"I've been around songwriters my whole life. My cousins, the Tobias brothers, are in the Songwriter's Hall of Fame; one of my first memories as a kid is of everybody sitting around the piano trading songs during the holidays. My grandpa, Bill Lava, wrote music for movies, cartoons, and t.v. shows; in fact, he had me sing a demo for a tune he'd written for the Bugs Bunny show when I was only 5. After that, I was hooked; all I wanted to do when I grew up was write songs and play music."
Adie started playing in clubs and coffeehouses while still in jr. high school. "I've done a little bit of everything; I've played rock n' roll, I was the lead singer for a country band, I used to play at Renaissance fairs performing traditional Elizabethan music on the dulcimer, I sang gospel with Reverend James Cleveland's choir, and for about 7 or 8 years I was the regular backup singer for my friend, Vonda Shepard."
In 1989, Adie left behind a successful career in L.A. as a backup and session singer (which included studio work on dozens of albums and radio & t.v. commercials) and moved to Nashville to pursue song writing full time.
"Most of the music that inspires me comes from the south, so it only made sense to move here. Also, this town is very supportive of people working on original music, whatever the style. And I still get to work occasionally as a background singer; I sang on a David Olney record and I've done a bunch of live shows with people like Jo-El Sonnier, John Hartford, Al Kooper and Sam Moore from Sam & Dave."
Her debut album, Brand New Old Time Music, was released to universal critical acclaim in the US and Europe. The widely praised follow-up, Grandpa's Advice, stayed on Gavin's Top-40 Americana charts throughout the summer of '97 and was re-released in Europe the following year on Demon Records (UK).
"I've been really lucky so far. I'm more than a little surprised at how good the reviews for my records have been and it's been very gratifying to hear that quite a few dj's (especially on public radio) have been playing my music, but so far the biggest payoff from making records has been that I've gotten to meet and do concerts with folks whose music I admire like Arlo Guthrie, Kevin Welch and Jean Ritchie. When you add that to getting to play festivals like Winfield and MerleFest and getting to tour overseas, it's been like a dream come true. As for the future, my plan, if you can call it that, is to keep writing songs and looking into a whole mix of musical styles, blues and bluegrass, old-timey and swing, and see what comes out."
Adie Grey is currently at work on her third album.
by Gordon Ely, September 4, 1994
No artist has ever come to my attention in quite so unlikely a way as Adie Grey. A copy of her album, Brand New Old Time Music, was sent to me by a publicist at a well-known record label, and I immediately fell in love with it. The only hitch was that Adie Grey was not the artist the label meant for me to hear.
The company had intended to send the new release by one its top acts. The CDs and cassettes had not yet been officially manufactured, so they recorded a copy onto a cassette that was just lying around the office. Or so they thought.
About halfway through my first listen, as much as I liked what I was hearing, I couldn't shake the feeling that this didn't quite sound like the artist it was purported to be. I called the label and listed some of the song titles, as best as I could discern them. No one had heard of the songs nor had any idea who the artist was. I ended the conversation commenting, "Whoever she is, find out and sign her. She's great."
Name on the label was...
The amateur sleuth in me had been intrigued. When I peeled off the label that had been stuck to the cassette, a second label underneath it came off as well, the two stuck together as one. When I held it to the light, I could make out the name on the bottom label: Adie Grey. Grey's Nashville phone number was also legible, so I gave her a call.
Grey makes her living as a massage therapist in Nashville, where she lives with her husband, Dave MacKenzie, who's also an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitarist.
Their story is not so different from that of thousands of people who've harbored dreams of success in the entertainment industry, and then set out on a rocky road to recognition.
Grey was born and reared in suburban Los Angeles. Her grandmother's cousins were Harry, Henry and Charlie Tobias, songwriters who topped the charts in the Swing Era with standards like "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" and "Lonesome Old Town."
Products of Tin Pan Alley
"The Tobias brothers were very charming and real products of Tin Pan Alley," Grey recalled by phone. "They were very much into sitting at the piano and giving us kids a show. They would play and sing all their hits. I thought it was wonderful."
Grey took to singing naturally and learned guitar as a child. By her mid- teens, she was performing as a folkie singer/songwriter in the Los Angeles club scene. She knocked around Los Angeles for a number of years, coming close to record deals that never quite came off.
She and MacKenzie married in 1985, and in 1989 decided to test the waters in Nashville, only to find the going just as tough as in California.
"Nashville has a way of making you feel very welcome when you don't live here, then freezing you out as soon as you move to town," Grey said. "We pretty much started over. It's been a difficult six years."
With echoes as old as the Carter Family and as fresh as any of the new traditional country, Brand New Old Time Music is exactly what its title implies, and it is a pure joy.
The album's 12 songs, all but one written by MacKenzie and Grey, are intelligent, witty and touching, and need no more instrumental embellishment than simple, lovely acoustic settings. Grey's voice has a bluesy edge somewhat reminiscent of Maria Muldaur, with a gentle, angelic quality that harkens to early Dolly Parton.
She also keeps some pretty hip company.
Though the music industry has not exactly opened its doors wide to Grey, a number of its major artists have enlisted her to rub, knead, pound and massage their stressed out bodies. Grey must be good at it, because she's built a faithful clientele that was more than happy to
help out with her album.
Wynonna and Ranger Doug
Wynonna Judd sings harmony with Grey on two songs, and Ranger Doug of Riders in the Sky joins her on another. John Hartford lends his distinctive banjo to the effort, and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Albert Lee plays mandolin and guitar.
All turn in fine performances, and their names surely strengthen Grey's resume, but Grey and MacKenzie's talent stands squarely on its own.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Ain't No Doubt About It
2. It Ain't the Money
3. Daddy Put Your Beer Down
4. Now That He's Not In Love
5. Far Away Beyond These Mountains
6. I'm With You in My Dreams
7. Grandpa's Advice
8. Tell All The People You Love
9. Christmas Everyday
10. The Easiest Thing
11. The Grape and The Grain
12. My Old Man
13. If I Lose My Way