JJ Grey & Mofro fans in Atlanta make sure you are camera ready. Tonight the band will film their first live DVD at Variety Playhouse. Tickets for the show are sold out, but if you go to the box office and wait around you might get lucky.
The idea for the DVD was born just a few weeks ago when JJ Grey was trying to figure out a video idea for the group’s new single “Hide and Seek.”
“Spooky [the director for the DVD] said ‘let’s shoot a live DVD.’I looked at the calendar and saw Variety Playhouse in Atlanta and that was it. I gave it to Spooky and my manager and they just made it happen,” JJ explains during a phone conversation a day before the concert.
Variety Playhouse may have been convenient on the tour calendar, but JJ says he’s always enjoyed the Atlanta venue from the stage and from the audience.
“Anytime we’ve ever played it I’ve loved it. It’s a great room. The crowd response has been great. We’ve played other places in Atlanta that have been wonderful too, but that place has good music to it,” says JJ. “I have seen other shows there that I’ve liked as well.”
“I like the room and it sounds really good on stage which is a huge thing. You always want it to sound great for the band and trust that it does out front. [At Variety] it’s like you have headphones on listening to your favorite record.”
Since JJ Grey & Mofro are recording a DVD tonight this won’t be like every other date on the tour. There will still be an emphasis on their most recent album, Georgia Warhorse, which was released in 2010 but expect some deep tracks from other albums too.
JJ Grey started his musical journey back in 2001 as Mofro. In 2006, the name change JJ Grey & Mofro came about after a friend asked him why he didn’t include his name.
“She knew what the lyrics were and all the stories and it just hit home,” JJ says. “She asked me if I was embarrassed of my family. It was so out of the blue, ‘I was like what the hell’. Basically she said ‘You sing about your grandfather’s last conversation on earth in a song, and you sing about your best friend dying from oxycontin and you call it Mofro, ‘what the hell is Mofro? It’s like your hiding, ashamed.’
“I’m not ashamed. I’m not hiding – maybe I was, I don’t know but it kind of hit me. When you write an autobiography you don’t sign it Mickey Mouse, you don’t sign it Donald duck – you sign it with your name you don’t put a phony name on it, I guess you could – I don’t know.
“Mofro was just a name to describe the sound, a southern, swampy, bluesy, rocky, country, healing at times sound that I wanted to do, it wasn’t like a band.”
Over the years members of Mofro have come and gone, around 50 people according to JJ’s recent count. “Not everyone wants to be on the road 200 days a year,” he explains.
To help give members a rest JJ goes on solo tours once and awhile. In late February through March, he will play 16 dates solo. Then JJ will meet back up with Anthony Cole (drums), Art Edmaiston (saxophone), Anthony Farrell (organ), Dennis Marion (trumpet), Todd Smallie (bass) and Andrew Trube (guitar) to resume their tour which includes a few opening dates for Widespread Panic.
As long as he gets to play music and enjoy what he’s doing, JJ says he is in for the long haul.
“We all know there’s no retirement and that’s fine.” he says. “You keep sanity by mixing things up; bringing it home with you; not buying into that idea that you are special or that you suck – don’t buy into any of that stuff – just try to keep things moving and be able to take time off.
“When I started I was the tour manager, booking agent, driver, loader…and slept 2 or 3 hours a night for a few years and it almost killed me. I don’t regret any of it and I wouldn’t change a thing; it taught me a lot about how hard it is.
“I have no goal or aspirations of being a big music act playing in coliseums, if it got there that’s fine but that’s not what I’m after. All that matters is that when you get in front of an audience you get to let go and they get to let go.”
Be prepared to let go and throw down tonight as JJ Grey & Mofro put on a performance worth reliving. The DVD is expected to be released sometime this year.
For more info: Follow me on Twitter @djsarahspin and visit the JJ Grey & Mofro website.