From his Austrian Alps forest home, Americana songsmith Prinz Grizzley is releasing a series of singles leading into 2023. These songs of finding hope, revenge and eventually serenity will make you look for your own secluded mountain town to settle down in, get drinks with friends and maybe even start a family.
Chris Comper doesn’t overthink it when it comes to changing up genres in the music he releases via his alter ego Prinz Grizzley. “It’s all about the songs,” the Austrian musician explains. “I like writing songs. It’s just which dress you put on them. If it works on acoustic guitar, it’s a good song, and if it doesn’t work on acoustic guitar, it’s a shit song. And then when you go into production, if there’s a synthesizer or pedal steel, if the song asks for it, give it to him.”
It’s an ethos that’s served Comper well throughout his career, which included indie-rock success with his band Golden Reef and a brief foray into synth-pop. As Prinz Grizzley, he veered into the Americana lane with two critically-acclaimed albums that lead to playing festivals around the world, recording with Erin Rae, and sharing bills with folks like Yola, Tyler Childers, Molly Tuttle, Charley Crockett and many more.
His new original singles, “I Keep On Searching” and “Payback Day (I’ll Give No Warning)," barrel ahead with bluesy abandon. Coupled with a doleful take on the CCR classic “Proud Mary,” the songs represent another new direction taken by Comper, albeit with the same authenticity in place.
“The most honest music I’ve made,” Comper says to sum up what separates his Prinz Grizzley output from past records. “I’m not interested in ‘What’s the single?’ I don’t care. It’s just that’s my record, do with it what you want. I’m glad it’s turned out this way.”
For the new singles, Comper did a bit of archaeology, digging through past recordings he had made as far as eight years back and stumbling upon a pair of firecracker tracks he had completed with bassist Claude Meier and drummer Andy Wettstein. “I Keep On Searching” kicks off with a siren-like riff and doesn’t stop to take a breath, as Comper wails and whoops over a four-on-the-floor beat. “You keep looking for something, and when you’ve got it, it’s not quite as you imagined it,” Comper says. “Maybe you’re playing with the idea of giving up looking for happiness, contentment or what feels like unreachable dreams, because it might be easier to just leave it.”
“Payback Day (I’ll Give No Warning),” a vintage blues-rock banger with honkytonk, roadhouse bar fight vibes, keeps up the momentum as the narrator drinks and plots his revenge. As was the case with “I Keep On Searching,” Comper only had to do a few touch-ups to what was already on tape to ready the track for release. He’s learned the hard way about dismissing unfinished material. “I used to just write tons of songs and I never finished them,” he says about his days with Golden Reef. “When you give it a second look, sometimes it’s a great song.”
As much as “Proud Mary” has been covered, Prinz Grizzley’s version, featuring his lovely banjo work, coaxes wistful beauty out of it anew. It captures what Comper hears in the protagonist’s plight: “Having hope and having no hope at the same time.”
Comper, a longtime Creedence fan, found inspiration for his take in a YouTube video of John Fogerty playing a solo concert while at odds with his former band. “I thought he looked really cool, like ‘I don’t give a fuck, I have enough hit singles, just leave me be,’ Comper explains. “My version is like John Fogerty at 40 when he had a lot of lawsuits against him and was depressed. Maybe if he would have played the song then, that’s how I think it might have sounded.”
Comper cites Sturgill Simpson as an influence, particularly in his willingness to keep changing things up, even at the risk of defying audience expectations. “What shall I change to make it interesting to me again?” is how he approached the new singles. “With these releases, it’s a bit to show another side of me.”
Comper will be back in the studio shortly to complete the follow-up to his first two Prinz Grizzley albums, 2018’s Come On In and 2020’s To My Green Mountains Home. In fact, he says that the new record will complete his trilogy.
“A trilogy,” Comper laughs. “It’s out of fashion now, but when I started it, it was just fucking in fashion.”