MATUNUCK–This Saturday, Sept. 14, everyone’s favorite beach bar, The Ocean Mist, will become Rhode Island’s most happening honky-tonk as Deep Eddy and Batch 19 present the second annual Country Blue Grass BBQ.
Kicking off the festivities will be Lizzy James & The Greystone Rail at 3 p.m., followed by The Pegheads, and Sol Revival. The stellar line-up also includes the Grammy nominated Brian McKenzie, and Hot Day At The Zoo. Boston based Girls Guns & Glory will close the night out with their take on classic country.
Recently, Time Out caught up with GG&G front man Ward Hayden to talk about the upcoming show, life on the road, and how a guy from South Boston developed a deep appreciation for true country music.
Growing up in Scituate, Mass., Hayden’s mother subjected him to country greats like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Charlie Pride, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. “I didn’t care for it in the least,” said the reluctant singer. It wasn’t until Hayden was twenty-years-old and driving a run down Oldsmobile Delta 88 with a working cassette player that he developed a taste for country.
“The thing was a boat and everything that could have gone wrong with it, did. It was the worst car I’ve ever owned, but it did have that tape player,” Hayden said. “The only chance I had to listen to music was to borrow my mom’s tapes, and that really opened up the whole country world to me. Up until that point I had listened to a million and one other things, and nothing had really grabbed me. But, when you get enough life experience and go though enough things, all of a sudden a lot of the themes of country music start making a little more sense. I guess I was just at that place where I was ready to receive country music.”
Hayden said that the day it really hit him was when he was driving that wretched 88 on his way to catch a bus. He was listening to some old Johnny Cash as he parked in the bus lot when “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town” came over the dusty speakers.
“I could not peel myself away,” he said. “I sat there and watched the bus pull up, and I watched it pull away.”
Hayden blew off his duties for the day and continued driving just so he could listen to the tape.
“Everything I had been looking for was in that sound,” he said.
In 2005, Hayden formed GG&G along with three of his high school friends. The idea was just to play one show, but within two weeks the boys entered the studio and began cutting their debut album “Fireworks & Alcohol.” Hayden’s heartbreaking tales of sorrow and loss were sewn in with threads of hope, and set to mostly upbeat, foot-stomping honky-tonk. Media likened his vocal styling to country greats like Lyle Lovett, Charlie Pride, and Hank Williams.
“My voice is actually well-suited to singing country music,” Hayden said. “It has a lot of cracks and breaks in it you know, so, all those warbles and yodels that those guys were doing, my voice actually wanted to do that.”
Dressed to the nines in classic country duds, Hayden is an aficionado and collector of vintage clothing, GG&G took to the bars and clubs of Boston, which at the time were drenched in heavy rock ‘n’ roll. Suffice to say very few live acts even resembled country music. Despite being different, and maybe even because of it, Hayden said that once he got on stage with the band, he had never been more comfortable doing anything else.
Their live performances earned them two Boston Phoenix Roots Act of the Year Awards, along with a Boston Music Awards for Americana Act of the Year, and Act of the Year. They released two more albums (Little Wrecking Ball and Inverted Valentine) to critical acclaim.
GG&G saw a full line up change over the course of 2009 as road weary members dropped off one by one in search of stability. Hayden continued relentlessly touring with a trio of good ole’ boys from Pennsylvania that had made their way to Boston in pursuit of an educations at the city’s many renown music schools, and a ticket to ride. With Chris Hersch on electric guitar, Michael Calabrese on drums, and Paul Zaz Dilley on upright/electric bass GG&G continued relentlessly touring throughout the United States and into Europe where they were named Independent Artist of the Year at the French Country Music Awards.
In 2011, the newly solidified GG&G released “Sweet Nothings,” a rip roaring, highly polished pack of country tunes. Hayden’s trademark vocals saw a deposit from the lower realm of Johnny Cash’s register. The experience and talent of the new band strengthened the structure of the bands sound, adding intricacies and dynamics to both recordings and live performances.
“They’ve shown me so much more about music then I’ve ever picked up on my own,” Hayden said.
GG&G just finished recording their fifth album with producer Eric Gamble in Brooklyn and it is set to release in Europe this October. The still to be titled album will release in the United States this February, but you can check out some of the tunes this Saturday.
“The last time we played the Ocean Mist there was a hurricane rolling through,” Hayden recalled. “The water was stormy and angry, the energy was crazy. That show was wild.”
For more information about the BBQ Bluegrass Country Fest go to www.oceanmist.net .