You don’t learn much from staying in one place, and songwriter Jack Grelle has embodied this in both his approach to life and music. For years, Grelle hopped trains and hitchhiked across the US, soaking in stories and writing songs based on the people he met along his travels. His rambling spirit influenced his music which combines elements of traditional country, folk, and rock’n roll. “It was the traditional troubadour kind of thing,”he recalls. “I cut my teeth as a songwriter by traveling and performing in that fashion.” With his finger on the pulse of current issues, it’s no wonder that Rolling Stone claims Grelle is “a progressive honky-tonk hero arriving at just the right time in Trump’s America.”
After multiple tours through Europe and the United States in support of his first three albums, Grelle explored new horizons in 2019 with an extended stay in Mexico before returning to his home in St. Louis. This sense of quiet reflection and homecoming can be felt on his new album, “If Not Forever.” If his previous albums showed a modern storyteller writing about his perceptions of the world as we know it today, with this new album, you have that weary storyteller looking at the man he has become and the people around him. “If Not Forever” might be Grelle’s most personal and introspective album, but his vulnerable approach to many of the songs reaches new musical heights through a sound that expands on his previous honky-tonk stylings. “Some of the record’s more about the groove,” he says, while noting that there’s a “more rock’n’roll” vibe to the album, dropping the names of influences like CCR and Doug Sahm. That being said, he still leaves the album open to interpretation. “I’ll leave it up to my friends to decide what kind of record this is.”
Not content with meeting expectations set out for country artists, the musical arrangements and lyrics on Grelle’s fourth album continue his tradition of defying labels and expectations. Whether it is touring and performing with Patrick Haggerty and Lavender Country (who released the world’s first gay country album written in 1973) to writing a feminist country anthem on his last album with “Got Dressed Up to Be Let Down,” Grelle seems to acknowledge the history of the genre that inspired him while simultaneously disrupting it.
“If Not Forever” was recorded by Cooper Crain (Bitchin Bajas, CAVE) in Chicago; mastered by Mario Viele in New York; with additional production by David Beeman in St. Louis. Grelle will support the album with a springtime tour in Europe, followed by dates in all corners of the US. On his travels, he will continue to be a voice for the people he encounters on the road and embody what the future of country music can represent.