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Grayson Hugh

Raised in the quiet suburb of West Hartford, Connecticut, singer/songwriter/pianist Grayson Hugh moved to New York in 1986, determined to get a record deal. Camping out on an army cot in a friend's basement barber shop, he supported himself by accompanying modern dance classes at Sarah Lawrence College and playing piano in a wedding band on the weekends. Word began to spread of a new singer/keyboardist in town, and before too long Hugh found himself recording with people like jazz/pop bassist/singer Fernando Saunders and eclectic jazz producer and percussionist Kip Hanrahan. The fateful moment occurred in the Summer of ’86, when Hugh and producer Michael Baker (The Blow Monkeys, Wet,Wet,Wet, Patty Griffin) just happened to be in the same Upper East Side elevator. The two struck up a conversation and Baker ended going up to Hugh's manager's apartment to hear some songs. Listening to a demo cassette, Baker was amazed at what he was hearing. Not quite believing that this polite white guy with long hair could sound like he did, Baker asked Hugh to prove it by playing the piano and sing live right there in the apartment. He later told his girlfriend "I've just found the next Buddy Holly".

The affiliation with Baker resulted in Hugh's RCA debut album "Blind To Reason", released in 1988 to international acclaim. Hugh has been wowing audiences and gathering loyal fans around the world ever since with his masterful piano playing, his poetic lyrics and his soulful singing. "Blind To Reason" produced several global mega-hits (“Talk It Over”, “Bring It All Back” and “How Bout Us”) and some award-winning music videos. The album eventually went Gold, first in Australia, then in the U.S. His follow-up release "Road To Freedom" was called one of 1992’s Top Ten albums by Billboard Magazine.

Grayson’s music also caught the attention of Hollywood. New York filmmaker Nancy Savoca asked him to record the soul classic "How Bout Us" for her first full length movie "True Love”, released in 1989. Grayson asked soul diva Betty Wright to join him in an updated duet version of the song. It was featured prominently in the film and was added to a second printing of “Blind To Reason”. It became Hugh’s third hit single from “Blind To Reason” and the video for it, shot in New Orleans, went into heavy rotation on VH1 and BET. In 1990, Director Ridley Scott heard an advance pressing and requested the use of several of Hugh’s songs for the 1991 film "Thelma and Louise". They settled on two: “I Can’t Untie You From Me” and “Don’t Look Back”. Later in 1991 another director, Jon Avnet, asked Hugh to record Bob Dylan's "I'll Remember You" for the ending of his film "Fried Green Tomatoes". Using Eric Clapton's touring band, Hugh dipped back into his experience as a pianist in a black gospel church as a youth, and arranged and recorded “a gospel-style assault of the song that could raise the dead" (Peanuts, The Cleveland Sun, Dec. 3, 1992).

His songs have been called "a soul/rock stew with a dash of blues and a pinch of country" (Stone Phillips, The Today Show) and his voice has been compared to soul legends Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. His piano playing has been called "a veritable cyclone of soul, drawing its energy from such diverse regions as the swampland funk of Professor Longhair, the testifying soul of Ray Charles, with the rhythms of African drumming and American bluegrass thrown in the mix." - Benny Metten, Ctrl. Alt. Country, August, 2010.

In 1994, Hugh’s A&R man Paul Atkinson was fired, and all of Atkinson’s acts were dropped from MCA, including Grayson. At the same time, Hugh’s business manager was taking money from him and rapidly getting him into a bad situation with the I.R.S. In 1999, Hugh was forced to go bankrupt. After living for several years in North Carolina, Hugh moved back north to Boston, where he landed a job teaching songwriting at the famed Berklee College Of Music. However, in 2000, the old demon of alcohol reared its head, and Hugh began a four-year, near-fatal fight with his old addictions. Landing first in a hospital, then a sober house in 2004, Grayson began to rebuild his life. He worked at a fast food restaurant, attended 12 step meetings daily, and renewed his spiritual life. An angel in the form of a substance abuse counselor, Dean Gilmore, provided some seed money for a new record through The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Hugh began recording rhythm tracks in 2006, while still living at the sober house. He took Greyhound buses from Cape Cod to Hartford, Connecticut to work on it on weekends.

In the process of recording overdubs in January 2007, Hugh re-connected with his old friend singer Polly Messer. Polly had sung backup vocals with Grayson in the early 80's, after leaving the well-known swing band Eight To The Bar. One harmony led to another, and Grayson and Polly ended up not only co-producing the album but getting married in 2008. Since then they have been performing Hugh's music together, both in the U.S. and in Europe.

The release of "An American Record" in 2010 was met with praise from music critics and Hugh's loyal fans, who had been waiting over fifteen years for some new music. Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. was moved to write: "In a world where music is often a brittle artificiality, the music he makes is hard and strong, convicted and convincing. And true. Most of all, true. It's there in the gritty lament of his voice, in the roughhouse eloquence of his piano, and the atmospheric poetry of his words. He has that thing Sam Cooke and Ray Charles had, that thing you still hear sometimes in Bruce Springsteen, that lonely, train whistle in the dark thing, that yearning, keening thing that gets right to the heart of what it means to be alive, what it means to be a human being. This is 'An American Record'. Some of us are glad the wait is over at last." - Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald, March 8, 2010

Hugh’s newest album “Back To The Soul”, a return to his southern soul roots, was released in August 2015 to rave reviews.