Farm Hands: Tyler grant, Adrian Engfer, Sean Foley and Chris Misner. Courtesy of Grant Farm
Lyons locals Grant Farm lay down electric grooves that are redefining the Colorado music scene.
Tyler Grant has put together a serious trophy case for his flat-picking acoustic guitar prowess. His past awards include top honors at Rockygrass, Winfield and the Doc Watson Guitar Championship at Merlefest. How ironic, then, that he’s now fronting one of Colorado’s most dynamic new electric rock bands, Grant Farm. The four-piece group delivers dance-friendly vintage psychedelic country romps, often reminiscent of the Grateful Dead’s late ‘70s heyday.
“It ranges all the way from jam band to purely traditional and everything in between,” Grant explains. “Ultimately we’re trying to create our own recognizable sound and pave our own path using these influences. In some ways we’re just about bringing a party. People want to have a good time right now, and I feel like this music spreads positive energy.”
Grant’s road to the fertile Front Range music scene was long and indirect. He grew up in San Diego where he cut his chops playing rock music in bars and beach dives. In college his tastes started leaning towards acoustic music and he caught the flatpicking bug. To hone his skills he moved to the most logical place, Nashville, where he became immersed in the widely reputed bluegrass scene. His nimble-fingered skills were undeniable, and soon he became a well-reputed sideman, landing studio work and touring with the likes of Abigail Washburn, Adrienne Young and April Verch.
In 2005, he received a call from Drew Emmitt, Leftover Salmon’s fiercely skilled mandolin picker, who asked Grant to join his solo band. That gig spiraled into another supporting role when Emmitt joined forces with Bill Nershi of the String Cheese Incident to form the Emmitt Nershi Band. Grant suddenly found himself trading licks with two of the jamgrass world’s most successful innovators, and he couldn’t deny that he enjoyed the frequent visits to their home base in Colorado.
“During a recording session at Bill’s place in Nederland, Drew taught me how to ski,” Grant relays. “It was then that I realized I could enjoy living in winter weather.”
Three years ago Grant packed his bags and left Music City for good, relocating to Lyons where he now resides. He soon became friends with fellow musicians in the area. With drummer Chris Misner, also a member of Emmitt’s band, he found a spark with bassist Adrian Engfer and keyboardist Sean Foley. With Grant Farm in place, Grant gave his notice to both Emmitt and Nershi in 2010 and soon hit the road with his new outfit.
“The music scene is really cranking around Colorado right now,” he says. “I knew there would probably never be a better time for me to form my own band. We decided we were tired of being drowned out by a sea of bluegrass bands. I noticed a spot open in the straight-ahead rock-your-face-off world. It’s ironic, because our ‘70s-style outlaw country rock band feels like a different thing happening right now.”
The band has branded its sound roots, rock and “Cris-co,” a label meant to combine the country and disco beats the outfit often fuses together. It pulses on the opening track of the group’s self-titled album, “I Come from the Country,” which churns out a vintage R&B groove with some Southern fried flavor.
The band’s shows are jam-heavy open-ended affairs. Songs can clock in around 10 minutes, and in addition to a growing catalog of originals, the group occasionally tackles a Dead tune or offers a blistering drawn-out take on Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm.” Grant also likes to bring the group back to bluegrass—a genre that’s still where his musical heart often remains, as he continues to stay in touch by teaching flat-picking clinics at summer festivals.
“The acoustic guitar is always around,” he says. “But when we get to a club or festival and there’s a bunch of people that we need to get through to, it’s so much easier to plug in the Tele and let it rip. We’re trying to blow people away.” •
Essential Tyler Grant
Grant Farm — Self-Titled
The new album released this past spring is full of “Cris-co” grooves, a hybrid mix of disco and country.
Emmitt Nershi Band — New Country Blues
This debut from the Emmit Nershi Band features Grant mixing it up with the jamgrass masters on bass.
Drew Emmitt Band — Long Road
Grant trades licks with Emmitt on this solo release that features a cool reading of Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home.”
Tyler Grant — In the Light
Grant takes his first foray into picking and singing his own tunes on this solo release from his days in Nashville.
November’s Trail Mix, free tunes you can download at bit.ly/VpavYC. This month gets eclectic with music from legendary Mississppi folk singer Steve Forbert, Nashville duo Bedhed & Blondy, Virginia folkers The Mason Brothers, Brooklyn surf punks Crushed Out and more.