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Joe Grushecky"Music has always been a huge part of my life..."
Joe Grushecky -

At the beginning I'd like to thank you for your time. Really, it's a great honor for us. Before we go to the topic of your music career I'd like to ask you about ... your origin. You were born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but your surname indicates that you may have a Polish roots. Is that true? Do you know anything about it? 

My paternal grandfather was Ukrainian  who came to America from Galacia in 1917. My paternal grandmother was an Oblanski. My maternal Grandparents were Serbian (Dosen and Evosovich).

As you admit in one of your previous interviews your father was a coal miner. He was a working man which unfortunately had an impact on his education. He dropped out of school when he was 12. It seems that you didn’t follow in his footsteps. In the music world you are known as the "singing teacher" because over the years you have worked as a special education teacher. How do you remember those times? When did you start your work in this capacity?

My Father was well read and he was always stressing the importance of an education to me because he was basically deprived of his. I went to school at my parent's request. I eventually received a degree in special education and went to work in an institution for the severely mentally disabled. I saved my pay to finance my rock and roll dreams.

I asked about it because you taught retarded people. You've worked with those who are perceived by many as excluded and useless to society. Without a doubt, it wasn’t easy for you. I wonder what are the three most important things that you've learned during this job? Is this experience helped you in your later music career? I'm not asking only about finances but also about the mental, emotional sphere.

Everyone desires a chance at a happy and peaceful life. Everyone is capable of giving and receiving love. No matter how bad things are for you personally, there are those who have it worse than you.

Now tell me about Brick Alley Band. From what I know this group was founded in 1976. Year later you signed your first record contract with Cleveland International Records. Then you changed the name of your band to the Iron City Houserockers. But before that, you were playing in ... bars and such places, right? How exactly was it? Who was the initiator of creating Brick Alley?

The Brick Alley band started playing in 1973 or so. We played a lot of blues. Art was in the band. We played a lot. There was a very healthy music scene at the time with a lot of place to play. You had to play 4 sets a night. Art and I had a dream of recording, so we changed the band to play originals and persuaded a few clubs to let us do our own thing. A huge scene built up around us at a club named the Decade which was near the Universities here in Pittsburgh.

Your first album recorded with the Iron City Houserockers was released in 1979. It was called "Love's So Tough". I wonder what were your expectations for its release? Well, it was quite successful back then. How would you rate it now, from the perspective of all these past years?

The first lp was quite a thrill. It was a dream come true. It was basically our live show and served as a blueprint for what was to follow.

I wonder do you still remember your first stage performance? The moment in which you played your music to a wider audience for the first time? If so, what did you feel back then?

I played Wooly Bully and Gloria. It felt great. Exhilarating. I couldn't wait to do it again. After that, I have been basically with the exception of  a 2 year break in college ever since. from 20,000 people to 10.

In 1984 the band broke up. This took place shortly after you left MCA Records. I heard that you guys were fired because of poor sales of your CDs. That's the rumor, but you know what they say - in every rumor there is a grain of truth. So why did you decide to resolve the band? What has happened with you during that time? Looks like you've had a longer break.

We had members lose heart and quit until we were just a shell of the former band. Art and I decided to disband the Iron City Housrockers. Looking back, I think that if we had been able to stick together with the original band , we would have survived. Some of the member's hearts weren't in it anymore. Art and I went on the reforming the Brick Alley band. We played in clubs a lot.

You have returned in 1989 with a new project - Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers. You've also released your next album called "Rock & Real". Well, you still play together. Could you tell me about your mutual relationships, people who make up this the band with you? I think we owe it to them. They do a really good job.

Art and I have been playing together since 1976. He and Joffo ,our drummer who joined us in 1984, are the heart the pulse of the band.  Joe Pelesky started as a sound man then onto keyboards in 1989.We are like brothers.  Danny Gochnour on guitar and my son Johnny, also guitar, joined us in 2006. We are a family and I love them dearly.

Now I wouldn't be me if I hadn't asked you about Bruce Springsteen. I know you talked about this many times before, but still it's an interesting topic. Bruce was the producer of one of your albums - "American Babylon" released in 1995. How did this happen? When did your friendship start?

Steve Van Zandt helped produce "Have A Good Time.. But Get Out Alive." He turned Bruce onto our music. he came to see us play at Clarence's club back in the early 80s. We have had a close friendship for years.

I remember the words of the legendary singer Prince who once said: "The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can". I'm curious what is your manner, your recipe for longevity in the music industry? I believe you’re the right person to ask this question because you’re a part of this industry for over 30 years now. And you still enjoy the respect and recognition from both critics and audience. So, simply Joe, how do you do it?

I just love to play. I love to write and record. What has sustained me all these years is the love for what I do. When other people appreciate it, well then that is just the icing on the cake.

We spoke about your recordings with The Houserockers but apart from that you also have four solo albums in your music catalog. One of them was released in 2006. It was called “A Good Life”. Tell me, is life was really that "good" for you?

I still have my family, my health, my band, and my music. So yes, life is good.

Your last studio album was released in late 2013. You called it "Somewhere East of Eden". How would you describe this CD? What was your idea for its recording?

I had been recording and recording for about 18 months or so. I was not sure of what I wanted to do. I have a lot os songs I did not use. When I wrote the tile track, the cd came in focus for me. I thank it is one of my better cds.

So, what's next? What are you plans for the coming months? Are you already working on some new material?

I am thinking about it right now. I have an definite idea of what to do next. Right now , we are going to enjoy this cd for a while and play it out live as much as we can.

I’ll be honest with you. For me, your music is the heart and soul duo and your words are the poetry. I believe it was famous percussionist and musicologist Mickey Hart who said: "There's nothing like music to relieve the soul and uplift it". Do you agree with this thesis? What is the role of music in your everyday life?

Music has always been a huge part of my life. My parents love it. I grew up in a home full of music and so have my children. I believe it is the best form of art. It informs my world and it is one of God's greatest gifts to us.

At the end, what are your insights, thoughts when you look at the contemporary music industry? Do you like what you see?

I would like to see more simplicity, more soul, more truth and less show business. A lot of the way music is presented these days is so devoid of meaning. Little in the way of new rock music gets exposed here in the states anymore.

Thank you so much that you agreed to do this interview. It was a real pleasure for me. I'd like to wish you many further successes and happiness in life. Take care.

Journalist: Kamil Mroziński

 
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