Music Notes: Life After the Crowes

by Steve Houk

Is there life after the Black Crowes? Steve Gorman’s new band, Trigger Hippy, proves there is.

Trigger Hippy live in Fairfield, Conn. earlier this year. (Photo by Chad Anderson)

Trigger Hippy live in Fairfield, Conn. earlier this year. (Photo by Chad Anderson)

So what do you do for an encore after you play drums for 15 years in one of the world’s biggest rock bands? Steve Gorman, an original member of rock heavyweights The Black Crowes, did what a lot of great musicians who still have their chops (and their faculties) after such a run do — he started his own band.

And a damn good band at that. Trigger Hippy, which plays the Birchmere August 17, is an idea Gorman and buddy Nick Govrik had for a few years, one that they weren’t sure they could ever get going.

“I think the first time I ever played with (Nick), I said, ‘Man, we gotta start a real band,” Gorman told me from his home in Nashville. “And he said ‘Yeah we should.’ Well you say that a lot and then you move on. But it was something that for the both of us was always in the back of our heads. And so in 2009, we were still tryin’, but the Crowes were so busy from ’05 through ’10 that the scheduling was impossible. In 2010 I knew the Crowes were gonna take a break, and I said, ‘Hey look, now’s the time if you’re interested.’ We had always thrown song ideas at each other, we had this two years of an idea really seriously germinating.”

So when it looked like the Crowes were coming to a triumphant (and in some ways, welcome) end after 25 years of taking the world by storm, Gorman was finally able to make Trigger Hippy a reality. The only issue was rounding out the band. First, a lead singer was needed, and after grappling with who to recruit, Gorman realized the perfect choice was pretty much right in front of him.

“I was in the car one day and I heard ‘Right Hand Man’ by Joan Osborne,” Gorman said. “Joan and I had been friends forever, and in two years of seriously thinking about this, I never once thought about a female singer. But I heard one note of that song and thought, ‘Oh my God, what’s wrong with me? Joan would be perfect for this.’ I called her the next day and I was like, ‘What’s goin’ on? I haven’t talked to you in forever.’ It was a nice catch up — ‘How’s your kid?’ and ‘My kids are great’ and ‘Anyway, ya wanna start a band?’ She was luckily at a point where she had been putting a lot of thought into that very thing, like, it’s hard to be the name on the ticket, it’s hard to just constantly be the artist, everything’s on her shoulders as Joan Osborne. She said, ‘It’s so funny, I’ve been thinking lately, I just wish I was a singer in a band.’ And I said, ‘Well, here it is, let’s go.’ ”

Osborne flew to Nashville two months later. The next piece of the puzzle was also someone Gorman knew — talented (and briefly Black Crowes interim) guitarist/singer/keyboardist Jackie Greene. But it wasn’t until Greene and Osborne were sitting together at an early rehearsal that the vision of the band became crystal clear to Gorman. It wouldn’t be the jam band he envisioned, it would be a vocal-based band, given the sheer vocal talent he had on hand.

“(Jackie and Joan) were just sitting there off to the side singing,” Gorman said. “It was like, ‘Did you ever hear that song by so and so?’ and he would start to sing it and she would just harmonize, and there was that moment, ya know, like in a bad movie about bands, when we all looked at each other and went, ‘Holy shit!’ I’d love to say it was by design, that this was the vision we always had, but it wasn’t that at all, it was really a great happy accident to go, ‘Oh wait, you guys sound amazing together!’ It just fell into place, like literally overnight. The next day we all got back in the room, and we were wholly on our way to being a real band.”

After playing a few gigs with respected musicians like current Widespread Panic/former Allman Brothers & Furthur guitarist Jimmy Herring, they were still looking for that last cog in the machine that would solidify the band. Gorman was elated when one of Nashville’s top session men, guitarist Tom Bukovac, agreed to come on full time.

“We’d had a couple guys play with us and they were great and it was fun, but you could tell they were treating it more like a gig, and we were getting seriously minded about it,” Gorman said. “I called Tom praying he would say yes to playing a few gigs with us. I really never thought he would say, ‘I’d like to do this’ because I just didn’t think that was possible. But we did three gigs and after the third gig, he walked up to me and Joan and said, ‘Alright, what’s next? What are we gonna do?’ and we coulda just cried, we were so happy. That’s when we started workin’.”

Finally, Trigger Hippy are ready to spread their wings, their first full album of soul-infused rock is due out in September, and Gorman couldn’t be happier. Why? Just Google the name and you’ll find a dozen live videos that show the band’s power and promise, from solid original tunes to covers like The Beatles‘ “Don’t Let Me Down,” the Grateful Dead‘s “Sugaree” and Neil Young‘s “Southern Man.”

So as Trigger Hippy begins their journey, does Gorman think his legendary first band will ever come a’ callin’ to pull him away from this exciting new venture?

“I don’t think so. I’ve thought that before, but if you go see Chris (Robinson, The Black Crowes’ lead singer) he’s very happy doing what he’s doing. But I haven’t given the Black Crowes a second thought since that last tour ended. We had a really good year last year, everyone was respectful of each other. We got along as well as we needed to and I thought the shows were good, so when it ended, I just felt like, that was great, see you guys later, perfect. Now my sole musical focus is Trigger Hippy. Time to move on.”

Trigger Hippy performs Sunday, August 17, 2014 at The Birchmere, 3701 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305. For tickets, click here

Steve Houk writes about local and national music luminaries for WashingtonLife.com and his own blog at midliferocker.wordpress.com. He is also lead singer for the successful Northern Virginia classic rock cover band Second Wind.

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