He’s got a quintessential Texas attitude – work hard, think big, don’t let anyone fence the music in.
Grant Gilbert is a young, hustling front man for a five-piece band, an ensemble that embodies the spirit of the Lubbock musicians who’ve preceded it. Like Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Josh Abbott Band and Dixie Chicks, Gilbert is ostensibly country, but really so much more. Classic rock, the blues, Southern rock and – yes, country – are all ingrained in an energetic, powerful package that’s become a major part of the club circuit.
That spirit is evident in Gilbert’s forthcoming EP, an intense musical workout that mirrors his band’s college-town beginnings. “Held On To” features Gilbert’s scrappy vocals atop power chords in a track awash with mystery. “Denying Desires” houses a tortured, pleading storyline within a smoky ‘80s power-pop groove. And “Hub City Shakedown” cradles a snarling, fuzzy guitar solo inside a blues/rock setting with all the passion of the late Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues.”
Gilbert and his crew – guitarists Dylan Price and Morgan Baker, bass player Dakota Merida and drummer Gunner Driver – have made a mark with public audiences and inside the music business, too. Josh Abbott, whose own band has racked up a series of Top 10 country albums in Billboard, signed up to manage Gilbert in tandem with Triple 8 Management, a firm that already represents such disparate acts as Texas-bred country/rock group Eli Young Band, mainstream-country singer Scotty McCreery and Iceland indie rockers KALEO. William Morris Endeavor added Gilbert to its concert-booking roster.
Raised in Santo, Texas, Gilbert played his first date at age 16 at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop in Mineral Wells. That single experience gave Gilbert the music bug. He started booking shows in clubs, restaurants and coffee shops from Abilene to Fort Worth, doing at least one show almost every weekend since that inaugural Fuzzy’s performance. That also motivated Gilbert to start writing songs with abandon, building enough of his own material to fill out two-hour shows.
Once they enrolled at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Gilbert and Price started showing up at open-mic nights at the Blue Light, a rowdy club that became a proving ground for some of Gilbert’s heroes. Over the next three years, the duo grew into a full-fledged band. Gilbert caught Abbott’s ear during a writing session, leading to their artist/manager relationship. With Abbott’s guidance, Gilbert turned to Austin-based producer Dwight Baker (Josh Abbott Band, Missio) to record the new project, which his growing audience has been demanding since Gilbert first hinted it was coming. It also gives them new music to take back out on the road.
“All we want to do is just work hard, grind and earn everything we get,” he says. “We don't want to be in boxed in by anything.”