Little Did I Know…
I didn’t know when my Texas friend gave me a mix CD with “Colorblind” and “Bury Me In Blue Jeans” by Granger Smith on it, that years later I would be backstage at two of his shows experiencing Yee Yee at its best. Since I can remember, music has helped me through life. It still amazes me how words and melodies can be paired together in so many different ways to capture just the right feeling or connect with just the right person in a few short minutes.
My First Granger Concert
After years of listening to that Texas country music CD on repeat, I found myself at the Wormy Dog Saloon in Oklahoma City in 2015. Sounds odd for an Ohio farm girl, but I was at an Agri-Women conference and the girls wanted to check out this Granger Smith show in town. I remember saying, “Oh I know him, we should go!” Seeing Granger and Earl perform their music live was all I needed to be a fan for life. It was because during that performance I could be truly present. All the worries at the farm and in life just paused for that one hour.
Live music can heal, can bring peace and be a one-hour escape when your world gets crazy. Granger’s shows have been the only ones that can do that for me. I can connect to the music, feel like the songs understand me, and feel like I am a part of something bigger through Yee Yee Nation. Living life to the fullest and being present is the best part about a Granger Smith show.
Finally Going on Tour
All this back story to say, everything came full circle In May 2022, when I was able to join Granger, his band, and crew on tour in Kansas and Nebraska. To know how this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity happened, read my blog post I Had My Hand On Granger Smith’s Truck For 24 Hours – Why I took It Off & My Trip To The Yee Yee Farm. So, after a year and five months of waiting, I finally got to join Granger on tour as he opened up for Justin Moore.
When I walked into Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas I was greeted by a production sign with my name on it! Chris Lee, Granger’s Tour Manager, showed me around backstage while I waited on my friend Lesley to get there. When she arrived, Granger came out to meet us. I was so thankful he took the time to take us on stage and tell us about the production. The crew explained the sound system to me and all the time it takes to set up at each tour stop.
We then got to join Granger and Chris for dinner while Justin’s Tour Manager led a security meeting. While it may have just been another dinner to them, I was soaking up all the little things. Granger was trying to decide on a title for The Smith’s episode that would release that evening while he ate. Day in and day out, the grind doesn’t slow for them. As soon as they all ate, it was off to prep for the show. The BEST time was first with meet and greets. It was so fun to watch how Granger made each person feel appreciated and like a friend. Ant Man, who runs Yee Yee Radio, was there getting sound bites from fans to play in between songs on the radio app.
When families would come in, Chris would pick some of them to sit on stage side in the hunting blind for a few songs and the kids’ faces would light up with excitement. After one group of girls met Granger, they came over to me as they recognized me from the truck contest. It was so great to meet them and talk about the experience. Yee Yee Nation really does make you feel like you already have so much in common. I also met Westen and we talked all things country.
Chris had a timeline of when they would do a group huddle before the show, which was one of the coolest traditions to be a part of. At each show, they set up a bar out of their equipment carts and hang up Yee Yee flags around the room to create a fun space to relax before and after Granger’s set. Right before Granger went on, we all huddled together in prayer and then put our hands in for a chant to pump us up for the show.
Lesley and I stood stage-side and I was given one of the ear sets to hear what the band and crew were saying to each other throughout the set. It also allowed me to hear the music as they would, it was like listening to the concert through personal headphones. The sound was more clear, especially as I stood right next to the speakers that faced out to the audience. The set ended up starting a little late with the video board deciding not to work right at the last minute. They decided to cut a song for this reason because it was so important to stay on time as they were opening for Justin, however, the audience didn’t even notice, only the band and crew who had the set list knew.
Thankfully, the soundboard worked for Earl’s video and the crowd was cheering. When Granger walked around the entire area floor during “Don’t Tread On Me” he came right up to Lesley and me. He loves doing this to make everyone feel like they had the best seat that night. After Justin’s performance, I said goodbye to Lesley.
Chris told me how to get in the tour bus as he and others went to bed early. I brushed my teeth in the arena bathroom and rolled into my dark bunk. There was plenty of room for me but it felt so strange to try to sleep as the bus didn’t take off for another hour. At 2 a.m. I heard the engine start and felt the bus move. It was about a five-hour drive up to Nebraska. A couple of times I got out Google maps to see where we were as I woke up to the bus swaying from the wind. We arrived at the venue around 7 a.m. and I waited for others to get off the bus. Putting my unwashed hair in a scrunchie and ball cap was good enough. I went into the venue to start day two of my Yee Yee experience.
With these shows being at an arena, the great part was rolling right out of bed and walking into a catered breakfast. I was excited to talk with Butch and Bull, Granger’s bus drivers, about the bus ride. They usually go to sleep in the afternoon and then don’t come back until the show ends, so I didn’t get to see them the day before. After breakfast, I was able to talk with Butch and Bull on the bus about life on the road. There is so much preparation, maintenance, and repairs that need to be done all the time, and costs add up, especially when breakdowns happen that need to be fixed with little time to spare as they need to get to the next show on time.
Granger came onto the bus after his workout, and I was able to ask him some questions about what his day typically looks like on the road. He usually works on recording the After Midnight radio show segment for iHeart along with any other projects he is working on. With so many projects happening at one time, I asked him how he decides what to say yes and no to. Granger says it’s difficult and told me more about how things have changed in his career over the years. Even up until a few years ago, he was touring non-stop. Now they are able to do a few shows less since he is doing so many other projects: radio and podcast recordings, The Smith YouTube filming, songwriting and recording, and much more. He prioritizes time with family often flying home between shows and then flying to meet up with the buses.
By then it was time for lunch, and I was able to spend more time talking with the band and crew. I listened to sound check and talked with Dusty Saxton, Granger’s Drummer, about how the song programming runs from his computer. I talked with Jon Wisinski, Granger’s Bassist, about how rare it is to have a band that has all been together ten years or more as many bands experience turnover in members. This enables them to change the set list anytime and make changes on the spot. They know the ins and outs of playing Granger’s music which is evident when they perform. Let me say here, that I could never get tired of a Granger Smith concert, and it takes everyone in his band and crew to make it that way.
As the evening approached, I got concert-ready and waited for my Nebraska friend, Hannah, to join me for the show. When Hannah arrived, I showed her to the backstage Yee Yee hang-out room for the night. We watched Granger’s meet and greet which included some Nebraska radio hosts. Hannah and I both went to school for journalism/communications, so it was neat to see behind the scenes of the concert. Hannah thought of even more questions to ask the band. We then joined the pre-show huddle and got amped up. Sharing the ear set, we listened to the concert and heard the band decide to switch out a song for “Buy A Boy A Baseball” because there was a young boy who they brought on stage to get his ball signed by Granger.
The show did not disappoint. While it may have been the same song set to Granger, his band, and crew, it was not the same crowd. Each night is like a reset because every person is listening with fresh ears and brings new energy to feed from. Granger can perform a show that allows everyone to be in the moment of that night. Whether it is your first Granger concert or 50th, “Tonight” is what matters, being present in this moment because tomorrow is not guaranteed.
As the night went on I soaked up every moment. Not every moment was captured by a camera or written about here, but it will live inside me as a feeling I won’t forget. Only God could make this opportunity happen for me and I am forever grateful to Granger, his Tour Manager Chris, the whole band and crew. It meant more to me than they will ever know. Following Granger’s set I was able to thank him and say goodbye on his tour bus one last time. Hannah and I watched Justin’s set with Granger’s band from the sound booth and soaked up every last minute of our time with them.
We then had fun hanging out with the band afterward and I showed them the video from my first Granger concert in 2015 at the Wormy Dog Saloon. We shared lots of laughs at how things have changed. While many years have passed, our love for music has never swayed. Music will always be what gets me through a hard day, what fires me up, and what slows me down when life gets crazy. I will end this here by saying, you are chosen and anything can happen. Yee Yee!