JJ Grey & Mofro headline Sunday’s lineup at the free Copper Country music festival | SummitDaily.com

JJ Grey & Mofro headline Sunday’s lineup at the free Copper Country music festival

For JJ Grey, life hasn't changed all that much since he began touring with his band Mofro in the late '90s. The down-to-earth musician remains loyal to his roots in Florida, living on family land — a former chicken farm run by his grandparents — and remaining an avid surfer, something he's been passionate about his whole life. Although he's gone from playing small local dives to headlining major festivals, releasing more than a handful of albums and touring around the world, the humble Southerner's opinion of himself hasn't changed.

"I seldom think of myself as being well-known or any of that," Grey said over the phone from his hometown in Florida right before a surf session. "My life really hasn't changed in terms of intent or how I approach it since I started. I can pay my bills now, and that's good enough. I'm happy with that."

JJ Grey & Mofro will be Sunday's headliner for the Copper Country music festival over Labor Day weekend at Copper Mountain Resort. The event hosts a weekend of free live music and a fine-arts exhibition featuring acts such as America, Delbert McClinton, Richie Furay, John Batdorf and The Long Players. Music begins at noon on Saturday, Sept. 3 and Sunday, Sept. 4.

A LIFE THAT LED TO MUSIC

For Grey, it's not about stacking up accomplishments — it's all about living in the moment. Growing up in a musically-inclined household, with a mother and brother who sang in a choir and an aunt and uncle who had a gospel group, his life was destined for music. He often uses analogies to speak about his career, and he compares all of his accomplishments to salmon that swim upstream due to pure instinct.

"If they thought about it, it's like, 'What is my biggest accomplishment?'" he said. "Jumping up this waterfall, but they never really notice any of that. They never notice that in terms of hardship; it's just a thing you have to do. You have to swim this way. … At some point … a light whispering voice starts coming, and they have to go this way. And they go. … I feel the same way about everything I'm doing when it comes to the music or any of this stuff. There's no alternative, and I don't have a choice. … I just feel like I have to go this way. This whole road hasn't felt like it's been fraught with accomplishment or failure, but I've had both. … Whether it's high or low, it is what it is, and I've enjoyed all of it."

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His work reflects his Southern upbringing, listening to his sister's 45's of bands like Jackson 5, Lynyrd Skynyrd as well as KC and the Sunshine Band. The music of Mofro combines Southern rock with soul, funk and blues, and he works to be brutally honest in his lyrics.

Grey's commitment to his songwriting follows the mantra of living in the moment, and he doesn't let the pressures of coming up with new work stress him out. He works on songs when the creativity hits him, when he wants to capture a specific moment.

"If anything, I let the songs kind of come; I don't try to get too involved with it in terms of forcing it," he said. "Over the years, I've learned to try to let to let go more. In times where I'm not letting go and making more of an analytical or structural decision, I've tried to just keep things on track and keep it focused. Balancing those two — really, I'm 95 percent 'let it happen' and 5 percent 'work it a little bit.'"

INSPIRATION AS IT COMES

He's currently working on a new album after releasing "Ol' Glory" in early 2015. He continues to let his life outlook reflect in this project, with the themes of a strong sense of place and finding happiness with where you are throughout. He doesn't have a set date for the new album, letting the songs come as they may when he finds the inspiration, sometimes giving himself a little push — kind of like sailing.

"I'm piddling at it more than working, but I do that with every record," he said. "I kind of let things fall together. It's great to allow things to happen, but sometimes you've got to push the envelope a bit and work it some. It's kind of like a sailboat: You've got the sails up and that's great, just grab wherever the wind takes you, but you need the rudder, too, to direct it."

The musician has become a notable name in the music scene, but that doesn't keep him from being intimidated by other well-known musicians, like when he was introduced to Toots Hibbert from Toots and The Maytals. Hibbert sang on the song "The Sweetest Thing" on Mofro's album "Georgia Warhorse."

"He is my favorite singer on Earth, I think; he influenced me long before I even started calling what I was doing Mofro," he said. "He's an inspiration and huge influence on me. … If I see someone that's kind of a hero, I give them room. I'm too nervous to go up to them and say, 'Hey, man.' Which is silly, you should just go talk to people. But I feel like they're busy enough, they don't need me in their face. He was very, very cool."

When he first began playing music, he never had any expectations for where his career might end up. True to his nature even back then, it was all living by the moment and experiencing the day to day. It's kind of like surfing, he says, where in the beginning, surfing bad waves is still wonderful, and you're in love with it every second. You don't have dreams of becoming the next Kelly Slater, a pro surfer, you just fall in love with surfing. You don't fall in love with the idea of what might be, you fall in love with doing it.

"You've got lots and lots of little goals that make up one giant goal," he said. "If you become infatuated with the one giant thing, instead of falling in love with it … you lose the ability to fall in love with all the little tiny things it takes to do that one big thing. And you've got to learn how to fall in love with doing it."

IF YOU GO

What: Copper Country

When: Saturday, Sept. 3 to Sunday, Sept. 4

Where: Copper Mountain Resort

Cost: Free

SCHEDULE

Saturday, Sept. 3

8 a.m.: Pancake Breakfast Benefit for the Consolidated Metro District (Jacks Grill)

10 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Art & Artisan Festival in Center Village

6:30 p.m.: Campfire & Live Music at the Fire Globe

Free live music begins at noon on the Main Stage in Burning Stones Plaza

12 p.m.: The Long Players – Tribute to Neil Young

1:15 p.m.: Savannah Jack

2:30 p.m.: John Batdorf

3:40 p.m.: Richie Furay

5:15 p.m.: America (Main Stage)

West Lake Stage

7 p.m.: Savannah Jack

8:30 p.m.: Fireworks over West Lake in Center Village

Saturday free activities:

Giant mountain music mural, face painting & kids craft area at West Lake

Nature Talk at 10:30 a.m.; meet at the base of the American Eagle Lift

Sunday, Sept. 4

10 a.m. – 6 p.m.: Art and Artisan Festival in Center Village

Free live music begins at noon on the Main Stage in Burning Stones Plaza

12 p.m.: Country Showdown – Colorado Final

1:15 p.m.: The Long Players

2:30 p.m.: Delbert McClinton

4:15 p.m.: JJ Grey & Mofro

West Lake Stage

6:45 p.m. Country Showdown Awards at the West Lake Stage

Sunday Free Activities:

Giant mountain music mural, face painting & kids craft area at West Lake

Pedal for Pints Community Bike Ride at 10:30 a.m. (meet at Gravitee Sports)

Mountain Pose Yoga at 12:30 p.m. on the Mountain at Solitude Station

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