Bobby McGrath isn’t yet a household name in country music, but that’s about to change. The Albany, NY native grew up with his musician mother and father, who constantly kept the house full of music, allowing him to gain the inspiration to follow in their footsteps. He took his craft seriously, diving deep into the artistic expression and developing a love for songwriting that eventually drew him to the stories and emotions that make up country music. In 2013, Bobby left the urban streets of his home in New York City and fled instead to Music City, where he worked with producer Russel Wolf and extraordinary Nashville session players and touring musicians to craft his debut self-titled EP.
From there, everything changed. He landed performances on NBC’s Today Show and opening slots for major label artists like Frankie Ballard, Will Hoge, and Joel Crouse. He has played in venues across the east coast, from Boston’s Hard Rock Cafe to New York City’s The Cutting Room, performing with his band The Brothers and sharing his music with eager crowds. So it was no surprise to his fans when he took the top prize during NASH-FM’S Battle of the Country Bands contest to secure a spot opening for Rascal Flatts and The Swon Brothers at Newark’s massive Prudential Center. This opportunity comes at a significant time in this up-and-comers career, giving him the chance to perform in front of an audience of thousands, each and every one of them country music fans.
We caught up with Bobby on the eve of his performance this Friday, October 10th when the Rewind Tour rolls into The Pru, to get to know him a little better. Check out the interview below and be sure to follow Bobby on all his social sites to stay up-to-date on the latest tour dates and news.
Want to check out the Rascal Flatts tour and get your first glimpse of Bobby doing his things? Tickets are still available here!
I understand that your parents are both musicians. I’m sure that had a major impact on you growing up, would you say that was a major influence on you becoming a musician? What other factors drew you to making music?
Having two parents who play and who exposed me to music from an early age definitely lit the fire. It was hard to not pick up a guitar or another instrument in my house and I always enjoyed playing music so much. When I started writing songs it slowly opened up a whole other part of that creative world for me and eventually the switch turned from passion to obsession.
What is your earliest memory of writing songs? What made you want to tackle songwriting?
From really early on I can remember even when I was just driving in the car with my dad, we would come up with songs for everything. Looking back I think that those experiences stuck with me. By the time I started playing in my first band in middle school I was hooked on songwriting and trying to create music other people might want to listen to.
What artists have inspired you the most?
I grew up on a lot of rock and blues – guys like Stevie Ray Vaughan really turned me on to music. In the country world, George Strait’s ability to deliver a lyric and tell a story is probably as good as it gets for me.
There are some really emotional moments and great stories on your debut EP, like “Turning Planes Around” and “Ocean Breezes.” What themes and experiences tend to inspire you when it comes to songwriting?
As a songwriter I often look to real life experiences to kick off an idea, but at the same time I make sure that I don’t force a song to stay true to that real life experience if I think it can be better served taking another direction. I love that about the process – that you can combine real and surreal elements with the goal of creating something that other people can relate to.
Like yourself, more and more country artists are coming out of the north east now. What made you want to make country music? What do you love most about the genre?
I grew up in a small town in upstate New York, and you’d be surprised how much country music gets played there. As a writer, everything I’ve ever wanted to say in my songs can be served so well in the country genre.
How was the experience writing and recording in Nashville?
I actually did the majority of the writing in New York, and when I thought I was just about ready to lay down 5 songs, I decided to do it in Nashville to start to build some experience there. Russell Wolff, who produced the album, was a pleasure to work with, as were the guys from Martina McBride’s touring band who played on it. We got to take our time with the album and pull in the auxiliary pieces (pedal steel, lap steel, fiddle, backing vocals) after the initial recording session.
You perform with your band, The Brothers, how did you guys meet and start playing together?
Tommy McGrath, my big brother, plays bass. Trevor Collins, who graduated high school with my brother, plays lead guitar. They actually played together in a band in high school. Our drummer, Billy Trimarchi, graduated high school with me, and we also played in a band together for years. We all ended up in NYC and the pieces fell together over time as I set out looking to start a country band. It’s pretty great being from the same hometown and getting to play music together again so many years later.
You recently entered a contest with NASH FM and The Prudential Center for an opportunity to open for Rascal Flatts and the Swon Brothers at the Pru onFriday, Oct 10th. Congrats on winning! Tell us a bit about that experience. (How did you find out about it? What made you want to enter? What was the experience like as it was happening?)
We stream from the NASH FM website a lot so when they posted the contest we saw it and entered pretty early on. Fortunately we were able to get a lot of support from our fans, including a huge push from friends and family, throughout the contest. We are extremely grateful that NASH FM is providing these types of opportunities to local up and coming country artists and bands.
How did it feel when you found out you won? What did you do?
When I got the email I immediately texted the guys to let them know to make sure to block the calendars for October 10. There may have been a beer or two involved as well.
For a country artist, opening for Rascal Flatts is a huge opportunity. What are you most looking forward to?
We are just really looking forward to the opportunity to play for so many country fans who haven’t had a chance to hear us yet. The hope is that many of them leave as fans of ours as well. We know Rascal Flatts will fill the house so it should be a great night.
You’ll be performing in front a whole bunch of potential new fans. What do you hope new listeners will take away from your set?
If people connect with some of the songs and want to hear more from us, that would be all we could hope for.
You’ve already had a chance to open for some major stars on the country scene. What performers have you seen that inspire you when it comes to a live show and what is about the way they perform that does so?
Recently we’ve opened up for Frankie Ballard, Will Hoge and Joel Crouse. They are all tremendous performers and can really connect with their audiences. Will Hoge is a guy who has been at it for a long time and I view him as one of the best singer-songwriters and performers around. Everything he sings feels so authentic. He has a truth in his voice that can pull your emotions all over the place.
After the big show with Rascal Flatts, what’s up next for you?
We’ll be keeping the live schedule going and staying on the grind. Beginning in 2015 I’ll be in Nashville quite a bit exploring more opportunities there as well.
Last question, our site is called Jukebox Mixtape, so we’d love to know what your go-to Jukebox song is? Feel free to pick more than one!
I’ll give you one country song and one non-country song. “Drinking Champagne” by George Strait and “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson.
Thanks again to Bobby McGrath for talking to us! Be sure to check out all of his social media links and pick-up a copy of his self-titled debut album on iTunes.
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