Trigger Hippy’s Steve Gorman & Nick Govrik Discuss Getting The Band Back Together
A priority for Trigger Hippy was not to overthink it. When Steve Gorman and Nick Govrik first got together to jam not long after Gorman moved to Nashville, their collaboration was loose, inspired and enjoyable, and through several versions of the band they created, that hasn’t changed.
Now it’s time to take it up a notch.
Trigger Hippy returns this year with a new record, Full Circle & Then Some, out on October 11, with a celebration show in Nashville that same night. The group has U.S. tour dates on the books for November, with more expected in early 2020. Both album and tour feature the new lineup and the infectious, hyphenate-roots/funk/blues/rock it’s created, though the core of the band — now, as in before — is bassist/principal songwriter Govrik, and Gorman, best known for his decades-long role as drummer for The Black Crowes.
“Steve and I had always said we’d keep it going,” Govrik said. “We have all these songs and we really enjoy playing with each other. It’s always been our band. The players are different now but it still has the same foundation of good songs and honest intentions. I don’t think there’s any pretense in the songs, and when you do something that’s honest and find players who are good and want to support that, it’s all sort of cohesive.”
Govrik and Gorman first met in the mid-2000s when Gorman moved from Los Angeles to Nashville. Govrik and guitarist Audley Freed are old friends, and Freed, who played with Gorman in the Crowes from 1997 to 2002 and ended up in the first version of Trigger Hippy, at the time recommended Gorman for an impromptu gig one night when Freed and Govrik’s usual go-to drummer couldn’t make it.
“Audley was like, my friend Steve Gorman just came to town and I’ll bring him down to play,” Govrik recalls. “Literally, a week later, we were like, we should start a band together. It went from there.”
Trigger Hippy officially debuted in 2009, with a roster including Freed and Jimmy Herring. As The Black Crowes spent most of the late-2000s and early-2010s in various stages of on-again/off-again, Trigger Hippy persisted, and lineups included at various stages Joan Osborne, Jackie Greene, Will Kimbrough and/or Tom Bukovac.
The band’s shows were plenty engaging and there was a solid debut album, eponymously titled, released in 2014. Still, as Govrik and Gorman note, the band in that era didn’t quite move past the air of a side project.
“With Joan and Jackie it was always fun, and everyone got along well, but the elements didn’t all fit seamlessly and I think we did try to put some square pegs in round holes,” Gorman said. “That’s not a knock, it was just the way the band operated. We could do it well, but we also kind of felt like it was not quite right.”
Trigger Hippy was put on hiatus in late 2015 — the right move, as it turned out, to anticipate the reunion that would come later.
“We were out with the Crowes in 2013, the Crowes blew up in 2014, Trigger Hippy was playing shows in 2015, and I just felt like I should have stopped, taken some time, cleared my head,” Gorman said. “I had a hangover from both bands, it really was that simple.”
Govrik and Gorman didn’t sideline their partnership, however, and when the right time to re-emerge was apparent, they had faith that they’d both know it.
“Someone asked me how long the new record took to make, and I said, ‘It took as long as it needed to,’” Gorman said. “The one thing Nick and I both agreed on back when we started was, we’re not in a rush. Let’s see what we got, kick some ideas around. The band came together without a real mission statement or master plan, which is how we originally wanted it. Nick and I were on the same page about that in a way I don’t think others were. There was no drama or harm done in that, but there was also a feeling of, we should have thought a little more about this ahead of time, and where it might go.”
New Lineup, New Energy
Trigger Hippy circa 2019 combines Gorman and Govrik with guitarist and singer Ed Jurdi, best known for Band of Heathens, and singer and saxophonist Amber Woodhouse, both of whom give the band a big infusion of energy and creativity.
Jurdi, especially, was a catalyst for getting Trigger Hippy up and running again.
“When Jackie wasn’t going to do it anymore, Steve said, ‘I have a perfect guy,’” Govrik recalled. “Ed started coming around and any time he’d come to town, we’d just work on music together. The process was really easy going to start, and got even easier from there.”
“I wouldn’t have asked him — he’s in Band of Heathens, and busy. But he said, ‘If you do something, I’d love to jam, let’s see if it clicks,’” Gorman said. “And when we played together, it was that spark—that ‘Oh shit, this is good.’ We agreed we wouldn’t put pressure on to do it quickly, if it doesn’t feel right, we’ll stop. But it feels great.”
Woodhouse came to Gorman and Govrik through the recommendation of Mike “Grimey” Grimes, well-known to Nashville music aficionados, especially for Grimey’s, the beloved record store he co-owns.
“Grimey said, ‘You have to check this girl out.’ We just started hanging out and singing together and it was there,” Govrik said. “Everything about this felt easy. Most of the songs on the record, with one or two exceptions, are second or third takes. We’d show up, someone had music, we would learn it and we’d record it. We had a lot of fun. It’s one of the most rewarding records I’ve ever played on because there was just no bullshit and no restrictions. Everyone showed up with a positive attitude.”
Trigger Hippy by design doesn’t have a leader, says Gorman.
“This is just an all-hands-on-deck mentality. That’s way more my speed. It’s an even load that everyone is sharing, and when we play, we’re not really labeling it beyond we’re just a pretty fucking good rock ‘n’ roll band, you know?”
Gorman continues, “I’d love to see the band get back to where it was in 2015 and then move beyond that as far as the crowds we can play for. We have unfinished business. But this band also feels very different and this album feels different. And we don’t have anything to prove to anybody except to ourselves. The hardest part of being in a band is, you know … being in a band. We’re not going to go out there and kill ourselves for the wrong reasons.”
A tour, an album, a radio show … and a book?
Gorman readily acknowledges he’s busier than ever. In addition to his Trigger Hippy commitments, he has a new radio show, Steve Gorman Rocks, that debuted on Westwood One on September 9.
And then there’s his new book, Hard to Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes—A Memoir, co-written with Steven Hyden and already one of the year’s more buzzed-about rock bios.
“There was always kind of this understanding that I’d write a book about the band. They knew I liked to write and it was always kind of mentioned, but to me, it was like, I’d write a book, but no one would believe it!” Gorman laughs. “Look, we made great music, we made good music, and occasionally we were a little off our mark. All bands are clown cars, you know? The Black Crowes were this kind of absurdist comedy. We went through a lot of internal turmoil, too.”
The tragic death of former Crowes keyboardist Eddie Harsch in 2016 is what finally spurred Gorman to finish a draft, he said.
“I still was never sure I was going to do it. But when Ed died, that morning I wrote out some thoughts for my radio show that ended up being a 12-minute opening monologue,” Gorman said. “When I got home, after having read that on the air, I knew that was when The Black Crowes were dead and buried. I never expected the band to reunite after we blew up in 2014 — and Ed would never have been back if we did — but that was when I knew it’s never going to happen again. Ed had had a very difficult last decade. Just kind of writing down how I felt about him helped me put together a loose framework. I was just kind of putting thoughts on paper and didn’t think much about it, but by the end of 2017, after doing that a lot, I knew I was ready for it. I sent the first draft in October 2018 and we began to revise and cut from there.”
The book’s release may inflame some old tensions, but Gorman says it’s not meant to be a definitive biography of The Black Crowes — just his take on how it all went down, in triumphs and tough times alike.
“Sven [Pipien] and I still talk. Johnny [Colt] and Jeff [Cease], the guys from the original band, I still talk to. Marc [Ford], I haven’t talked to in a bit. I texted with Adam [MacDougall] about Neal [Casal’s] passing, that was just such an awful thing,” he said. “I still talk to everybody who isn’t one of the brothers, some of them much more than others.”
Does he have any relationship with Chris Robinson or Rich Robinson?
“No,” Gorman said. “There’s no bad blood, but after all those years and all the absurdity, I don’t have anything to say to them, and probably they don’t have anything to say to me.”