Joe Gregory is J GRGRY, but J GRGRY isn’t Joe Gregory. Let me explain.
As a recording and performing artist, Joe Gregory resides at the intersection of tradition and evolution. After half a lifetime spent making music, he’s finally realized his grand vision, perfecting an emotional, accessible style of soaring electro-pop balladry. With a new collection of songs, a new band and a handful of major performances on the horizon, Gregory is simultaneously starting over and staking his claim, building from hard-fought experiences and copious influences a sound that’s completely fresh and entirely his own.
Gregory signed his first recording contract at 17 years old as a member of Dolour, an indie-pop act that exploded out of Seattle’s post-grunge hayday. Hearing his songs on the radio at that young age, he was hooked: Music was to be his everything. His intense dedication has carried him through countless phases of artistic exploration and just as many hardships, personal and professional.
While still a teenager, solo ambitions took Gregory to Sacramento, CA, where he immersed in the local scene, running an underground venue and finding an ally in Jonathan Davis of Korn. With Dolour, he’d witnessed the major-label showcase machinery of Los Angeles, which he rejected by signing to Davis’ Elementary Records label. He recorded an album on Davis’ bus while Korn toured the US, but reshuffling at Geffen, Elementary’s parent company, derailed what would’ve been his first solo album. A year later he landed a deal with
Hollywood Records, but his band balked at the contract and split. Pulse Records, a division of Downtown, put him in the studio with Josh Abraham, who’d produced Pink and Weezer, but those tapes were shelved due to funding problems at the label.
All told, Gregory endured nine years of industry runaround before he turned 30—and owned no recordings to show for it. No surprise he took to numbing his disappointment with drugs and alcohol. Out of answers and desperate for resolution, he bought a one-way ticket to Italy, where he spent months on the streets of Liguria and Naples, running with other homeless kids, sleeping in train stations and churches, determined to abandon music altogether. He was as far from home, physically and metaphorically, as he’d ever been.
A death in the family summoned him back to Seattle. He was shocked into reality—and sobriety, a big change after downing a fifth of Jack Daniels every day for a decade. Gregory realized that after so much struggle it would be an injustice to throw in the towel on his dream. He had more music in him. And also: fuck major labels.
A chance encounter in South Seattle brought Gregory together with an old friend, Robert Cheek, who played guitar during Gregory’s showcasing days and, more recently, had engineered albums by Band of Horses, Deftones and dozens of other great artists. As it turned out they lived a few houses from each other. Brothers in arms, they were grateful to reunite.
In the fall of 2015, Gregory spent a week recording at Panoramic Studios in Stinson Beach, California, a laid-back and state-of-the art facility, and another week Cheek’s studio inside an old Sonic Boom Records store in Seattle. The strength of Gregory’s songs convinced Mark Needham, a veteran of the Los Angeles rock scene who’s worked with Steely Dan and the Killers, to engineer. These nine songs that make up the new EP, GOLD TEETH + GLASS EYES, define Joe Gregory in the present moment. They echo with the Linn-drum-and-synthesizer songcraft of ’80s hitmakers like Peter Gabriel, Depeche Mode and Phil Collins, spun anew for an iPhone generation, infused equally with dark ambiance and hummable hooks.
For his recent breakout performances in Seattle, New York and Los Angeles, as well as a handful of major festival and showcase gigs, Gregory has drawn together a full band of compatriots. Cheek is on-board, as is powerhouse Seattle guitarist Ryan Leyva. Like Gregory, each of these players is a veteran of the industry, relentless in their drive to create and share their music. To reflect their contribution to Gregory’s vision and the collective effort of four equal individuals, the band performs under the moniker J GRGRY. Less Joe Gregory, more of everyone else.
As personal as J GRGRY’s music is, dredged from the heartbreak and desperation of Joe Gregory’s past, these songs are also universal, the hallmark of great writing. One after another, they speak to challenge and triumph, addiction and redemption. It’s the same all-too-human cycle that has brought J GRGRY, together with their audience, to the here and now.