded as I wrote. By the time we had vocals printed a song would have been transformed 100 times over, BUT it wasn’t even in post production. All these ideas and changes would happen as I was sitting on the couch behind him writing. It was a really cool process for me. I’ve never done that.
With that said, there is a song called “Death of Me” on the iTunes Deluxe version that went through a wild transformation.
Back in 2011, Budo and I sat down and wrote this song called “look at what you’ve done”. It ended up shelved until 2013 when a buddy of mine, Chords, came out from Sweden to work with me in my studio. We took that song (because Chords and I both loved it and wanted to see it reborn) and completely re-did it. We started first by finding out the key of the song and then stripping away the music completely. We then started building the music around the vocals and a simple drum loop to help us keep the groove. At this point Winter & the Wolves was nearly complete so we had a good idea of what direction to take it and how we wanted it to sound.
After a few days of mixing pianos, finding the perfect guitar tone, riffling through drum sounds, and eating shitty deli sandwiches from the Fred Meyer across the street… We finally had a composition I think both of us were really happy with. Unfortunately the hook from the previous version really didn’t match the vibe so I re-wrote the hook and re-tracked all the vocals to match the music. It took a while but I’m happy with the outcome (and that was just for the process for the demo).
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
I don’t really do a lot of features on my records that much but I do try to get one or two to keep things fresh.
On this record I finally got to team up with my buddy Slug (from Atmosphere) on a song called “Astronauts”. We’ve been looking for the right song for a whole so it’s was really exciting to finally find the right match.
As far as musicians go, B. Lewis and I did a lot of the ground work for the record and then we had some piano and string players come in and add some extra wow to some of the tracks.
Once the record was recorded and almost done, I actually went into Avast Studios in Seattle with my buddy Jake Shaw (keyboard player on tour) and replaced all the VST pianos with live pianos. I’ve always wanted to do that so it was a cool experience to be able to finally give it a shot.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
B. Lewis and I co-produced this record. There is a beat from Sapient that both Brad (B. Lewis) and I loved called Recluse, and the bonus song on the iTunes Deluxe version that I mentioned earlier that was produced by Chords.
I met Brad through one of my favorite bands, Bad Rabbits. They had worked with him on their new record American Love and had nothing but praise for him.
I had never worked with a producer like Brad before. I’ve worked with beat makers and Budo, but I’ve never worked with someone who front to back will sit down with you and help you achieve a feeling and space for a whole entire record. I think this was the writing/recording experience I was looking for.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
Yeah, but I like to leave that open for interpretation as well. For me, this record is about endurance and overcoming. I’ve had a really rough past two years and when I sat down to write this record I wanted to touch base on the idea that life doesn’t just get better because I get older. Happiness and calm water is something that you have to reach for.. It’s not gonna just fall in your lap cause you’re “grown”.
That’s just me though. I’d love to see what others get from it.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
I have! I’ve been playing “Shreds”, “Whoa is Me”, “Astronauts” and “Kidding Me” live and they’ve been going over really well. I would say “Shreds” and “Kidding Me” are the favorites with “Kidding Me” probably coming in first. It’s a super dope feeling to see people dig into something they’ve never heard before. Got me pumped to release this Muh Fuckah!
(Catch Grieves live here:
European Tour Dates
4/9/2014 London, UK @ Oslo
4/10/2014 Birmingham, UK @ Hare & Hounds 2
4/11/2014 Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen
4/12/2014 Paris, FR @ Nouveau Casino
4/14/2014 Brussels, BE @ Rotonde
4/15/2014 Munich, DE @ Muffatcafé
4/16/2014 Berlin, DE @ Cassiopeia
4/17/2014 Hamburg, DE @ Mojo Jazz Café
4/18/2014 Frankfurt, DE @ Zoom
4/19/2014 Aarhus, DK @ Atlas
4/20/2014 Copenhagen, DK @ Pumpehuset
4/22/2014 Oslo, NO @ Sawol
4/23/2014 Stockholm, SE @ Nalen
North American Tour Dates
4/4/2014 Mesa, AZ @ CycloMesa
4/29/2014 Portland, OR @ Branx
5/1/2014 Reno, NV @ Knitting Factory
5/2/2014 San Francisco, CA @ Slims
5/3/2014 Los Angeles, CA @ Roxy
5/4/2014 Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room
5/5/2014 Tucson, AZ @ Congress
5/6/2014 El Paso, TX @ Tricky Falls
5/7/2014 Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
5/9/2014 Durango, CO @ Animas City Theatre
5/10/2014 Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
5/13/2014 Austin, TX @ Stubbs Jr.
5/14/2014 Dallas, TX @ Cambridge Room (HOB)
5/15/2014 Oklahoma City, OK @ The Conservatory
5/16/2014 Lawrence, KS @ Granada
5/17/2014 St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
5/19/2014 Columbia, MO @ Mojos
5/21/2014 Cincinatti, OH @ 20th Century Theatre
5/22/2014 Columbus, OH @ The Basement
5/23/2014 Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
5/27/2014 Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
5/28/2014 Rapid City, SD @ Sports Rock
5/29/2014 Billings, MT @ The Carlin
5/30/2014 Jackson, WY @ Pink Garter Theatre
5/31/2014 Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue
6/1/2014 Boise, ID @ The Reef
6/2/2014 Spokane, WA @The Bartlett
6/7/2014 Seattle, WA @ The Showbox
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