Raised in the quiet suburb of West Hartford, Connecticut, singer-songwriter and pianist Grayson Hugh moved to New York City in 1986, determined to get a record deal. Camping out in a friend's basement barber shop, he pounded on doors with his tapes the old-fashioned way, playing his songs for everyone he could. He soon caught the attention of Lou Reed's bassist/producer Fernando Saunders and eclectic jazz producer and percussionist Kip Hanrahan, both of whom hired him to record on their records. The fateful moment occurred when he and producer Michael Baker (The Blow Monkeys, Wet, Wet, Wet, Patty Griffin) just happened to be in the same upper East Side elevator. The two struck up a conversation and Baker ended going up to Hugh's manager's apartment to hear some songs. Amazed at what he was hearing, Baker asked Hugh to prove that singing and playing was him. So Hugh proceeded to play the piano and sing some of the songs right there in the apartment. Grayson recalls Michael pointing emphatically to his forearms. Michael told him later that he was trying to point out the goosebumps Hugh's music was giving him. Michael later told his girlfriend "I've just found the next Buddy Holly".
The affiliation with Baker resulted in RCA signing Hugh to a record contract in 1987. RCA President Bob Buziak recalled "Grayson was one of the only artists we signed largely as a result of a live impromptu performance on a piano right in my office!" Hugh's debut album "Blind To Reason", released on RCA in 1988, spawned several international hits, including "Talk It Over", "Bring It All Back" and "How Bout Us". Hugh has been wowing audiences and gathering loyal fans around the world ever since with his masterful piano playing, his poetic lyrics and his soulful singing. "Blind To Reason" went Gold in the U.S. & overseas and his follow-up release "Road To Freedom" was called one of the year's best albums by Billboard Magazine.
"Road To Freedom" also caught the attention of Hollywood. Director Ridley Scott heard an advance pressing and requested the use of two of Hugh's songs for the 1991 film "Thelma and Louise". Director Jon Avnet asked Hugh to record Bob Dylan's "I'll Remember You" for the ending of another hit film - "Fried Green Tomatoes". Using Eric Clapton's touring band, who just happened to be passing through the studio, Hugh dipped back into his experience as a pianist in a black gospel church as a youth, and arranged and recorded “a gospel-style assault of the song that could raise the dead" (Peanuts, The Cleveland Sun, Dec. 3, 1992).
His songs have been called "a soul/rock stew with a dash of blues and a pinch of country" (Stone Phillips, The Today Show) and his voice has been compared to soul legends Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. His piano playing has been called "a veritable cyclone of soul, drawing its energy from such diverse regions as the swampland funk of Professor Longhair, the testifying soul of Ray Charles, with the rhythms of African drumming and American bluegrass thrown in the mix." - Benny Metten, Ctrl. Alt. Country, August, 2010.
The ascent of "Road To Freedom" was cut short, however, after the A&R man who had signed Grayson to MCA was fired, and all of his acts subsequently dropped. Disillusioned with the mercenary music business, and after several disastrous events involving corrupt business management, Grayson moved to coastal North Carolina in 1994, continuing to write songs solely for the joy of creating.
Hugh eventually wound up back in the northeast with a wagonload of new songs, where he landed a job in 1999 teaching songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston. While living in the Boston area, he was commissioned to compose scores for several modern dance companies, notably Prometheus Dance and Bennett Dance Company.
But in 2000, the old demon of alcohol reared its head. Not having had a drink since 1980, but already abusing the prescription drug Xanax, Grayson embarked on a four year relapse that nearly killed him. At the same time his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and his drinking and pill-taking led to a downward spiral that landed him in a room over a Cape Cod restaurant.
The light at the end of the tunnel came in the form of a near fatal seizure in an alcoholic blackout that landed him in the hospital. In October of 2004 he went to a detox facility and, nine days later, having discovered he was homeless, he found a bed in a sober house in Wareham, Massachusetts. There, in that unglamorous but real world, in a run down Cape Cod cottage on Cranberry Highway, his journey back to sobriety and self began.
In the Summer of 2005 a meeting with a rehabilitation counselor (who happened to know his music) led to a suggestion that Grayson get back to doing what he did best: music. This counselor, Dean Gilmore, became a good friend and champion. Through his agency, The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, Dean was able to secure some seed money for Grayson to begin a new record project.
By the Spring of 2006 Grayson had become determined to make a work of art, a collection of his songs that adhered to no set "genre" or "audience" or any other category as prescribed by the mercenary music industry. The songs would come from deep within his heart and soul and include his love of many different musical styles - soul, bluegrass, old time country, rock, jazz and even gospel. Thus he began to assemble all the pieces for a new studio album (eventually to be called "An American Record"), his first in over fifteen years. He recruited his old friends and band-mates from Connecticut and began rehearsing the songs that summer. In the process of putting together a band to record it, Hugh re-connected with his old friend and former harmony singer Polly Messer. Polly had sung backup vocals with Grayson in the early 80's, after leaving the well-known Connecticut swing band Eight To The Bar. One harmony led to another, and Grayson and Polly ended up not only co-producing "An American Record" but getting married in 2008. They also began performing Hugh's music together in concert halls, both in the U.S. and in Europe.
The release of "An American Record" in 2010 was met with praise from music critics and Hugh's loyal fans, who had been waiting over fifteen years for some new music. Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. was moved to write: "In a world where music is often a brittle artificiality, the music he makes is hard and strong, convicted and convincing. And true. Most of all, true. It's there in the gritty lament of his voice, in the roughhouse eloquence of his piano, and the atmospheric poetry of his words. He has that thing Sam Cooke and Ray Charles had, that thing you still hear sometimes in Bruce Springsteen, that lonely, train whistle in the dark thing, that yearning, keening thing that gets right to the heart of what it means to be alive, what it means to be a human being. This is 'An American Record'. Some of us are glad the wait is over at last." - Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald, March 8, 2010
Grayson released his album "Back To The Soul", a return to his southern soul roots, on August 12, 2015. The following year he put together a band Grayson Hugh & The Moon Hawks. After some extensive rehearsing, the new band began performing in music halls and festivals.
In 2017, Hungarian film director Balázs Hatvani contacted Grayson and expressed an interest in collaboration. Hatvani actually had several projects in mind, but the most immediate one was a film he had already shot to a large extent. It was a comedy about a man who has the "power" to project a flame from his pointing finger. This man however smokes and drinks too much. He is a reluctant superhero. The film is set in the 80's, in a fictional European city. After reading some of the script, Grayson wrote a title song and another song that used some of vintage 80's synth sounds. He recorded them both, singing and playing all the instruments. Polly sang on "Captain Flame" and came up with a duet part for "Out Of Limbo". Balázs decided to have his leading actress in the film, Dorina Csifó, sing the duet with Grayson for "Out Of Limbo ". In June 2018 Grayson and Polly traveled to Budapest to make the music videos for these two songs. Hungarian actress Dorina Csifó sang the part Polly wrote for "Out Of Limbo" and that video premiered at Halloween. In a two night shoot, Grayson and Polly filmed the video for the song "Captain Flame", which will be premiered closer to the release of the film. It is slated for a December 2020 release.
In 2019, Grayson began to feel the pull of another record project. This time he decided to delve into the more Country side of his songwriting. So he assembled a band of some most acclaimed artists in Roots music today. Tony Garnier on upright and electric bass (Bob Dylan's bassist and music director since 1989). On guitar, mandolin and banjo: Pete Kennedy (with his wife Maura: The Kennedys, Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris, Roger McGuinn, Kelly Willis, and many more), on dobro and lap steel: multi-Grammy winner Cindy Cashdollar (Asleep At The Wheel, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard. Dolly Parton to name a few), fiddler Gary Oleyar (Loggins & Messina, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Vassar Clements, Marty Stuart, Pam Tillis), vocalist Polly Messer (Eight To The Bar, Eugene Chrysler, Grayson Hugh) and drummer Tyger MacNeal (Average White Band, Johnny Winter, The Four Tops, Little Anthony, The Mills Brothers, The 5th Dimension, Jose Feliciano for 25 years).
Grayson decided to name this album after the song "Save Your Love For Me", which tells the story of two lovers. The man has moved to the big city somewhere (Manhattan will do). For reasons untold, the two have decided to be together, their eventual destination also not revealed in the song. But he doesn't want to stay in the city, and she wants to leave that mountain town. And though they may not be sure exactly where they will live, one thing is clear: they want to be together.
The imagery is haunting: he wants her to meet him at the station all alone, listening for "that midnight whistle moan." She will "pack up in the pale moonshine", leaving a note for those she leaves behind. For if they "wait another day, it's bound to be too late. That little town will drag them down, and close and lock the gate." He says "Darlin' I will be there, before the wind has changed to cold, before the blue hills turn gold - and the stars of Summer fall down".
The themes, the instruments, the song itself has haunted Hugh since he wrote it in the mid 90's. He liked it so much he started performing it with his wife Polly, and they have sung it in concert halls in the States and Europe. It makes perfect sense then that when he was thinking of a name for his new record, this song emerged from the mountain trees and mist to claim its place.
As of August 2020, "Save Your Love For Me" is still in the process of being recorded. Its release will be announced on this website.