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Move to Nashville inspired Grant-Lee Phillips on new album
Grant-Lee Phillips is a born-and-bred southern California boy. So a move to Nashville in 2013 was big for the onetime Grant Lee Buffalo frontman -- as well as the impetus for his upcoming album, "The Narrows."
"It's been a good move, a really healthy one," Phillips, 52, says by phone from his home in Music City. "It was hard to separate my bond with the 818 (California area code) but I had visited Nashville some 10 years ago and thought this seemed like a livable kind of place. I was attracted to the idea there was an (music) industry here, and yet it reminded me a little bit of where I grew up in the rural part of California.
"So when my wife and I began to consider when we wanted to raise our then five-year-old, we thought seriously about other parts of California and kept movie eastward until we got to (Nashville), and it's been a nice place to be."
Phillips has, in fact, been joined by many of his musical colleagues -- most recently British singer-songwriter Robin Hitchcock. Meanwhile, Nashville exerted a strong influence on the songs Phillips was writing for "The Narrows," which comes out March 18.
"I was writing songs in anticipation of this move," says Phillips, who also tapped his Native American heritage (Creek and Cherokee) for other songs on the set. "'Holy Irons' was a song I wrote before coming here. 'Tennessee Rain' is one of those songs I wrote before I ever set foot here, kind of me anticipating and hoping for this to be a really good phase of my life, feeling optimistic.
"And once I got here, of course, there's music in the air -- literally, so the inspiration is all around me."
He's hoping fans hear that in the new songs. Even though the album's not out for another month or so, Phillips hasn't been shying away from playing the material, and he reports the response has been nothing less than encouraging."
"I've been featuring a lot of the new songs over the last year," he confirms. "I feel like I'm so excited about these new songs. I think they hold their own. So while I'm bound to go back into my catalog I've been throwing two or three new songs into the set for the last year and a half, at least, and I think that's kind of exciting people.
"So when they hear the record, they'll have some familiarity with it already, which I think helps."
Grant-Lee Phillips and Steve Poltz
8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.
The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor.
Tickets are $20.
Call 734-761-1800 or visit theark.org.
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