Singer and songwriter John Courage is one of the most recognizable figures on Sonoma County’s music scene, with his shock of red curls perched atop a six-foot-five frame. As frontman for John Courage & the Great Plains over the last decade, he’s produced a dynamic array of country, folk and rock jams, but about a year and a half ago he hit pause.
Now John Courage is ready to return to the stage and, seated at the small counter at Flying Goat coffee in Santa Rosa, he talks about where he wants to go musically.
“I went through some pretty hard stuff, personally. My cousin and close friend Jimmy died in a freak accident last year. I never experienced personal loss that close. I’m just now getting through that,” says Courage.
“I’ve been a total recluse, holed up and getting back to the drawing board,” he says. “And I’ve been practicing the shit out of the electric guitar.”
On Dec. 5, John Courage & the Gremlin Family Band hit the stage at the Yard in Santa Rosa with a 10-year retrospective show. “Earlier this year, we put out a project called Old Gremlin, and it definitely has a more rock-and-roll bent,” explains Courage. “It’s where I’m at mentally, a reaction to the saturation of Americana right now. I’m waiting for a return to a rock-oriented sound.”
Joining John Courage onstage will be Ashley Allred on vocals, Francesco Catania on bass, Jef Overn on guitar and baritone, and Sean England on drums. It promises to be an interesting mash-up of melodic chords and power-rock riffs.
“We’ll be playing stuff from the last 10 years and three records,” says Courage. “I see it as a closing to that chapter and an opening to the next chapter.”
The Yard is at Ninth and Wilson streets in Santa Rosa. It’s been a hydroponic store and is now a yoga studio, but is set to be demolished for the Smart Train. “We have a terrible record for playing the last show at places,” laughs Courage. “Santa Rosa keeps losing venues; I hope we can get some new ones.” Courage points to the hopeful sight of construction happening within the former Last Day Saloon as a possible new spot for live music in town.
Beyond performing, Courage is hoping to contribute more to the Santa Rosa music scene, and he’s starting at home with his Gremlin Studios, an all-analog set-up. The studio just finished recording the first of a three-part EP by local act the Crux, who open the show this weekend.