Houserockin': Joe Grushecky Discusses His New Album, 'East Of Eden'

Thirty-four years after the release of Love's So Tough, the Iron City Houserockers' debut album, Joe Grushecky — that legendary band's founder, rhythm guitarist and singer — has released a new solo album, East Of Eden.

Throughout his long career, Grushecky has seen countless musical trends come and go. But Grushecky isn’t about chasing trends; he's about writing songs that speak to listeners from all walks of life.

I recently chatted to Grushecky about East Of Eden, his gear and more.

GUITAR WORLD: On this album, you explore many different styles, from folk, blues, R&B, gospel and rock and roll. Was it a conscious decision to experiment with different sounds or something that happened naturally as you wrote the material?

I was lucky enough to grow up in an era where I could hear and see all types of music, from blues to soul, rock and country. All the musicians I admired and played with at the time would do songs from the Beatles to Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, James Brown and Motown. It was all the same. So those influences were always present. They may be a bit more pronounced on this CD. I wanted it to be a diverse collection of songs.

Can you talk about your gear for this album?

I used two old Pete Townshend Schecter Teles from the early '80s, an American Standard Fender Tele tuned to a five-string open G, and a Les Paul. I played through an old Matchless 40-watt and a Trace Elliot Vellocette. I used a Gibson Hummingbird for the acoustic tracks.

Your material has always been very genuine and honest. Can you talk about how you gather ideas for songs like "Prices Going Up" and "Who Cares About Those Kids"?

I gathered ideas for those songs by living them! I get up every day and go to work in the inner-city, teaching special education. I haven’t had a pay raise in a while. Prices going up and I get paid the same!

Was "Still Look Good (For Sixty)" as much fun to perform as it sounds?

Yeah. It’s just one of those songs that puts a smile on your face. I get a laugh every time I sing it.

Your choice to cover "John the Revelator" and "Save the Last Dance for Me" are about as night and day as it gets. Why those songs?

I love both of those songs. I always wanted to record "John the Revelator" the way Son House did — just one man shouting out his blues. “Save the Last Dance” was a song I performed acoustically in a play, “Killer Joe,” here in Pittsburgh. I loved singing it. They are two sides of the same coin to me.

Alice Cooper became famous for singing about school being out, but you've really captured a universal feeling with "The First Day of School." You're a teacher, so the inspiration for the song is obvious. But was there something in particular that inspired you to put pen to paper for this one?

I literally still have vivid memories of my first day of school. My best friend, Jackie, freaked. One day the phrase “Jackie started crying. I guess he misses his mom" popped into my head. The song pretty much wrote itself after that, although I did rewrite the last stanza to include me sitting on the other side of that desk thinking about now I'm the one who has to lay down the rules. Ouch!

After over three decades of making music, what keeps you going?

I love playing. I’m a lifer. I always have music going on inside my head. It’s part and parcel of who I am and how I look at the world. I can't imagine not playing.

For more information about Grushecky, visit East of Eden was released October 8 via Schoolhouse Records.

John Katic is a writer and podcaster who founded the Iron City Rocks Podcast in 2009. It features interviews with countless rock, hard rock, metal and blues artists. In 2013, he started Heavy Metal Bookclub, a podcast and website devoted to hard rock and metal books.

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