Trout Fishing in America interview and video
The Arkansas-based duo premiere their new video and explain why they feel like winners despite losing the Grammy.
Sun Feb 15 2009
Kindie rock may be a relatively new concept, but the two musicians behind Trout Fishing in America have been playing for children—and adults—for more than 30 years. Down-home dads Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet boast eclectic musical tastes and backgrounds (Grimwood played with the Houston Symphony Orchestra and Idlet was a shaggy-haired rock & roller before they began collaborating), and that comes through in their music, which is equal parts country, folk, blues and rock. The band recently scored its fourth Grammy nod for Best Musical Album for Children for 2008's Big Round World (they lost to They Might Be Giants), and in April, they'll release their first CD--cum--picture book, My Name Is Chicken Joe (Secret Mountain, $15; ages 4 to 8). The boys were kind enough to invite Time Out Kids to premiere the video for the title track (featuring Stphane Jorisch's whimsical illustrations) and chat about their three decades in the music biz.
You didn't start out playing for children. How did you become known on the kids' circuit?
Ezra: It was a slow evolution. We haven’t totally stopped playing for adults, either. People of all ages relate to our music. It's just that when we play for adults, we rock a little harder.
Keith: The first time we played for kids was 1977 [two years before they officially became a band]. A teacher we knew wanted to show her students that music came from real people, not boom boxes, so we went into the classroom and played blues and folk and rock. We didn't play down to them or play one "kids'" song. Early on we would separate our kids' and adults' shows, but as time passed the lines began to blur. Now we've had as many as five generations of the same family come out to see us together. The great-great-grandma was actually our friend the teacher's grandmother-in-law.
What inspired you to release a picture book--CD?
Keith: We've wanted to do something like this for a long time. We even talked about it back in the '80s! We could never quite figure out how to do it; it seemed too complicated. Then our manager approached us last year with an offer.
Ezra: Reading has always been really important to us. We've read aloud to our kids, and when we've been on tour driving long distances, we've read aloud to each other.
Are the songs on My Name Is Chicken Joe taken from your previous albums?
Keith: Yes. We've got so many songs that we knew would work [with illustrations]. The cool thing is that all of the animals in the book are real. Chicken Joe is one of my cats. We kept chickens for a bit, and we used to find him sleeping in the chicken coop. That’s how he got his name.
Ezra: And Miss Kitty is Keith's mom’s dog.
Keith: I cracked up when she named her dog that. And King Kong is Ezra's son's parakeet. So much of what we write is based on real life. That's one of the reasons why people relate to our songs.
How old are your kids?
Keith: My son Kevin is 26. He provided a lot of artistic inspiration. I just walked around behind him and took notes for 15 years.
Ezra: I have two children: My daughter’s 22 and just graduated from college with an art degree, and my son is 19 and plays basketball at Tulsa University.
Just last month, you lost out on a Grammy for the fourth time. How much of a bummer was that?
Ezra: There are lots of responses to that. But frankly, we had a great time out there [in Los Angeles]. The concerts were wonderful! You know, we've been nominated in the same category four times. That's no accident. There are hundreds of people who throw their stuff into the hat. So our nominations are a big deal. The party was hysterically fun. We met Brenda Lee, that was pretty cool, and hung out with friends and had a great time.
Keith: My take on it: The Buffalo Bills went to four straight Super Bowls and lost all of them, but hey, at least they got there.
My Name Is Chicken Joe comes out Apr 21. For tour dates, visit troutmusic.com.