DAVID GRISSOM - “How it Feels to Fly” Interview


DAVID GRISSOM is one of Texas's premier Rock, Blues, and Americana guitarists. He has toured and recorded with countless artists, such as BUDDY GUY, JOHN MELLENCAMP, or JOHN MAYALL.  In February, David released his fourth studio album “How it Feels to Fly”. We talked with the artist about his new album, his work with PAUL REED SMITH, as well as the skills needed to make it as a professional musician. He will be on tour in Europe in March and April. Do not miss his only gig in Austria at the Bluesiana in Velden on 30 March. (Photo: K.T. Yarbrough)


David, congratulations on the release of your fourth solo studio album. Can you please tell us about the background of the title?

The title reflects the path I’ve chosen to travel musically and personally. It’s about accepting everything in your life….good and bad….and seeing that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes what seems like a bad break turns out to be the best thing that could have happened…….you just have to be open to that. It also reflects the artistic satisfaction I feel right now, playing with my band, and continuing to grow as a guitarist and songwriter.


Can you please tell us who is playing on the record (rhythm section), who produced it, and where it was recorded?

The entire CD features my Austin band……Bryan Austin on drums, Scott Nelson on bass, and Stefano Intelisano on keys. We’ve developed a great rapport over the last two and a half years and I think it shows in the vibe of the music. I recorded and produced it at my house in Spicewood, TX. I moved back into central Austin last year and mixed it at my new house.

Please tell us about how long it took you to write the songs?

I wrote most over the course of a year but a few are older songs that I just now felt fit where I was going musically.

Photo: Patti Mitchell

How long did it actually take to record the album, and which equipment did you use?

We cut all the tracks in two days and then it took a while for me to finish it, both because of the move, and, because I spent a lot of time working on the additional guitar parts and background vocals. I cut through a variety of vintage mics and preamps. I used a PRS DGT for 85% of the CD and PRS DG Custom 30 and Custom 50 amps for everything.


 Photo courtesy of David Grissom


You have played with so many different artists, John Mellencamp, the Dixie Chicks, Buddy Guy, and of course John Mayall. Was there a period or job as a sideman that was particularly important for your personal development?

Working with Joe Ely for six years really gave me the chance to cement my style, to learn from a great artist, and to play a thousand gigs all over the world. With Mellencamp I learned so much about working in the studio and arranging. Working with greats like John Mayall, The Allman Brothers, and Buddy Guy have been highlights. Buddy never failed to blow me away on each of the last 3 records. Playing in Storyville I really had a chance to work on songwriting and, again, play a ton of gigs. I always feel like I learn something on every session I do, so I’ve learned invaluable things every session I’ve been on.

How did you develop your chops, both as a lead and a rhythm player?

Playing thousands of gigs and learning from the guys who I feel are the best rhythm players. I’ve never been afraid of mixing genres, so I think that has helped me develop a unique approach to rhythm guitar. I have enough experience playing traditional blues styles……I have an understanding of the music….but I also have learned how to bring a lot of different ideas and approaches to the table. I’m not afraid to step outside the box as long as it serves the song and the artist.


Photo: Amada Oldham

Any recommendations on how to improve one’s rhythm playing in that connection?

Listen to guys like Steve Cropper, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, Jimmie Vaughan, and anyone else who really has a unique, deep pocket, and, practice with a metronome to get your time together.

It never has been easier to learn the guitar – there are millions of YouTube and education/tuition videos, tabs, you name it. I guess this is quite different from when you first started to learn the guitar?

Very much so. For me it was picking up the needle on the turntable and learning by ear.

Let us turn to your equipment. You are one of only a few fortunate artists who have their own PAUL REED SMITH signature model. Can you please tell us how your cooperation with PRS came about?

I met Paul in 1986 and we hit it off right away. We’ve been collaborating on ideas ever since.

What are the specifications of your PRS model that distinguishes it from all the others?

The pickups are quite unique and took me year to design. The neck shape, fret wire, electronics layout, and pickups are all unique to that guitar. It’s the most vintage inspired PRS and I’m very proud of it.

Can you please tell us what sort of tone you were looking for when you started developing an amplifier with PRS?

I wanted one amp that would capture the best of all the vintage amps I owned. It was a very tall order. I was adamant that it not be a clone of a classic amp, but a totally new circuit that would allow me to take one amp and cover all the tones I need.

In terms of effects, what are your preferred pedals?

I love the Xotic EP Booster, the Strymon El Capistan delay, the Psionic Audio Telos pedal, and the Arion chorus for roto vibe/vibrato tones. I’m always looking for the next perfect pedal though…..


 Photo courtesy of David Grissom

Let us turn to your beginnings. What made you pick up an instrument (if I understood correctly, you started playing the drums)?

The Beatles and The Stones…..

Do you still play the drums?

No, guitar is enough work ;-)

What were the records that you listened to when you first started to learn the instrument?

THE BEATLES’s “Revolver”, B.B. King’s “Live at The Regal”, JIMI HENDRIX “Hendrix in the West”, ALLMAN BROTHERS “At Fillmore East”, anything by ALBERT KING and WES MONTGOMERY. I also listened to a lot of DOC WATSON and NORMAN BLAKE.

If you were to give one piece of advice to young aspiring musicians, what would that be?

Play as many gigs as possible, and don’t spend so much time on the internet listening to people argue about music. Trust your instincts and learn to at least sing some harmony vocals.

Can you please tell us something about your work as a professional musician in the United States. Has it become easier or more difficult to make a living as an artist?

No, it’s much harder in the last 5 years. People don’t buy nearly as many CD’s so budgets are way down, which impacts everyone from session players to songwriters. Having said that, the freedom to put out my own records has been very liberating. I don’t waste time bemoaning the way things used to be. I try to keep moving forward.

Photo: Amada Oldham


Which skills should a musician have nowadays to make it in the business? For instance, as a sideman?

Be able to sing, be someone you’d want to hang out with, and get as much experience playing as many types of gigs as possible. There are a million great players out there. It’s the extra things that get people gigs.

As a solo artist?

In addition to experience and talent, you really have to be willing to work hard, to embrace the new model of the music business, and have the confidence to keep moving forward even when people criticize you. Vision…….

Photo: Greg Vorobiov


We are very much looking forward to your European tour in March and April. What can we expect?

I’m bringing my drummer and a bass player from the Netherlands. We’ll be playing tunes off all my CD’s as well as some select covers. I’m very excited about it.

Can you please tell us who will be accompanying you?

Bryan Austin and Harmen DeBresser.

How will you prepare for the tour (if at all)?

We’ll rehearse for two days in Amsterdam

Which songs will be on your setlist?

Lots of them, and I will rotate different songs in and out. It will be very guitar centric given that we are playing in the power trio format.

What will you bring with you in terms of equipment?

I’ll have all my PRS stuff and pedalboard. …..the same gear I use here.

Thank you for your time. We are looking forward to seeing on stage soon, and all the best for your tour!

Thank you!


DAVID GRISSOM - European Tour Dates

***** Please note ! ******

Remaining Europe dates cancelled..........
March 27, 2014

DAVID GRISSOM had to cancel the remaining dates of his European tour. Here is a statement from his website:

It is with great regret that I must cancel the remaining shows of my European tour. 12 days before I was scheduled to leave for Europe, I was diagnosed with eosinophilic pneumonia, a rare type of pneumonia. I was sent to a lung specialist who put me on intensive antibiotics and steroids. Two days before I was to leave, my lungs were clear, but he explained that the true recovery time was 4-6 weeks. He told me if I went on this tour I was taking a risk that I could relapse and have to start the medications again. I chose to take the risk and come as planned. I didn't want to cancel any shows. Unfortunately all the symptoms returned shortly after I arrived in Europe and were getting worse. When I got to the hotel after the gig last night, my fever had spiked and I was coughing up some pretty scary stuff. I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I am, and how terrible I feel about canceling these shows, but my Doctor says I HAVE to come home now. So many people worked so hard to make this tour happen, and I apologize to everyone, but I hope you will understand that I must now do as my doctor tells me. I gave it my best shot.......I hope I can get back soon. Thank you, David