Gratitude is the attitude

F ans who get tickets to see JJ Grey & Mofro August 10 at Rose Music Center at the Heights are likely to see a version of the band that’s a bit less unpredictable with their show than in years past. Where earlier outings generally found Grey mixing up the set list from show to […]

Outlook appears brighter for JJ Grey & Mofro at Rose


JJ Grey will have his Mofro workin’ at the Rose Music Center. Photo: Jay Simon.

By Alan Sculley

Fans who get tickets to see JJ Grey & Mofro August 10 at Rose Music Center at the Heights are likely to see a version of the band that’s a bit less unpredictable with their show than in years past.

Where earlier outings generally found Grey mixing up the set list from show to show, last year the group settled into more of a consistent selection of songs to play on tour.

“We’d have a group of songs we’d rotate in and out, but we kept a core of it (the set list) together, which we’d never done,” Grey said in a recent phone interview. “And something happened with the show that in the set, it just took it to a whole new level. I really liked that. So now, I want to put together three or four different set ideas, to get them hammered in, instead of just like kind of willy nilly putting (set lists) together every night, although that can be fun, too…but just get them honed down to where, it’s just like anything, if you get a song to where nobody’s thinking about what they’re doing, they’re just playing, we all know it goes somewhere awesome. Well, if you get a whole show going like that, it gets really crazy.”

The live show isn’t the only thing that has Grey feeling upbeat these days. His career has also been on a notably positive track, as years of steady touring have built a following that now allows him to play theaters and the largest of clubs on a regular basis.

“To just continue to go do it is part of it, the tenacity of it,” Grey said. “And playing with great people, obviously, but that’s been going on since day one.”

Another big factor in his growing success, Grey said, is a change in attitude from when he first came on the scene in 2001. Back then, as he released his first two albums (2001’s Blackwater and 2004’s Lochloosa), he was prone to frustration when things didn’t go his way.

Over the years, as he has continued to put out a steady stream of albums—the Jacksonville, Florida-based singer/guitarist released five well-received albums in six years while signed to Alligator Records from 2007 through 2013—his outlook has brightened.

“I just learned how to be grateful for what I have—that changed everything—and enjoy it instead of trying to find something wrong with everything,” Grey said. “I think that changed everything.”

While Grey, whose most recent album is 2015’s Ol’ Glory, said he can’t point to any one thing that changed his outlook, one major life event certainly contributed to his feeling better about life—having his daughter.

“It had everything to do with it. It made me appreciate things instead of, here again, what we were just talking about,” Grey said. “I’ve got it easy, easy because I’ve got a wonderful family. There are several songs on Ol’ Glory, I’ve had songs on several albums that were about my daughter. But it just was a huge thing. It just changed everything.”

The brighter mood has translated to Grey’s more recent music, particularly on the excellent Ol’ Glory. The album continues to combine three main ingredients that have always been present in Grey’s music—rock, rough-hewn Southern country, funk, and soul—but this time out the soul element is more pronounced and there is a brighter disposition to most of the material.

The soul element is especially apparent on songs like the luminous “Everything is a Song,” the rousing title track and the ballad “Light a Candle,” which sound like they could have been spun out alongside the music of Otis Redding or William Bell from the Stax Records studio in Memphis during the 1960s. Funk gets into the mix on the snappy “Brave Lil’ Fighter” and the gritty rocker “Turn Loose.” His country and soul roots figure strongly on “Every Minute,” a song that especially illustrates Grey’s improved disposition (“This mirrored light that sends back/everything that you send out/The grace you give, given back/Loving every minute you live”).

Grey said he has started writing and demoing songs for his next album, but the first order of business for now is doing a series of shows this summer. With Ol’ Glory two-plus years in the rearview mirror, Grey’s set is now focused on his full catalog of songs.

“I just think of the mood of the song and what’s going on at that time in the show (dictates the set list),” he said. “But for the most part, there are songs from all the different records in the show.”

On Friday August 10, J. Roddy Walston & The Business will start the evening promptly at 6:30, followed by JJ Grey & Mofro, with Blackberry Smoke closing the show. Doors open at 5:30. Rose Music Center is at 6800 Executive Blvd., Huber Heights. For ticket information, call 937.610.0288, or go to rosemusiccenter.com. Visit www.jjgrey.com for more details.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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