Green River Ordinance Let Country Roots Steer Their Rock Careers
Should folk-rockers Green River Ordinance ever want to try country 100 percent, they’ve got the right mindset. And the right background. Sure, a great song is requirement first and foremost to crack the well-guarded radio playlists, but a willingness to give back is, in many cases, just as important.
Need proof? Ask some like Darius Rucker, who spent at least a year playing free shows for radio stations to support various charities. It never felt obligatory — Rucker put his heart into every show and learned to appreciate the cause, even if he was learning of it for the first time.
Similarly, Green River Ordiance have started the Hope GROs initiative. Basically, each of the five Texas-based bandmates chooses a cause, and proceeds from sales of some of their music goes to one of the causes. On Friday, they played a show at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas, giving part of the ticket proceeds to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. That’s a bonus cause they’ve worked with before.
Lead singer Josh Jenkins and drummer Denton Hunker tell Taste of Country that they’ve developed strong relationships with groups like Autism Speaks. This type of philanthropy is not common to rock bands, especially young, independent rock bands still scratching for every dollar to support their careers and families. The group saw radio success with songs like ‘Come On’ and ‘On Your Own’ while signed with Virgin Records, but they weren’t flying around in private jets. Still, when they had a chance to leave the label, they took it.
“It was actually a pretty easy transition,” Hunker says. “It felt so natural.”
One year later, in 2012, they released ‘Under Fire,’ an LP recorded with donations from Kickstarter. Since then, they’ve released an EP called ‘Chasing Down the Wind’ while writing songs for a new full-length. Perhaps GRO’s greatest accomplishment is survival, however. Along with brothers Geoff and Jamey Ice and Joshua Wilkerson, GRO have been together as they are today for over a decade — an amazing feat considering they were teenagers when they first started to jam. The Ices just started the band to gain entry into a talent show. Surely they didn’t think they’d go this far, right?
Hunker is as amazed as anyone. “No one has ever gotten punched in the face, beat up, we never wrestle each other, we never scream at each other, we never talk bad about each other,” he reveals. “It’s just always been a very easy group of guys to get along with.”
You almost wonder if they missed out on something by avoiding the trauma and drama of band breakups, but maybe not. Instead, they work like a family, accepting individual additions (girlfriends, wives) and making music as a unit, often around a campfire outside of a cabin in the woods. OK, that’s just how they’ve been working lately — it’s not always so harmonious.
Jenkins is the man with the country roots. As a child, he would travel with his parents to Oprys across the state to play for 75 or 100 people. They’d sing Merle Haggard or old George Strait songs, and then travel to the next show.
“They would suit us up in tight Wranglers and western shirts as young children and we would sing at these Oprys, like once or twice a month,” he says. “It’s kind of how we were introduced to music.”
Eventually he rebelled, but that country upbringing still shapes his songwriting today. Much of his lyrics are focused on relationships and love, and the music is organic and natural. He’ll write about something he experienced and hope it’s accessible to fans.
“Love is a very general thing and a lot of people experience it in different ways, but the common denominator is it’s just love,” the singer shares, “and it’s between you and someone that you care about, and it’s reciprocated. And then sometimes it’s not and that kind of creates tension.”
Green River Ordinance have had success on the Texas Music Chart, but they haven’t made the full-time move to Nashville yet. It doesn’t seem like jumping in bed with another label is in their future. This group of friends are aware of, and accepting of, the obstacles that come with releasing music independently, but more importantly, they’re aware of the benefits of creative freedom.
In addition to the Fort Worth show, look for GRO in St. Louis, Mo. on November 21, Indianapolis, Ind. on November 22 and Chicago, Ill. on November 23. Visit their official website for more tour dates and to listen to their latest music.