|photo by Brett Beckman|
For Champion, the success comes after a lot of hard work. He started singing in the church choir as a youth, and tried his hand at boxing and as a DJ before becoming a rap artist. He gravitated to the blues in the mid 90's, recording a pair of well-received albums for Shanachie Records in the late 90's and early 00's.
In recent years, he has enjoyed success on his own GSM (Grady Shady Music) label, particularly with his 2011 release, Dreamin', and the hit, "Make That Monkey Jump." He even won the International Blues Challenge in 2010. He is rapidly building a big audience who loves his unique downhome songwriting and his charismatic performances, and Malaco Records president Tommy Couch, Jr. says, "Grady Champion will be the next major blues act."
I've been listening to Champion since his Shanachie days and one thing you can say about him is that he brings his A-Game to everything he does. You know when you're seeing him that you're getting his dead-level best as a performer and a recording artist. Champion was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer Ten Questions for FBF. We are grateful that he took the time to do so. After reading, be sure to check out some of his great music by following the links below. If you're a blues fan of any kind, you will be glad that you did.
Ten Questions With.....Grady Champion
|photo by Laura Carbone|
If you weren't a musician, what do you think you would be doing instead?
If I wasn't a musician I would be running my own business in some form or fashion.
You came to the blues through rap music…….how do you think that your musical background affects your vision of the blues?
It helps me to become a better writer and story teller.
Who are some of your musical influences as a singer and musician? As a songwriter?
My influences as a singer and musician come from all of the traditional blues singers of the past. My influence as a songwriter comes from Sonny Boy Willamson (Rice Miller).
Can you describe your songwriting process for us?
You have largely been associated with smaller independent record labels (your own Grady Shady, Shanachie, Earwig, etc.) throughout your career, but you recently signed with Malaco Records…….Has it been a good fit for you? What factors made you decide to sign with them?
Yes, it has been a great fit, with their rich history of being a strong major independent label and the success of the artist that have signed with them.
You've done most of your own production on your recent albums, but this time around you worked with a producer (Tommy Couch, Jr.)……was it a big change for you and how much give-and-take was there between the two of you regarding songs and music?
No, it was not a big change for me because I have worked with producers in the past, like Zac Harmon on my album Dreamin’. Just as with this album, we were able to work together to come up with what was best for this album.
Can you tell us about a few of the songs on your new album,Bootleg Whiskey?
You recently launched DeChamp Records and have released a pair of great albums from Eddie Cotton and J.J. Thames…….what are your future plans with the label, and why did you opt to do your own recordings for Malaco instead of DeChamp?
My future plan is to build a label that can focus on great artists and obtain some major distribution for the label to help spread the music of the artists and the blues. I felt stronger to use Malaco for my personal recording to allow another outlook of promotion and advancement of my own music.
You have been called “the next major blues act”………how does that make you feel?
It makes me feel great because people are respecting my music talent as well as my entertainment talent.
What do you think the blues will look like in ten years?
Bootleg Whiskey (2014): Malaco Records
Tough Times Don't Last (2012): Grady Shady Music
Shanachie Days (2012): Grady Shady Music (Compilation of his Shanachie recordings)
Dreamin' (2011): Grady Shady Music
Back in Mississippi Live at the 930 Blues Cafe (Featuring Eddie Cotton, Jr.) (2008): Earwig Records/Grady Shady Music
2 Days Short of a Week (2001): Shanachie Records
Payin' For My Sins (1999): Shanachie Records
Goin' Back Home (1998): Grady Shady Music