Chris Gantzer and Russ Groover are an acoustic duo whose music spans different genres and generations. They have almost two decades of experience, bringing the party to bars, weddings and block parties all over the region. As Gantzer, who lives in Centreville, and Groover, who lives in Hanover, begin a summer of dates in cities like Alexandria and Sterling, they answered a few questions about their career and their music:
How long have you been performing?
Russ: Chris and I both had a few years experience playing with other bands before we even started Gantzer and Groover. I have been performing since I was in early grade school and professionally since 1984.
Chris: I started playing guitar in sixth grade and had my first paying gig when I was 17 and have been doing it ever since.
Russ: The funny thing is, when we formed the act, we were each in-between bands and were really just going to hit a few open mic nights to keep from getting bored. We had no idea we had started something that would last almost twenty years.
What instruments do you play:
Russ: Chris and I are well versed in guitar, primarily acoustic. We have been known to play other instruments if the need arises including — but not limited to — bass, mandolin, drums, some keys.
Chris: And we both sing. It's more like "Two guys, two guitars, and too many beers."
Russ: Well, it used to be anyway.
Biggest musical influences:
Chris: That's a no-brainer — Jimmy Buffet is probably the biggest.
Russ: But not just Jimmy. For instance we are also broadly influenced by the musical stylings of Paul Simon, Crosby Stills and Nash, James Taylor, and other 70’s-singer-songwriter guys.
What were those early days playing a regular gig at TT Reynolds in Fairfax like?
Chris and Russ: We don't remember. We were told we had a lot of fun.
Russ: Those were some of the best shows ever. That place let us get away with so much and we tried so many different things; some worked, some really didn't!
Chris: TT's is where we cut our teeth, so to speak. That's where we honed our skills and polished our act.
Russ: Yeah, but it was one big party every Wednesday night. Oh to be so lucky again!
How has the local music scene changed since you began playing locally?
Chris: Clubs have come and gone, but there seems to be as much work now
as there was then. Of course we are now older so the scene has definitely gotten "younger" on us. The money is certainly better now.
In the last few years, how has life changed both professionally and
personally for Gantzer and Groover, and how has that affected your
touring frequency and schedule?
Russ: Well, the one thing that is guaranteed in life is "change." I
have moved away and travel in to do shows these days. My kids are older
and demand more of my time and I enjoy being a dad. That will, however, take a toll on the frequency of gigs.
Chris: I got married and now have 3 boys of my own, which also takes a
lot of time and planning. Scheduling gigs certainly is more complicated
now than back in the TT's era.
What do you enjoy most about performing live?
Chris: It is hard to put into words, but I know what it is. When a song is kicking and clicking and everybody is getting into it, that is when it is good. Plus it is better than digging ditches.
Russ: I just think it is cool to be able to make a decent living doing something we love to do.
What is your favorite song to perform live?
Russ: "American Pie." Oh, I thought you meant LEAST favorite song! Actually, I love playing Son of a Sailor. I really like our version of the song.
Chris: It's hard to say, but if I had to choose, I guess I would say, "One Particular Harbor." I like the dynamic changes.
Talk a little bit about Jimmy Buffett, his influence on your music and what the entire Parrothead phenomenon means for music?
Chris: Jimmy Buffett is first and foremost a great songwriter and storyteller. The fact that he is as popular as he is, as rich as he is, and has recorded as many albums has he has, with essentially no radio air play, is a phenomenon in of itself.
Russ: I think, too, that the style of music Jimmy plays is pleasing to all audiences. For most, it provides an "escape to the islands," which can be a nice break in the winter months. It is also a great party theme any time of year.
If you could jam with one band from any point in history, which band
would it be?
Russ: Paul Simon. Of course, if I could jam with two bands from any point in history, I would have to add Jimmy Buffett. And if I could jam with three bands from any point in history, Tom Petty. No, wait: Crosby Stills and Nash. No, wait: I can't pick. It would be an honor to jam with any of them.
Chris: There would be several: Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band; Bob Marley and the Wailers; The Grateful Dead; The Allman Brothers; Little Feat; The Neville Brothers.
Anything special about the upcoming shows at The Fish Market or at Fox Chase?
Russ: Absolutely! But you will have to come to the show to find out. How was that answer, Chris? Actually, we love playing at the Fish Market and at Fox Chase Tavern. It is always a good time. Both places are a bit like TTs in that we feel comfortable enough to go out on a limb and attempt a request or two. And when it bombs, everyone in the club laughs it off and we
continue. No harm, no foul.
Chris: Sometimes we surprise ourselves and actually pull a request off well. It's kind of a neat way to add to our repertoire.
Russ: What is also great about the Fish Market in particular is that we used to have a house gig there back in the day as well. In the early 90's when the Fish Market was as big as the city block, we would play Sunday and Monday nights in the upstairs raw bar. Most of the time we would be background music, but occasionally you would get the rowdy group of people in off the street that wanted to hear all kinds of loud, fun songs. We would have to oblige. So playing there again now after all these years and seeing many of the familiar faces is really great.
What's the last new song you heard on the radio that impressed you?
Russ: Man, I don't know. My personal tastes in music are so varied. I will listen to a classic rock station, then a country station, then an alternative station, then nothing at all. I like Nickelback's "Photograph" a lot, but I am not sure it is still considered "new." I also like "Brian Wilson" and "Be My Yoko Ono" by the Barenaked Ladies, but I guess they aren't really "new" either.
Chris: "Home" by Michael Buble.
How can people hear your music?
Russ: The best way to hear us is to come to one of our shows. You can check out our Web site at www.gantzerandgroover.com and see our schedule, check out our song list, look at some funny pictures, contact us, etc.