Meet Les Gruff and the Billy Goat, Songwriter Billy Croghan's Americana-Based Band

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Allan Crain
Les Gruff and the Billy Goat.
St. Louis native Billy Croghan grew up on a steady diet of singer-songwriters -- music he says his "old man listened to." Inspired by artists including Cat Stevens, James Taylor and Waylon Jennings, he set out to learn guitar, later studying classical technique in college and writing his own set of Americana songs tinged with folk, country, blues and roots. Today, he performs his songs in Les Gruff and the Billy Goat, a band that includes members of the Last Night, Aye Sir Owl, the Boxcutters and more.

"In 2009, I was doing some stuff at a construction company. Then, I lost my day job and had some personal tragedy. I was jobless and dealing with pain and writing songs kind of all at once," says Croghan, explaining how he first became motivated to act as a songwriter. Croghan's style straddles the line between strumming and Travis fingerstyle picking -- a technique he compares to stride piano, but on the guitar.

"I started to incorporate some of that stuff and I try to bring it in as much as I can, because I really like to hat tip the old blues guys," he says.

In Les Gruff and the Billy Goat, Croghan writes about subjects including family and life occurrences that he then applies to the world in general.

"I've written songs about addiction and suicide and dealing with it from a couple different points of view. That's something I work with a little bit -- writing from inside and outside of the character.... sometimes crossing the line of that point of view within one composition," he says.

Live, Croghan fully utilizes the dynamic range of his backing band, which includes drums, keyboards, mandolin, bass and fiddle.

"It's sort of a journey through the song, as opposed to all in-your-face the whole time, which can be fun. We do have a few songs that do that, but we sort of try to work an ebb and flow into the set," he says. "I've got this sort of idea that a good show should have a bit of everything in it, so we try and bring people up and down, and usually leave them on a high note if we can."

Les Gruff and the Billy Goat is currently working on a four song acoustic EP leading up to a full-length release. Check out its latest, A Cup of Coffee, an Apple and a Suicide, below.

We invited Billy Croghan of Les Gruff and the Billy Goat to fill in the blanks. See what he had to say after the jump.


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