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Musician Ed Gray keeps it local

BY MARISA WAY | FEBRUARY 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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Many musicians aspire to pack up their instruments and move to faraway places that, seemingly, promise fame and fortune. Ed Gray found the music scene he was hoping for right here in Iowa City.

“It’s given me more freedom to try what I want to do,” said Gray, 43. “If I were in a large metropolitan city, I would feel a lot more pressure to solely play pretty songs … Here, it’s pretty laid-back, for better or for worse.”

Gray will play at the Java House, 211 1/2 E. Washington St., on Friday. The performance is part of Java House’s “Friday Night Free Music Shows,” which take place weekly at the coffee shop. The Iowa City band LWA will also play; the music will start at 8 p.m. Admission is free.

Despite living in Iowa City for many years, Friday will mark the first time that Gray will play at Java House. Although he said the venue is somewhat different from where he is used to playing, he welcomes the change.

“It’s a clean, well-lit space, where people will be comfortable and paying attention to the music,” he said. “There won’t be any alcohol, which is good for me, and it’s good for the crowd.”

Drew Fischels, who books musicians for the Friday night shows, said he contacted Gray after hearing that he was a great performer, in addition to seeing him play around town. Fischel also thinks the coffee shop’s location in the middle of the downtown scene lends itself well to experimenting with different music styles. He thought Gray would offer an unusual sound.

“He’s very interesting and definitely fits that criteria that I’m looking for,” Fischels said. “He’s not the typical stale folk musician that you usually might find in a coffee shop.”

Gay, whose favorite musician is Don Williams and greatest musical influence is Willie Nelson, has been playing since he was 12. In his one-man show, he plays guitar and sings — although his favorite instrument is the drums. He went on tour in late 2006 after the release of his album The Late Gray Ed Great, a play on the words of Townes Van Zandt’s 1972 album The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. Despite his long career in music, Gray’s motivation for continuing to play is fairly simple.

“The rhyming words just keep coming to me,” he said.

Although his reason for filling his life with music is fairly straightforward, his philosophy behind music is somewhat more complex.

“I pictured playing music as something more than just being entertainment,” he said. “Like I was communicating memories to other people, without using words per se … It’s OK to just blurt out your feelings, you know; the world’s not going to come to an end. Just say what you feel.”


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