Nashville songwriter Jonny Fritz’s work ethic and boldness have paid off in spades. It’s been a big year for Jonny, with opening stints for Alabama Shakes, Deer Tick, Dawes, Shooter Jennings and rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson and kudos from CMT and Rolling Stone, among many others. He’s signed a deal with indie label ATO Records (he actually signed the deal with gravy at Nashville landmark Arnold's Country Kitchen), and his third full-length album, Dad Country, is set for release on April 16, 2013. Produced by Jonny and Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, recorded at Jackson Browne’s Los Angeles studio and finished up in Music City, USA, this is a breakthrough album, balancing Fritz’s earthy trademark humor and unfiltered worldview with some of his darkest material to date. The album has a Nashville sound kept aloft on a sure Southern Californian wind, no doubt from the influence of his backing band: Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, Tay Strathairn and Wylie Gelber of Dawes, Jackson Browne, and his Nashville band of Spencer Cullum Jr, Joshua Hedley, Taylor Zachry and Jerry Pentecost. Dad Country is also his first release under his real name, Fritz, with Jonny ditching the “Corndawg” moniker he’d carried since his early teens. Now a music veteran with a decade of touring under his belt, he’s grown into an accomplished, mature voice in country music. Says co-producer Goldsmith, "Funny as they can be at moments, his songs access realities and experiences that we’re all familiar with but sometimes fail to consider the depths of. I was really honored to work on the record. We tracked for two days and arranged the songs on the spot. Everyone really responded to each other's ideas and the whole experience was really inspiring and easy. I chalk it up to the quality of Jonny's songs on this record." After nearly a decade spent on the road (since his late teens), it was well-earned luck that brought Jonny together with dream team that would bring Dad Country to life – including none other than Jackson Browne. Originally scheduled to record at another Los Angeles studio, Jonny and co-producer Taylor Goldsmith were left scrambling for a backup plan when their original producer flaked. As it happened, they were playing a show in Hollywood that week and Browne was in attendance. After the show, Browne approached Jonny and, learning of their troubles, generously offered up his studio. Just three weeks later, they were all holed up at Browne’s, recording the new record. Fritz and Goldsmith had rehearsed most the songs together, but the rest of the band had to learn them run-and-gun style in the studio, nailing many of the songs on the first time ever playing them together. In just four days, they pounded out 14 tracks in one long, inspired rush and this excitement pervades the results. “It was really spontaneous,” Fritz says. “We just pulled it out of our proverbial asses as we went along.” Fritz later re-recorded two of the songs that had evolved significantly on the road since the studio session – the Red Simpson-esque “Fever Dreams” and down-home lament “Ain’t It Your Birthday” – using his own band back in Nashville. With these, the record was ready and dead-on with Jonny’s vision of Dad Country. Like his songwriting heroes Tom T. Hall, Michael Hurley, Roger Miller and Clint Black, Jonny can turn phrases 'til you’re dizzy, all while plucking your heartstrings or capturing a sharp, lonesome vulnerability that never seems lost or brooding. For Jonny Fritz is no tear-in-the-beer sap moaning over his lost love and troubles. He’d rather cry running marathons than sitting on a barstool. Rather than Outlaw Country, he prefers we think of him as “someone’s weird Dad” and a musician of his own bent. He writes his every song with that deep country-music impulse to turn real experience into lyrical form. Born in Montana and raised in Virginia, Jonny grew up in the middle of mountains and weirdos of every allegiance, developing a blind man’s ear for the slightest turn in a tale or human voice. He dropped out of school and left home early, totally undaunted, and toured the country on his motorcycle, selling just enough music to keep his freedom and stay ahead of bitterness. “If I could sell three CDs a night, I would have enough for gas and to make it to the next town.” Cramming six lifetimes into six years and collecting triumphs and heartaches every corner of the globe, he eventually wound his way toward Tennessee. "Not because I wanted to break in over on Music Row and 'make it,' because I knew I didn't really belong there," he says. "I wanted to learn the ways of country music ... to get my education in this cool old world that exists only in Nashville." While immersing himself in the music world, Jonny began running marathons from Philadelphia to Barcelona and pounding out his signature leather works- the dog collars and guitar straps- seen all over Nashville and half the musical universe. He found himself in NYC for year trying to save a relationship, and its slow, painful unraveling (and demise) inspired Dad Country's bleakest, heartrending tracks, including "All We Do Is Complain" and "Have You Ever Wanted to Die." These days, life has never been better for Jonny Fritz. He's back in Nashville again and putting down roots- and has even gone and bought himself a house. "It just keeps getting better. Now, the band is getting paid, I'm getting paid, everybody's happy, and we're packing 'em in when we play." "This is the dream life. I couldn't really ask for anything else."
SNAKEARM, (formerly known as RESTAVRANT)
The story of SNAKEARM, per Troy Murrah:
"I gave myself the name 'Restavrant' as a one-man band years ago, never thinking it would stick with me for 8 years. It was a joke--mocking the idea of giving my band a name--especially a one-man band. It was kinda like Duchamp's "urinal" being coined art. I was coining my band restaurant and spelling it with a "v"...hmm just cause of my appreciation of Roman history. I didn't think a live show was on the horizon... just house parties and street corners. Then, a drummer got involved and people started asking to book us. I tried to change the name at this point, but the venues and the label we had signed with said it was too late. "People already know you for that dumb name." Our whole approach to playing music was a kind of "fuck it" attitude. "Let's create a party...at least for ourselves." We were seeing a lot of boring live shows at the time. We aimed for the opposite. Now, 8 or more years later, that drummer has moved on and my approach to music making has slightly changed. Tyler (the drummer that has been with me the past four years) and I still bring as much energy to live shows as possible, but the "fuck it" attitude is not as overboard... just wiser. Now, there is a goal to create music with integrity. We care way too much about what we make for any of our songs to be unsubstantial. Every song will be substantial. They will all have a place... make you dance, make you pissed, make you cry, make you laugh... you will feel something, might even hate it...
Now, along with the slight attitude change, comes the name change. 'Snakearm'... One of the new songs we have is called "Snakearms"... with an 's'. I wrote the song combining bits of my 'sketchy' past along with stories of my good friend's 'troubled' past. Throughout my twenties I lived in an area where I definitely was the only gringo I'd see for weeks. I became good friends with a dude that was still involved in that hood's gang. He was too smart for it and knew it. He had an old stereotypical jailhouse tattoo of a crudely inked in snake on a dagger. He was then given the name 'Snakearms'... There were a bunch of bad nicknames in the midst of this "tribe"... 'Sports' (he liked sports), 'Joker' (he was funny and always playing practical jokes), ETC... Coincidentally, this was at the same time I gave myself the one-man band name 'Restavrant'... Anyway, 'Snakearms' was done and wanted a change. I did what I could to give him work whenever possible, learn a bit of carpentry, make better decisions--ones you won't regret while sitting in jail. All of this is inspiration for the track "This is It". Eventually, he turned his life around, got a job doing maintenance for the school district, got married, and had two beautiful kids. He still hung out with the old crew, but didn't "run" with them anymore--no more nightly regrets. I still would hang out with these guys too; just have some beers, BBQ, and help out with organizing funeral fundraisers for any of their fallen... All was good until "SA" / 'Snakearms' was chillin with the "old guard" at the wrong place and wrong time. He got hit with drive-by 'overspray'. He managed to make it up the hill to his house and motion to his wife through the kitchen window to open the back door. He made it into her arms, but there he died.
The band name SNAKEARM is there in remembrance of my good friend. The lessons learned from his story are obvious ones, however, sometimes a real-life reminder keeps you in check. I keep this in mind with everything--with my music making, my art, my work, my family, my wife, and now my new baby... Create things that are crucial and spend my life doing things that are substantial to me...cause it can all be taken away in an instant."