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Grandpa's Cough Medicine: "I Wouldn't Call It Luck. More Like Our Hard Work Paying Off"

Thanks to Brett Bass for taking the time to answer although the guys are touring like mad at the moment. Published August 03 2014.

  by Mario

Grandpa's Cough Medicine have been the music category winners at One Spark in Jacksonville this year. I talked to Brett Bass about their One Spark experience and what they'd recommend One Spark Berlin participators ...

50K MUSIC: Grandpa's Cough Medicine is a quite unusual name for a band? Who had the idea and where does it come from?
Brett: It was my idea, I started the band. My grandpa used to give me whiskey, honey and lemon if I got sick as a child before bed, wrapping me in blankets to make me "sweat it out". I thought it would make a good name for a hillbilly band.

50K MUSIC: And who are the guys behind Grandpa's Cough Medicine?
Brett: I'm Brett Bass and it is my brainchild, I play guitar, sing and write a large percentage of the material. We're completely independent, so I also manage and book the band. But I couldn't do it without Jon Murphy who plays bass, sings and also writes songs and Mike Coker who plays banjo.

50K MUSIC: What are your (musical) roots? Where do you get your musical inspiration from?
Brett: Brett Bass – Guitar, Dobro, Vocals - is the founding member of GCM, Brett Bass was inspired to play guitar at age 11 when he heard the guitar solo in Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train. He immersed himself into the world of heavy metal electric guitar playing, practicing for hours a day. It was at age 17 that he was bitten by the acoustic bug, hearing how bluegrass pickers were just as fast and technical as his favorite metal players. He began learning how to sing and play Johnny Cash songs, as well as how to pick bluegrass fiddle tunes. The first songs he ever wrote (Many of which are on Jailbird Blues) came out in the Country/Bluegrass style, so he ran with it. The playing of his favorite Bluegrass flat pickers, such as: Doc Watson, Bryan Sutton and Larry Keel became his new guitar inspiration, absorbing their styles through albums and instructional DVDs. Brett’s pickin’ buddies call him “Turbo” and his songwriting reflects the influence of the decidedly darker subject matter found in heavy metal music.

Mike “Banjo Boy” Coker – Banjo - had a revelation at age 11, when he heard banjo legend Earl Scruggs playing the theme to “The Beverly Hillbillies” on TV. He told his father that day, that he wanted to play the banjo. He received his first 5-string and began taking lessons in traditional, Scruggs style banjo. He played in a youth band for several years and fatefully ran into Brett one day at a bluegrass jam. They began jamming, collaborating and writing songs, until he was brought into the band. Mikey’s stellar playing and youth earned him the nickname “Banjo Boy”. Mikey’s presence in the band greatly influenced GCM’s playing, causing them to go faster than ever before.

Jon Murphy – Upright Bass, Vocals - graduated from the University of Arizona, with a minor in music. His musical experience includes playing cello as a teenager, singing in the Tuscon Opera, playing guitar and bass in several different types of bands and he’s released a solo folk album independently. One day he answered a craigslist ad that said “Outlaw country band seeking members” and after one practice, joined GCM. Originally he played electric bass. As the band started heading more and more towards bluegrass, he bought an upright and taught himself to play it. He has put the time and dedication into being a rock solid bluegrass bassist, singer and songwriter.

50K MUSIC: You were among the creators at this year's One Spark Festival in Jacksonville. What were your reasons to take part?
Brett: We saw it as a good opportunity to make money to fund our third record and were confident we could impress people enough to vote for us as the only Bluegrass band in the competition.

50K MUSIC: Please tell us about this special crowdfunding experience. How did you convince people to pledge for your project?
Brett: Well, to start we are somewhat against the idea of crowdfunding in it's most common forms, mainly things like Kickstarter. I don't think there's a whole lot of artistic integrity in just asking your fans for money. I see it as no one's responsibility but my own to fund my artistic ideas and goals. One Spark gave us the opportunity to WIN money as opposed to asking for it. No one was asked to pledge money to us, merely to vote for us based on the merits of our music. We had close to double the amount of votes as the 2nd place winner. My logic was that if One Spark was giving away money to musicians, it may as well be me.

50K MUSIC: What have you raised funds for at One Spark?
Brett: To fund our third record, which we'll be recording with Grammy winning Bluegrass producer Randy Kohrs in Nashville, TN in September.

50K MUSIC: At the end of the festival you were the lucky winners in One Spark Music category. How did this feel like?
Brett: We won by a landslide in our category, so I wouldn't call it luck. More like our hard work paying off. We played 25 sets, totaling around 19 hours of music over the course of the festival, more than any other band. It felt really great to hear them call our name in the first place spot. I yelled at the top of my lungs. The giant check for $11,500+ didn't hurt either.

50K MUSIC: How has the One Spark participation influenced your music or rather your musical career?
Brett: Outside of the sense of pride that goes along with winning and being able to fund our next record at no cost to ourselves, it hasn't.

50K MUSIC: What would you recommend musicians who are going to take part at One Spark Berlin?
Brett: Play as much as you possibly can and set yourself up in a high traffic area. It's a numbers game. The more people you play in front of, the more votes you'll get.

50K MUSIC: Back to the music, what are your plans for the next few months?
Brett: We're currently on tour, and will be for another several weeks. We're recording the 2nd week of September and are just playing as much as we can. All our performance dates can be found on outlawbluegrass.com.