Many musicians write songs about the places they visit while on the road.
In the true spirit of rambling roots, Nate Waggoner — frontman of the fantastically named Americana outfit Grizzly Goat — has made it his mission to write a song for every state in the U.S.
“Traveling to new places all across the country and having experiences in those places was so thrilling that I just kept writing songs about places,” the musician said in an email ahead of the band’s performance at Fifth & Federal Station on Saturday. “At a certain point, it just made sense to have the resolution to write a song for every state.”
So far, the band — which was founded in Las Vegas in 2013 and moved to Provo, Utah, a year later — has sung about 16 states.
A few of the tracks, including one about Virginia, can be heard on the band’s most recent album, “Burning the Prairie.” Provo music magazine “Reach Provo” praised the album for its “thought-provoking lyrics” and “composition complexity” that included “a whole lotta banjo.”
Frequent stops in the Commonwealth have helped make the band a favorite of Fifth & Federal, which has brought the group to Lynchburg three times over the past year and a half.
"Because of them being bluegrass, and since bluegrass was sort of created in this area on the Piedmont and Appalachians and stuff, they have a really strong love of our region,” said Josh Read, co-owner of the barbeque joint.
Listeners can hear the classic bluegrass roots synonymous with the region as the band fuses it with newgrass and psychedelics.
“You know, wah-wah pedals on a fiddle or wha-wha pedals on a banjo is basically unheard of,” said Read. “But these guys are doing it. It's really special.”
In an interview ahead of their set, Waggoner talked about the campfire quality of the band’s music, state songs and why they release new albums so quickly.
I hear a distinct bluegrass element when I listen to your music. And then you drop some straight-up electric riffs and confuse the hell out of me. How would you describe your sound?
“I can totally see that. We love folk music, but we don’t feel limited by it. Whenever we feel like a song could use some rock ‘n’ roll, we don’t hesitate to throw it in.”
There's an almost campfire-esque feel to your harmonies and storytelling. Where do you think that energy comes from?
“While some of our songs are written and practiced around the campfire, I think what’s going on is that both campfire songs and our music come from the same place. We try our best to be honest, to lose any ego or façade. We want to just communicate person to person, the same way you do around a campfire with your pals. Also, there’s not much trickery or effects to our songs. If a song doesn’t work around a campfire, it’s not likely we’d play it live.”
Which states have you covered so far?
“We’ve got songs for 16 different states, though not all of those are recorded. Additionally, since we spend a lot of time in the same states, we’ve started naming songs after regions and cities such as ‘Southern Indiana’ or ‘Paducah, KY.’ Kentucky holds the record with mention in six Grizzly Goat songs.”
Can you talk about your track for Virginia, aptly called "Virginia."
“‘Virginia’ is actually one of our first state songs. I originally wrote the song as very sappy, heart-on-sleeve, puppy-love sort of folk ballad back in 2010. I had a long way to go in terms of songwriting and have since made efforts to make sure no one ever hears this early version of the song. Years later, Ben [Gibson], the other co-founder of Grizzly, said he liked the melody of the song and suggested I rewrite some lyrics.
“On our 2017 and 2018 tours, while hiking and camping in Virginia, we took along our cameras and shot a music video for the song. It’s made up entirely of nature shots.”
Grizzly Goat released a new album, “Burning the Prairie,” last year. What's the story you're telling on this record?
“As far as narrative, there are some real themes on it. Nature and preservation of wilderness is a pretty obvious topic you’ll find. Forgiveness, girls, of course, mortality, God, refugees, and geography all come up too.
“You’ll encounter a few bold statements on it, statements that have taken a while to be confident enough to make through song. I won’t give those away, you’ll just have to listen to it.”
You also put out a new single last month. Does that mean a new album is in the works?
“Yes. Making an album is such a long, taxing endeavor but we can’t stop making them. Every time we make one, my wife asks, ‘So you’re done recording for a while, right?’ to which I respond ‘Oh yeah, we won’t need to make another album for a long time.’
“Three months later, we already have more than enough songs for a new one and we get started. We’re more than halfway done on this new one. However, we’re in no rush to release it. Instead, we’re planning on releasing a few more singles while we perfect the new album.”