Amer­i­can graf­fiti

When his Den­ver band The Czars broke up ac­ri­mo­niously, John Grant, who was strug­gling with ad­dic­tions, had had enough of mu­sic. But he was coaxed to Texas to record his won­der­ful solo de­but a bit­ter-sweet (and very funny) col­lec­tion of songs about love l

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

IT’S ONE of the most un­likely come­back sto­ries of re­cent times. John Grant was the singer in The Czars, a group who were too un­suc­cess­ful to be even tagged a cult act. By the time The Czars called it a day in 2004, the band mem­bers hated each oth­ers’ guts and Grant found him­self stymied by drugs, booze and dodgy re­la­tion­ships.

The singer even­tu­ally cleaned up his act, moved to New York and worked in hos­pi­tals and restau­rants. He didn’t re­ally in­tend to make any more mu­sic. He’d had enough of that.

En­ter Mid­lake. The Texas folk-rock band were big fans of Grant and his mu­sic, and they de­cided it was time to get him back in the ring. It took them sev­eral at­tempts to per­suade him of their bona fides, but he came round in the end.

He moved to their home­town of Den­ton, Texas, be­gan to write new songs and recorded a solo al­bum, with Mid­lake as his band. That al­bum, Queen of Den­mark, was re­leased last year. and it’s where a whole new vol­ume in Grant’s story be­gins.

Grant and Mid­lake turned out to be a per­fect match. The singer’s rich, emo­tive bari­tone and the band’s stately shuf­fle through 1970s-hued soft rock im­bued the fierce, forth­right, bit­ter­sweet and oc­ca­sion­ally funny songs with grace, poise and at­mos­phere. Queen of Den­mark turned out to be a tri­umph on sev­eral lev­els: it was bet­ter re­ceived than any­thing Grant had put his name to be­fore, and it saw the singer com­ing to terms, in a way, with who he is.

“For me, mak­ing mu­sic is my way of deal­ing with the is­sues I have to deal with,” he says. “It’s sur­vival, but I was very ap­pre­hen­sive to be­gin with. I’d gone away from mu­sic and I didn’t know if I wanted to move to a small town in Texas to record an al­bum I didn’t have any ma­te­rial for yet, and live with peo­ple I didn’t know too well. But I had to do it. I had to be se­ri­ous about my life for once.”

Grant also wanted to show peo­ple – per­haps him­self too – that he could ac­tu­ally come up with a great record. “I had Mid­lake as my back­ing band, and we were work­ing in their home­town, but I wrote the mu­sic and my lyrics are mine. I wanted to show what I could do.”

The pos­i­tive re­ac­tion to Queen of Den­mark is cheer­ful news for any­one who has fol­lowed the long-term for­tunes of The Czars. Granted, it’s a small fan club, but it re­mains a

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