This week, "A Change of Tune" host Joni Deutsch chats with West Virginia rocker Tyler Grady about his new solo project. Grady branched out from Morgantown group Sleepwalker with a relatively new pop-rock side gig called Goodwolf, which just released its sophomore record titled Car in the Woods with the help of West Virginia mega-producer Bud Carroll. If you’re a fan of rambunctious pop influenced by ‘90s rock, this interview and music are recommended for you.
Joni: So Goodwolf is your solo project, that’s what you’re touring for now, but you were previously in the band Sleepwalker. How did Sleepwalker turn into Goodwolf?
Tyler Grady: It didn’t necessarily turn into Goodwolf so much as Sleepwalker had some downtime when our friend [and Sleepwalker band member] David F. Bello moved to New York. We just had some downtime and didn’t know exactly what we were going to do, and I decided that it might be good to do my own thing. It kind of evolved from there.
And you’re still friends with Sleepwalker. It’s not like you hate each other.
TG: Oh sure. We play shows. We actually have a show on New Year’s Eve with AC30, William H. Matheny and Rozwell Kid at the V Club in Huntington.
You’re still based in Morgantown. How’s the music culture been for making new music?
TG: As far as the way any small town music scene goes, Morgantown waxes and wanes, and we’re generally on a four-year cycle as far as the students are concerned versus the people that stick around. Consistently playing music in a place the size of Morgantown is generally a challenge, but we’ve been lucky to have great music venues and people encouraging us for the last few years.
Being a Morgantown artist, what are your thoughts on the negative press WVU’s been getting? Do you think that’s going to effect the Morgantown music scene in the future, maybe with regulations?
TG: It’s interesting. You would think that that part of student life plays a larger role in the independent music based around Morgantown. But to be honest, the people who are interested in being creative and making music are generally not tied up in the scene with the riots and whatever happens at fraternities. That’s not to say that anyone from a fraternity couldn’t be part of the music scene; obviously, I encourage everyone to do that. But it generally doesn’t have too much of an effect. I have to be honest and say that destruction is part of creation in a lot of ways. There’s always this sort of fatalistic positivity that permeates through basically everything that happens around the riots. There’s a “we’ll do better next time” kind of mentality, but unfortunately, I think the cops will get better than the students.
Going back into the music with Car in the Woods, what was the recording process like for the record?
TG: It was great. I recorded it with Bud [Carroll], who plays bass, guitar and keyboards, and does some programming on it. We kind of locked ourselves away for two or three weekends, and we kind of went in with a lot of ideas communicated over the Internet. When it came time to record, we kind of shut ourselves away and did it until it was right.
So you recorded it in West Virginia and Morgantown?
Bud Carroll: At my house in Cabell County, just outside of Barboursville. The studio’s in my home, so a lot of times people just stay with me and work on stuff.
Do you have any interesting stories about the recording process?
We played one track, “Rechico,” which we played seventeen or eighteen times in a row before we got the basic track for it. Each one was always like, “Oh man, that was good, but we’re gonna…”
BC: “We’re going break through it.” I’m kind of bad about that, like drilling people to get them working to get the music right as opposed to editing it in audio later. It’s like really trying to make music together.
TG: It worked out.
Would you say there’s a theme to this record?
TG: What normally happens is I write a bunch of songs, throw the really crappy ones away, keep the couple that I like, throw them together and then start making up stories about what it’s supposed to be about later on once people start asking questions. I’m not good at like, “Oh, this song is definitely about this particular time at this particular place.” It’s generally like a collection of random thoughts kind of smashed together and put to music.
I guess you could do a MadLibs kind of thing for the future, like a template where you could fill in the blanks with adjectives for song meanings.
TG: [Laughing] That would feel like cheating. It’s not completely that way. There are definitely songs that have specific meaning to me, but there are other songs that are more like ideas that work well together.
You mentioned “Rechico” before. You just did a music video for the it a couple weeks ago.
TG: I wanted to make another music video with Geoff Hoskinson, but he’s an extremely busy doing music videos for Sufjan Stevens and Chad Fair and people much more important than me. So I tried to think. I’m not good with doing concepts for music videos, so a good way to kind of go into this without much of a concept was having fun with your friends on the Internet, which is what we do anyways.
I was trying to look at all the artwork with Goodwolf’s records, and it looked like Haypeep, Sage Perrot, did some.
TG: Yeah, she did a sticker. She’s a really great printmaker and a really talented visual artist. And Brad Pierce did the album cover for Car in the Woods. He’s amazing too, a really great visual artist.
So Car in the Woods… What is it?
TG: It’s a really place. There’s an abandoned street in Morgantown, and parked on this abandoned street, which has been overtaken by the forest, is a car that has also been overtaken by the forest. We discovered it one time when a friend of ours was walking his dog. You may know [West Virginia Public Radio News reporter] Roxy Todd; her dog Gromit and her boyfriend Joey and I were walking around Morgantown, Gromit was kind of going off into different places and we just happened upon this car in the woods in the middle of the day. It was like, “This would be a great place to go after the bar closes down with a six-pack of beer,” and we did that often. We would go hang out at Car in the Woods after shows and talk about everything. The record’s called Car in the Woods because generally all of my albums reflect people I know and everybody in one place. It reminds me of Car in the Woods and hanging out with good buddies.
Where in Morgantown is that?
TG: I can’t exactly say because I’m not entirely sure we’re allowed to be there. [Laughing] But it’s in Morgantown. Some people might ruin it for the rest of us.
Each time I talk to a West Virginia artist or band, I ask them about staying in West Virginia versus moving elsewhere to make music. Do you think Morgantown will be a place for you to stay for music? Do you think you’ll need to move to make music?
TG: [Laughing] This is a question I ask myself more than interviewers ask. There’s a lot of West Virginia pride, there’s a lot to be said about working hard and coming from a place like West Virginia. At the same time, it’s not necessarily a place where we can blow up and be famous. We’ll not going to be on an A-list movie soundtrack tomorrow. But that’s the attitude that brings us back down. How many bands are from West Virginia, what kind of perspective can we have from being here versus musicians who move to New York or wherever else is a hot place for music. I really feel everyone who’s from West Virginia can probably identity with the idea of the love/hate relationship with it. At the same time, I think we hold a really unique position with the state, and I’d like to work with that for as long as possible. That’s not to say at some point I won’t move away for a little while, but for now, Morgantown is great.
What else do you want people to know about you, Goodwolf or the record?
TG: I’m really proud with what we were able to create. We worked really hard on it, and it means a lot to us. We want everyone to see the cool thing we did.
BC: Being somebody who works on a ton of different music all the time, a lot of times you work on stuff and just try do a really good job on it. But for me, who’s worked with tons and tons of people, this is a rare opportunity for me to do something where, even though I was hired to do the job, I’m so excited because of how much I believe in the material. It’s awesome to do something that you know is awesome as opposed to, “Like me, like me, like the stuff that I did.” We know it’s good, we love it…
TG: And we want to share it.
Goodwolf just released "Car in the Woods" through Twin Cousins Records, and Tyler Grady will be on tour this winter (find out dates over on Goodwolf’s Facebook). You can hear new music from Goodwolf on Joni Deutsch’s “A Change of Tune” this Saturday at 10 PM EST on West Virginia Public Radio.