by by Kelly Savage
Soulful blues meets swamp rock when JJ Grey grabs the microphone and starts to sing. Unlike most musicians, he manages to create his own genre of music. The New York Times called JJ Grey and his band MOFRO a “limber swamp-funk outfit from Jacksonville, Florida.” However you describe him, you cannot deny his storytelling abilities and the love he has for wild Florida. Songs like ‘Country Ghetto’ and ‘Lochloosa’ emit a deep connection with a part of our beautiful state most of us have forgotten about.
JJ’s most recent project, Brighter Days, a documentary DVD, pairs JJ’s music from a live show with footage of him in the place where he grew up and the places he loves. The film reminds us to connect with our roots. For JJ, that is the wild places of Florida. EU asked him about that connection, his playlist and on-road cravings.
EU: What do you want your children to love and remember about Florida?
JJ: I want them to sit still in it all and soak it in. To go where the water is dead glass and quiet and the birds call. And I want them to know which way north, south, east and west is. [Wild Florida] makes the world we all create go away and the real world that we didn’t create shuts us up and shines through.
EU: What is your favorite local park?
JJ: Being a surfer, I have two favorites: Talbot Island and the Jetties. Both offer different, but just as fun, surfing opportunities.
EU: What are you currently listening to?
JJ: – Wilson Pickett, especially his version of “Hey Joe.”
– A Spanish opera song that is so beautiful it makes the woods more beautiful.
– Always Otis Redding. He would have been 70 years old at the beginning of September. I was at a show in San Francisco and played one of his songs. It was a special night.
JJ misses more than the local flora and fauna when he goes on the road. Though he can cook shrimp n’ grits, when away he craves food from local eatery Chowder Ted’s.
When asked what made him want to create a live performance with a mini documentary for Brighter Days, Grey says that the idea came from filmmaker Spookie Daly. After Daly approached him, they shot footage at Cross Creek, later adding a live Atlanta performance. Says Grey, “We wanted to show the connection with music to the land… and hope it moves people. I think we should all appreciate where we are from. Wherever you live, come back to the beauty of your area and experience it like you haven’t experienced it before.”
Brighter Days is a two-disc set that includes a full-length movie and a long-awaited live album. It is available for purchase at www.merchlackey.com/mofro. JJ Grey and MOFRO will be appearing at Mavericks Honky Tonk on December 29th to kick off your New Year’s celebrations.