Acclaimed Drummer Steve Gorman Talks New Nashville Supergroup Trigger Hippy, Recording With Warren Zevon, & More

You know you’re bound to elicit wonderment with a band name like Trigger Hippy.

At first glance, one may think they’re some psychedelic-punk band opening a Tuesday night bill at The End, or maybe East Room. (not that there’s anything wrong with that) No, this southern soul-rock quartet is made up of savvy music veterans who already have established presences in the industry on their own accord.

The band is made up of Nick Govrik (bass, vocals) Ed Jurdi (guitar, vocals) Amber Woodhouse (vocals, sax) and Steve Gorman (drums), the latter of which has been a fixture in the rock and roll scene for decades, kickstarting his career with The Black Crowes, and performing and recording with a number of other notable acts. Aside from making new music with Trigger Hippy, Gorman also released a memoir last year: Hard To Handle: The Life And Death of The Black Crowes.

The band released their latest album, Full Circle & Then Some, this past fall, and have graced the cover of The East Nashvillian, produced music videos, and headlined shows all over town and beyond in that span. Speaking of which, they’ll be doing an in-store performance at Grimey’s this Saturday March 7th, and later that night they’ll be performing at 3rd and Lindsley.

We had the opportunity to chat with Gorman and discuss the forming of Nashville’s newest supergroup, the band’s latest album, playing drums on Warren Zevon’s last record, and much more.

Music Mecca: So can you talk about the origins of Trigger Hippy and how y’all came together?

Steve Gorman: So Nick Govrik, the bassist and I, started jamming together right when I moved to Nashville in 2004. That fall we put together a weekly jam at a friend’s bar. We would just set up a tip jar and play. It was me, [Govrik], and whatever two guitarists were available that night and we called it Hey Hey Hey, originally. It was literally just an excuse to play on Wednesday night somewhere. 

But right from the jump when I first met Nick, we felt like our playing was right in sync with each other; we were super copacetic. And before long, literally within a few times playing together, we would say, “Man, let’s do something for real,” whatever that meant. That conversation meandered around for years. I would leave and go on tour with The Black Crowes and come back, then Nick and I would hook up and talk about doing stuff. Around 2009, after this sporadic four-year conversation, Kirk West, who works with the Allman Brothers, asked if I wanted to do something in Macon, Georgia to put on a gig for a fundraiser for the Big House Museum (the Allman Brothers museum). And I said “Yeah, let me put a band together for the night and we’ll do it.” 

So it worked out that Nick and I, along with Jimmy Herring from Widespread Panic and Audley Freed just put together a set list of covers to play. And for that gig, I came up with the name Trigger Hippy. Jimmy and Audley were soloing nonstop and I was like, “We should call the damn thing Trigger Happy with the two of you guys.” (laughs.) And as soon as I said that, I thought, Trigger Hippy was pretty funny. It’s not hippy/peace signs; it’s more hippy get-your-hips-moving. I like the duality of those two words together. So we called that gig Trigger Happy, a one-off/one-night-only thing. It was me, Nick, and a revolving door of other musicians. In 2013, we made a record, and put it out in 2014. That version of the band was more of a weekender band, and we wanted it to be more of a primary band. When that version of [Trigger Hippy] stopped in 2017, we found Ed [Jurdi] and Amber [Woodhouse] and then here we are. 

MM: So Trigger Hippy’s latest album Full Circle and Then Some came out this past fall if I’m not mistaken. Where did you record it and who was involved in production?

SG: The production was me, Nick, and Ed. We did it ourselves. We have a studio here in Nashville that we just built for our purposes. It’s a house on Love Circle: we call it The Treehouse. It’s a rental property that Nick owns and we set up shop and write and record demos there, and ultimately made the record there.

MM: What’s the primary influence and inspiration behind this particular album?

SG: The short answer is all the same stuff we’ve always listened to; which is the gamete of all-American music forms. And all of which are southern music forms: rock n’ roll, jazz, bluegrass, and all of that stuff is in the mix. But one thing we did discuss in this album was that we really wanted a certain groove-thread. Just one of those records where everyone knows it, but they don’t even know they love it. Like Little Feat records, or the Meters. When those records are on at a party, the whole room is just moving, whether they even know it. We wanted this record to have that vibe. You can put the album on at the beginning and go all the way through. There’s a groove and vibe that holds together. So a song like, “Long Lost Friend,” “Butcher’s Daughter,” and “Paving the Road,” they’re all very, very different songs, but they all have a continuity, and it just works in a certain way.  

MM: Do you sometimes have certain artists in mind when recording certain songs as maybe kind of an ode to them? Like your song “Goddamn Hurricane” to me is very reminiscent of The Band.

SG: When Nick wrote that song he wasn’t necessarily thinking of writing a Band-type song, but when you write that song and that’s the expression- his vocal approach is somewhere between Levon Helm and Lowell George. Their bastard lovechild would be Nick Govrik. Everything he does is swimming in that end of the pool. But we don’t have to discuss what kind of tune it is, they usually just speak for themselves.

MM: How does the songwriting process work within the band? Do one or two of you do most of it, or is it more of a regimented and group collaboration?

SG: If you look at the liner notes on both Trigger Hippy albums, at least half the songs say Nick Govrik by himself. And if another member contributed just a few lines of the lyric, [Govrik] would give them credit, but they were pretty much Nick’s tunes. He’s very prolific. There are times when he comes in with a song, and he’s like, “Hey, I got this song! Listen!” And it’s done. Like the song is full circle and done, like “Goddamn Hurricane” was just finished. But then there are songs like “Born to Be Blue,” and it’s just the three of us sitting in the room and throwing ideas at the wall. And we realized, “This should just be a meditative number. Like, this thing should just simmer.” I think, right away, we all could hear something similar.

MM: So I’ve been on a big Warren Zevon kick lately, so I need to address you playing drums on “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” for his final album, The Wind. What was that experience like, and what was the mood surrounding the recording of it?

SG: It was incredible. It was one of the more memorable days I’ve had as a drummer, or just as a person, honestly. Because it was a complete surprise. I didn’t get a call to play on a Warren Zevon session, I was in the middle of a session with Billy Bob Thornton, and Warren just turned up. Billy knew he was coming by, but hadn’t mentioned it to anybody else. What happened was, Warren pretty much already recorded The Wind, and he had made the album and it was done, and it was going to come out the next year. And he had already announced that he was terminally ill. So that was all out there, and the fact he’d made an album, people knew that too. And we were just all at Thornton’s on the last night, we had finished by midnight, and everyone was just sitting around telling stories, shooting the shit, ready to get out of there. Then the door opened, and Warren stepped in. And him and Billy Bob had been friends since the 80s. He just stepped in and I remember just being like, “Oh my God, it’s Warren Zevon!” Being a big fan myself, and just being like,  “Oh my god, he’s dying.” Like it was the most bittersweet meeting of a hero of mine ever. But he was full of gallows humor, and it wasn’t like you couldn’t talk about [his terminal illness].

And so he told us a story. The night before, he went to a Bob Dylan show the night before at The Wiltern or something, and Dylan did several Warren Zevon songs that night. And Warren said, “Boy, if I didn’t believe I was dyin’, I sure as hell do now because Dylan’s doin’ my songs.” And he said, “I should probably throw one more on my record. I should probably do a Bob song.” So someone joked that there wasn’t a better time to do “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” then Warren said, “Well, that’s what I’m thinking, actually. That’s the one I want to do.” And Billy said, “Well shit we have a band right here.”

So everyone just ran into the tracking room before someone changed their mind. I remember it was this wild group of [Thornton’s] friends, and Tommy Shaw from Styx was there, and Warren’s bass player, Jorge. It was just incredible. And I remember [Shaw] picking up his guitar and I said, “Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus, out?” and [Zevon] said “Everyone got that?,” and we just played it through once, and that’s what’s on the album. And the only overdub were the “hmm-hmm-hmms”” but that’s Warren’s live vocal pass. When he first started singing, from the drum kit I could see the vocal booth. And I’m hearing him in my headphones, and his breathing was pretty labored. He was in bad shape. It wasn’t lost on anybody what was happening. It was very, very powerful. He was really, really leaning into those lines, and I was watching him scream into that mic (“Open up the gates for me”). My eyes were tearing up just watching him scream into that mic. Then he flew to New York, and did his last ever David Letterman appearance. By the time we were all done it was 5 or 6AM, and I just drove home, and bawled. It was such an unexpected and such an emotional four hours of my life. But it was incredible. 

MM: That is wild. So switching gears to a lighter subject, I see you’re a big sports fan, and had a sports radio show with Fox. Do you still do a sports radio show on a different network or outlet?

SG: So I did Steve Gorman on Sports for about seven years, but I stopped doing that about a year ago. And now I have a show called Steve Gorman Rocks! which is a classic rock show with Westwood One, a Nashville syndicated show.

MM: Who are your favorite sports teams?

SG: Well, my longest lifelong affiliation is with the Baltimore Orioles. A horrifically fruitless relationship for many years. But as a kid I lived in Maryland, and the early 70s Orioles were pretty dominant. My parents are from Michigan, and my older siblings always rooted for Michigan [teams].  The only team I really have is the Orioles. I lived for a long time without a team, until I moved to Nashville in ‘04, and my son was 4. So I thought, let’s just go with the Titans and the Predators, so that’s who I cheer for now. No sense being a long distance fan. Might as well cheer for the local team.

MM: What might the upcoming months have in store for you and for Trigger Hippy?

SG: We’ve got shows we’re lining up. We’ve already got things in the fall that we’ve committed to. We’re not able to do stuff like a four month-long tour right now; it doesn’t make sense for us to do that. For the most part, we’re focusing on keeping things east of the Mississippi. We’re basically a brand new band at this point. We’re kind of starting from scratch, and no one’s 23 years old anymore. So we’re not going to hop in the van and just ride down 100 shows just to say we did it. 

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