By Rory Noble
News & Features Editor
If you frequent Mac’s Grill, you most likely know him; he’s the guy with the mohawk haircut, the sleeve tattoo and the deep voice.
If you have never been formally introduced, his name is Grayson Dean, a transfer student from the University of Oregon. He is currently a junior seeking a degree in music with a minor in business.
He also has his own band, Fifty Shades of Grayson, which recently packed a Tuesday night gig at 10 Depot Street.
When he was younger, his musical talent was apparent to many. Grayson said, “In sixth grade I got first in state in Maryland for flute. In seventh grade I got first in state for trumpet in Virginia. In ninth grade I got second in state for tuba in Texas.”
After that, “traumatizing situations” caused the young man to give up on music for about 10 years. After coming to La Grande and finding fewer entertainment options than Eugene, he grabbed his guitar out of storage and started playing.
Grayson’s musical background helps him when writing and performing. He said, “It helps to kind of speak music, to help portray what you’re trying to say to somebody else or when you’re trying to get a certain sound.”
A typical Shades of Grayson show includes both cover songs and original material. Grayson is slowly adding original songs to the set list. He said, “As I write songs, I take out covers. My goal right now is to get a two-hour set of nothing but originals. Right now I’m sitting at about 45 minutes of originals.”
Front man Grayson plays guitar and sings in the band. Greg Miller, who Grayson calls “Harpy G”, is the harmonica player. Miller is also a percussionist. Connor Ross, a La Grande local, is the lead guitarist. Jacob Malone is the bassist. Jerry Mesa is the drummer and is the newest member of the band.
Grayson has played solo at several of the open mike nights at 10 Depot Street. The audience is a relatively small group of diners and bar patrons on those occasions. The gig on April 16 was packed with people. Supporters from the EOU campus, both student and faculty alike, showed up to hear the band.
The band members, especially Miller, are “true musicians” to Grayson. He describes himself as still learning how to play while the others know exactly what they are doing. Grayson said, “Jacob didn’t even know how to play the bass when I asked him to join the band.” Apparently, Malone learned quickly.
On June 1, Grayson will be performing at Spring Fling on the EOU campus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Another show may take place around May 16, although that is still in the discussion stage of development.
As he continues to create original songs and work them into the act, Grayson keeps his focus mainly on school. However, over Memorial Day weekend, he and some friends will attend the Sasquatch Music Festival in Quincy, Wash.
Will he solicit himself as an artist or simply be a fan? Grayson said, “I’m not even taking my guitar.” However, if the band continues its popularity around La Grande, an offer to play the Sasquatch in the future may not be out of the question.