Josh Grider hopes the third time’s the charm in Saturday’s show at The Backyard, but the Texas county singer-songwriter knows better than to bet on anything in 2020, the Year of COVID-19.
The show he and his five-piece band will play was originally scheduled for April. Then postponed to May. Then Gov. Greg Abbott closed Texas bars for the second time on June 26 to curb the statewide spread of the coronavirus.
And that brings us to Saturday night and an optimistic Grider. “It’s been nuts for everybody. It feels like it’s been forever . . . (but) I think we’re good to go,” he said, speaking by phone from his New Braunfels home.
It’s a return to a place he once called home while a Baylor University student in the 1990s and it was with a band called Riverside where Grider caught the bug for music, which he followed as a career after graduating in 2002. “So many of my firsts came in Waco,” he said.
The statewide coronavirus shutdowns and slowdowns hit just as he and his band were rolling through the first months of 2020 with momentum. His single “Country’s Comin’ Back” was headed up the Texas country charts and then everything stopped. Well, at least the way things used to be.
Grider, 39, shifted to playing online, bringing in his wife Kristi and occasionally his young sons for a weekly “Grider Family Hour.” They played 20 online shows, with audiences ranging from 50 to 100 fans on any given week. “That kept us sane, musically,” he said.
Though performances before in-person audiences were on hold, songwriting wasn’t. Grider continued to write and collaborate, via Zoom teleconferencing, with writing colleagues in Nashville. “Nashville songwriters didn’t lose a beat,” he said. “There was a lot of creation going on in the music community and I think we’ll see a crazy amount of releases in 2021.”
He also spent time in his home studio, working not only on his own material, but also with up-and-coming performer Gunnar Latham from San Marcos, who has, in Grider’s opinion, “a super soulful voice.”
Latham, in fact, will open Saturday’s show and Grider’s considering sitting in for part of his set.
Grider’s glad to be back with his band to play their rollicking, rocking brand of country in front of an audience, even if it’s smaller, socially distanced and masked much of the time. He remembers the exuberance of shows in early June when clubs started to reopen — and he remembers what also happened, with serious consequences for venues that saw a second shutdown. “Nobody wore masks. Nobody was socially distanced,” he said.
The performer is trying to find middle ground between playing before lots of people to make money and avoiding unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19 for him and his fans. As the father of two school-age boys and husband to a teacher, he’s sensitive to that risk.