Country Music People October 2017 - Page 59

his field. Growing up in the Black Forest region of Germany, a young Thomm Jutz was captivated by a TV performance of Bobby Bare and the dream of Nashville was first planted in the guitar obsessed boy’s mind. As well as playing in a number of bands as a teenager, Jutz learned sound engineering in local studios and studied classical guitar at the Stuttgart Conservatory. In 2003 Jutz was able to enter the USA thanks to the “Green Card Lottery” scheme. He headed for Nashville and it wasn’t long before he found work with Mary Gauthier’s band and Nanci Griffith’s Blue Moon Orchestra. “I’ve never felt like anybody did not accept me because I was from somewhere else,” says the in-demand writer and producer. “It takes a little while for people to trust you as a songwriter but people have heard enough of my songs now, I think, to go, ‘Yeah, this is genuine stuff.’ And I’ve had enough cuts for people to know that if they come to me for songs they get quality stuff. All of that takes a little while and you have to write for the right people and get some kind of credibility in that world. You have to pay your dues to get in on all of that.” It was his Civil War inspired 1861 Project which brought Thomm Jutz greater recognition and enabled him to work with many of his musical heroes, including, some 33 years later, the man whose Detroit City and Tequila Sheila had inspired him as a boy, Bobby Bare. Those connections didn’t hurt any when Jutz began work on the Mac Wiseman tribute - I Sang The Song - which was released earlier this year. “My friend Peter Cooper and I had become good friends with Mac over the last couple of years and we knew a lot of the stories that Mac likes to tell about his life and they’re such interesting stories about growing up in the Depression in rural Virginia,” he recalls. “We approached him one day and we said, ‘Mac, we need to take these stories and turn them into songs. Would you be willing to do that?’ and he was more than happy to do that. So Peter and I went over to his house - he just lives like ten minutes from my house in Nashville - so we went over there for about nine or ten consecutive Sunday afternoons and just wrote those songs sitting there with him. Mac can’t get around too well anymore but his mind is still incredibly sharp and his memory is incredibly accurate. So he sits in that big easy chair and we literally sat at the feet of the master and wrote down the stories and rhymed them and turned them into music and turned them into songs. And then we figured getting him in a studio at this point might just be a little too hard on him so we went, ‘How about we turn this into a tribute record to you, Mac, and have other people sing these songs?’ He was very happy about that idea so we called some of our favourite people like Alison Krauss and John Prine and they were all very happy to participate and pay tribute to one of the greats of bluegrass music. It was an incredibly satisfying experience because the process was so enjoyable and also because it was fairly successful in that world but mostly I would have to say it was enjoyable because it made Mac so happy. That’s his first bluegrass number one as a songwriter - Going Back To Bristol - so to see how much that meant to him was just incredible. It’s so much fun playing this kind of music; it’s so organic because at the end of the day all you do is book some players, get them in a room and play music.” The purity of the music is important to Jutz, “I think bluegrass is very much part of the real, traditional country music that’s left now. Although there’s obviously people like Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell and people like that who are making great, more traditional country music. I think this is a great time for music and I think it’s a great time for bluegrass. The genre is a lot more open than it used to be and there’s young people who are pushing the boundaries of the genre like crazy and I think that’s very healthy.”