Granger Smith on Blurring Lines With His Redneck Alter Ego
In the week immediately following the March 4th release of his latest album Remington, Granger Smith mounted an ambitious promotional tour to recite the pledge of allegiance in all 13 original colonies plus Washington, D.C., in just two days. While that sincere, aww-shucks display of patriotism no doubt earned the Texas native some extra publicity during release week, it was an interesting push for a whole other set of reasons. Officially billed as “Granger Across Merica Pledge of Allegiance Tour Powered by Yee Yee Energy,” the tour’s title incorporated — at least for those in the know — multiple references to Smith’s comedic alter-ego Earl Dibbles Jr., a shotgun-toting redneck who records his own songs and makes appearances at Smith’s shows.
It’s a move that might baffle marketing types, the people who fuss over coma-inducing terms like “brand consistency” and “messaging” — a willful muddying of the water separating his two sides. “Merica,” more than just winking good ol’ boyism, is the title of a Dibbles song included on Smith’s Remington and that Yee Yee Energy powering the whole deal is an actual energy drink, inspired by Dibbles’ trademark ululation and packaged in camouflage cans. Conventional wisdom would suggest that Smith, riding high on his first Number One “Backroad Song,” throw his efforts into his primary artistic persona but he seems perfectly content to continue blurring the lines between the two.
“The blurrier we can make those lines, the better,” says Smith, calling Rolling Stone Country between tour stops. “If it’s a strict black and white — Earl and Granger — then it doesn’t connect the dots. And the whole purpose of Earl is to connect the dots back to Granger. It wasn’t to create a separate entity, a separate figure that had a separate following. The whole purpose was, it’s all one big following.”
New fans may be just beginning to understand that Smith’s journey has been a particularly long one — even by normal Nashville standards — that winds back past the creation of Dibbles, through his D.I.Y. roots in the Red Dirt scene and on to a short-lived Nashville publishing deal a decade and a half ago. At the time, he was a 19-year-old who’d grown up singing around Dallas and was just happy to be working in music. Nothing much came of that time except education, which Smith and his brother Tyler — his manager — have rolled into a savvy, self-aware approach to surviving the music industry.
“I think about back then when I was 19 and just how fast the business was,” Smith recalls. “It was always one step ahead of me. It was always a little bit faster. And as the years went by, it really slowed down for me. And I feel like my brother and I kind of see it now before it happens.”
Returning to Texas after his stint in Nashville, Smith attended Texas A&M University and began booking his own shows as well as instructing himself how to edit video and make a record on the cheap. He self-released a series of albums like Memory Rd., Waiting on Forever and Don’t Listen to the Radio but wasn’t having much of an impact outside of Texas.
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