“I’m a singer-songwriter with alt-country leanings but a punk-rock spirit,” says acoustic troubadour Drew Douglas, aka Grampadrew. “Think John Prine and Neil Young jamming at a sawdust-floor hoedown with Wilco.”
"Grampadrew began as a screen name when I worked as a chat moderator for Napster servers. Actually, for their open-nap server equivalents, who were run, DIY style, from people's bedrooms all across the world. It was that experience, and the revolutionary free exchange of music through mp3s that reignited my passion for playing music. The concept of direct distribution, without major record labels, lured me back into performing and recording, which I had turned my back on for nearly 10 years."
"In the spirit of that free exchange, and the idealism and promise that, unlike Metallica and the RIAA, I would always allow people to access my music and trade it as they see fit, I will be giving away my entire record in MP3 format."
The South Park resident cut his teeth performing at the nearby Whistle Stop on Fern Street. “Sam, the owner, is fantastic about supporting and nurturing the local scene, so they pretty much put South Park on the map with the arts. And I mean no disrespect to Judy [Forman] the Beauty on Duty, the proprietor of the Big Kitchen, who worked tirelessly for decades to better our community...pretty much alone.”
Douglas took a shot at forming a local-based record label, mainly for his own releases, though he found the music biz still clinging desperately to the near-obsolete major-label model of A&R “discovery and development.” “I was sitting at a lunch counter at LAX on my way to Austin for South by Southwest, and my label at that point was just a website and a fancy business card. To my right is Jeff Buckley’s mom, on the phone with the president of Sony Records negotiating the release of her son’s box set. Between phone calls, she asks for my fancy business card and insists I call her Mary.
“On the flight, Mary tells me about a show I have to go to. When I arrive at the gig, she isn’t there, but everyone keeps staring at me and clapping with suspicious enthusiasm, all the while looking back at me and smiling and nodding. Finally, [Buckley’s former] manager walks up to me and says, ‘Mary told us you were coming’ and starts pitching his band to me like I’m the head of Capitol Records. I handed out my fancy business card, waited until nobody was looking, and slipped out as quietly and inconspicuously as possible.”
Grampadrew was nominated Best Alt Country and Best Songwriter at the 2008 San Diego HAT (Honoring Acoustic Talent) Awards. While recording his 2009 album Cut From the Cloth, he posted podcast progress reports on his website.
As for nonmusical endeavors, he says “I’m a registered reverend who’s performed five weddings and a funeral. That’s one more than the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. So far.”
Asked about his strangest gig, he says “I have a song called Ian Curtis, and it’s about a musician crying out for help, asking anybody to hear his voice, while nobody around him seems to notice. Ian Curtis was the singer for Joy Division and he killed himself at the height of their popularity. So it’s a heavy song and not particularly upbeat. Right as we started to play it, two girls hopped onstage about three feet away from me and started having a loud conversation about some absurd and trivial drama in their lives. I turned my microphone to face them, took another step closer, and sang directly at them for the entire song.”
“They were wholly oblivious, as I literally sang the lyrics 'The more I sing, the less you seem to care, as I throw all this shit out in the air.' All this, just a few feet from their faces, onstage in front of a room full of people. It was surreal and almost felt like performance art. It fueled my performance as I was filled with equal parts frustration and delight at the irony of it all. I considered hiring them for future gigs, but they didn’t seem like the most reliable performers.”