Gerard Smith of Bill Grogan’s Goat

Hi Gerard, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Can we start with your musical history? Where are you from, who are your inspirations, how did you get involved in Celtic-rock?

Hey, John, I was born in Detroit, however, my parents moved us to a Christmas Tree farm in the township of Emmett, Michigan, about fifty miles North of Detroit, when I was three years old. I grew up out in the country.

I was tuned in to music from a young age, and when I was really young I was a big fan of The Beatles. I’m also old enough that I recall the advent of progressive rock, and in retrospect, it seems I enjoyed music that combined different genres from an early age. I also liked early metal, and folk rock, classical, jazz…pretty much everything, I guess. My early influences as a musician and guitar player would include King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, T-Rex, Yes, Blue Öyster Cult, Rory Gallagher, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, and Deep Purple. I’ve Absorbed lots of other stuff since then.

I got involved in Celtic music during the period following the breakup of the Post Punk/Hardcore band I was in, Kuru. I had also just finished a stint in an Avant-Garde Jazz band named The Pluto Gang Conspiracy. I figured that I wanted to learn music that I could play on my own, and I had just finished playing Jesus in Cotton Patch Gospel at The Detroit Repertory Theater, so I had access to an acoustic guitar and a mandolin. I got a bunch of material together, and started performing out with the drummer from Kuru, who is also now the drummer in Bill Grogan’s Goat, Jude Closson, on guitar and melodica as a duo called The Geezers. Our duo version of “Cruiscin Lan” had a real metal sort of feel to it, so that led to the idea of transitioning to Celtic rock.

Can you tell us about your band Bill Grogan’s Goat history? How did the band get together, who is the band? What releases have you put out?

Bill Grogan’s Goat was formed in 2005. The original idea was to perform a sort of Celtic rock that wasn’t like what was the expected idea of Celtic rock at the time, which seemed to be either Punk versions of the of pub songs, or renditions of these songs that was pretty close to the original, but with drums and bass. We wanted to illuminate the songs through the prism of other genres of music. The current version of the band features Jude Closson on drums, percussion, and vocals, Norman Rosenbaum on guitar and vocals, myself on guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, tenor guitar, and vocals, Matt Twomey on bass and vocals, and Mindy Whalen on fiddle, highland pipes, tin whistle, and vocals. Matt, and Mindy replaced original members Dean Western, and Terry Murphy previous to the release of our second album, Second Wind. The first album was titled Bill Grogan’s Goat, and the most recent album, from 2017, is “Third Eye”.

Your band Bill Grogan’s Goat mixes traditional Celtic sounds with the industrial heaviness of Detroit – is this a fair description?

That’s a pretty fair description. We also incorporate some funk, and, if you give the albums a listen in order, I’m sure you’ll notice a trend of including more progressive concepts, like unexpected spots for instruments to come in, and odd time signatures. There’s definitely a heaviness. though. I confess, personally, anyway, to being a metalhead.

When you write a song how do you determent what song is solo material and what is Goat?

When I’m writing songs, I sometimes think immediately that a song is definitely not a Goat song. Most of what I write, though, I bring in to see how it would work with the band. If they don’t want the song, I keep it for a solo project. I think that both of the demos you’ve heard were offered to The Goat first. Half of the upcoming solo album were originally proposed as Goat material

Any plans for new solo or BGG material?

As I mentioned above, I have the demos complete for my third solo album. I’m working with Paco Higdon at his Tuxedo Avenue Recording Studio. We look forward to getting started on the actual recordings as soon as the Michigan corona virus lockdown is lifted. I’m about to start looking for musicians to play on the album in June.
There are currently no plans for The Goat to record at this time.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to shed some light on my history and process, John. I really appreciate it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.