Luke Grimes: Pain Pills or Pews Felt Like His Only Options Growing Up [Interview]
He may not be exaggerating. Talking to Taste of Country Nights, Grimes explained his complicated relationship with his hometown, Dayton, Ohio. It's a major city in southwest Ohio once known for nation-leading overdose rates. A report from the Dayton Police Department called it an opioid epicenter.
As for the "pews"? Grimes father was a pastor, and as the youngest of four kids, his whims weren't always met with enthusiasm.
"Music came first," Grimes says, putting some love in this love/hate relationship he has with where he was raised. "Growing up in church I played drums in the worship band. I was always in bands, even when I was in New York or L.A."
Those bands remained hobbies, however, if only because the now-seasoned actor (American Sniper, Fifty Shades of Grey) thought that if he chased his passion, it'd become a job and expectations would poison his heart. Instead, he left Ohio for New York City as soon as he could, and searched for new ways to satisfy his artist heart.
If country music truly is three chords and the truth, then there's no denying Grimes belongs. During a conversation with ToC Nights host Evan Paul, he won't flinch when asked about the eight personal songs on Pain Pills ... "Hold On," a love song recorded as his wife Bianca sat across from him, is a raw. exception to the dark introspection. "No Horse to Ride" and "Oh Ohio" are the project's signature moments.
Grimes isn't the kind of artist afraid to talk about the thing he sings about.
Evan Paul: Are you fairly level emotionally, or are you someone who lives on more of a roller coaster?
Luke: I'd say the reasons I do things like make any kind of art is to level things out. It's always been a tool for me. (Acting and making music) are both artistic endeavors where I can really dig deep and get in there and try to be as honest as possible. I think with the music now, it's even more me. It's even more like a representation of what's going on.
I didn't get to spend as much time with Lainey as I would have liked to. Ryan is just a great guy. I love being around him. He's just got the best energy, the best spirit and if I've learned anything from him musically, it's just by watching him do what he does and being inspired by it.
The song "Oh Ohio" is about your hometown in Ohio. Do you have mixed feelings about where you grew up?
Yeah, you go back to that just trying to be as honest as possible. I think clearly, I left Ohio. Clearly, I thought maybe there was more out there. I think that song — I always kind of equate it to a breakup song with your home where it's not necessarily happy. Not everything about leaving home is happy. It's really hard.
I also want it to come across that there is a lot of love for that place. I'm so happy to have grown up there, and especially all the people, all the friends, all the family. I hope the song feels like a love song, but it's melancholy in the way that it didn't quite work out.
When you go home now, is it crazy?
Yeah, they're all still there. I have a pretty big family, too. I'm the youngest of four and my brothers and sister have had kids. Their kids have had kids, so it's like a big happy midwestern family.
I go back every year for Thanksgiving because the week after Thanksgiving is deer hunting season, so I do the holiday and then me and the boys all go hunting.
Growing up did you get a lot of support from your parents?
When I started telling my parents that I maybe oughtta move to L.A. or New York, it wasn't because I necessarily wanted to go to some big city, but because I wanted to try to do things that I couldn't do from Ohio. I don't know if they took it that seriously until I just never shut up about it.
I started saying it at like five years old ... but then I read every book I could get my hands on on how to break it. I was about to graduate high school and I was like, I'm just gonna save up for a car and drive up there and they're like, 'Oh, he's serious.' At that point they decided to take me seriously and tried to stay involved as much as possible.
If you hadn't moved to Los Angeles or (now) Montana would there be Luke Grimes' music?
Yeah ... I just never thought — it was just something I enjoyed. It was my hobby, it was for me. It was not something I had any ambition around where I had to make this my job.
I just had to put that fear to bed and go, "I have an opportunity here. I'm going to take it, we'll see what happens." If this is the only thing I ever get to do in this lane, it was totally worth it meeting all of these people.