GRANT LARCOM TAKES HIS PIANO TALENTS ON THE ROAD WITH POSTMODERNJUKEBOX

0
67


MARTIN, Tenn. – Grant Larcom has experienced 3,500 people watching and listening while he
plays a piano solo. And he likes the feeling – a lot. His love for the piano and performing is taking this
Union City native to stages across the U.S. and beyond as he regularly tours with Postmodern Jukebo
the traveling musical collective that transforms popular music into vintage genres. The ability to play the
piano is an enviable talent – in some cases, a gift – and the 24-year-old takes performing to the next level
as he carves his own niche in the competitive Nashville music scene.


Larcom was encouraged but never pushed into his love for music. His father, Danny, owns an
HVAC business in Union City, and he developed his musical interests while listening to his mother, Lori,
play church hymns at home and for local nursing homes. He began piano lessons at age five, and he
continued to study for the next 18 years, including classical training that covers pre-1900s music. “It
(music) was always a major part of my personality,” he said. “ … As early as my memories go back, it
was piano, piano, piano.”


He participated in the Union City High School marching band starting in 8 th grade where he
learned teamwork and later as a piano major at UT Martin when he discovered his love for jazz piano and
honed his technical skills. He chose UTM because of familiarity and cost, and as a University Scholar, the
cost of his education was largely covered. His college choice also allowed him to perform in multiple
ways by playing different kinds of music.


“I got to do a lot of different styles of music all at the same time and learned how to do those
effectively,” he said. “I learned how to manage my time and learned how to practice effectively.”
Dr. Elaine Harriss, UT Martin professor of music, began teaching Larcom piano in 8 th grade, and
he continued to study with the longtime music faculty member through completion of his undergraduate
degree in 2021. Harriss remembers Larcom’s excitement for music and music theory.


“I remember him bursting into my studio excited that he found a new way to look at music theory
from a website or to show me that he got the extra credit question on a theory test,” Harriss said. “He was
‘turned on’ learning about music theory. This interest spearheaded his University Scholars project, a Mini
Music Theory Book, and influenced his senior project on jazz piano.”


Larcom recalled two performances in his musical journey that solidified his passion to perform.
The first was his high school senior recital at the Obion County Public Library in Union City. His family
announced the recital in the newspaper and was surprised with a larger-than-expected turnout, including
people they didn’t know.


“That felt really cool to me that there was this hidden community of people that apparently had
been following me online on social media and knew of me who I didn’t know about, and they came out to
support me in person,” he said. “ … I’d say that was a pretty defining moment for me in terms of just
believing that there are people that care about what I’m doing, and that felt really great.”


His other career-affirming performance opportunity happened in September 2021 at Summerfest
held annually in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and billed as “the world’s largest music festival.” He learned that
Jackson-based musician Hunter Cross, who owns the Third Eye Curiosities record store, needed a
keyboard player after Cross was invited to play at Summerfest. The two artists had never met but
connected for a quick rehearsal before heading to Milwaukee the next day.


“We played and then packed up our stuff and went and watched ZZ Top at the same festival,”
Larcom said. The experience of playing for “complete strangers that actually appreciated what we were
doing” confirmed that Nashville was where he wanted to be.


While recitals and concerts had their place in Larcom’s musical development, playing extensively
at church helped him to reach other important milestones as a musician. “It (playing at church) got rid of
all of my anxiety when it comes to performing for a large crowd,” he said of his four years playing piano
for Union City Methodist Church. The experience also allowed him to experiment freely because his
offertory selection involved playing his own arrangement of a hymn. “I learned how to make something
from nothing on the fly and make something sound beautiful. It served as a place where I could
experiment freely, not be judged by it.”


Larcom moved to Nashville in January 2022 joining countless talented musicians attempting to
make a living in the music business. It’s not an easy life, and Larcom arrived fully focused on what he
wanted to accomplish. “A lot of people move to Nashville with big ambitions, and then they settle for the
Broadway bar scene because it’s quick, easy, reliable money. That’s the trap of Nashville. You fall into
that bar scene and then you never get out,” he said. “But I am not in that bar scene. I’ve stayed really far
away from it.” A short time later in March, Larcom’s journey led him to Postmodern Jukebox.


Larcom first listened to PMJ in 2015 and was a fan of the music and arrangements. He didn’t
know that PMJ founder Scott Bradlee had moved the organization’s headquarters in recent years from
Los Angeles to Nashville. One day he was scrolling a Facebook group for musicians when he saw a
casting call for Nashville talent. Sensing this was the break he sought, Larcom submitted a one-minute
audition video “and then waited, and waited, and waited.” He finally received a call and auditioned live
with veteran PMJ pianist Jesse Elder. All of this happened in March, “And then in July, I got an email
with a tour offer to do two months in 36 cities in the U.S. … and that email changed my life 100%.”
Larcom said PMJ began as a “Motown tribute to Nickelback,” but the group quickly transformed
into a much larger concept by rearranging music from multiple artists. Today PMJ audiences hear a
variety of popular and rock songs arranged in old classic music styles. He referenced “Gangsta’s
Paradise” by Coolio performed as a swing cover as an example to show PMJ’s creative musical range.


PMJ’s audience appeal is the musical arrangements and not the cast, so several versions of PMJ
can tour at the same time in different parts of the U.S. and the world. This means more potential
opportunities for Larcom and other musicians to perform, and he’s impressed how well the music is
received by young and old audiences alike who are treated to a big-time production. Larcom has played a
range of well-known venues that include the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and the Paramount Theatre
in Seattle where he performed a solo in a packed house of 3,500 concert goers.


The shows generally include 12 musicians and singers who travel together on large buses, and
Larcom has no problem with the extended travel, which can last six or seven weeks; overseas tours have
lasted more than several months. The group boards a bus at 10 or 11 p.m., settles into private bunks,
travels all night and awakens with the bus parked in the city where PMJ will perform. The cast members
then have free time until they attend a sound check scheduled well ahead of the evening show, followed
by more free time before show preparations begin.


“So, for some people it’s extremely sustainable (the travel). For some people it’s probably not,” he
said. “ … I think it’s a treat in itself just getting to see all these different places all at once. I like traveling
though, so if you’re content sitting at home all the time, maybe it’s not for you.”


Larcom not only enjoys touring, but he also enjoys the people associated with PMJ. Recalling his
first tour, he has nothing but positive feelings about the entire experience. “It’s very rare that I get to be
around 10 other world-class musicians who just speak the same language as I do,” he said. “ … There was
no more anxiety. … It was the most welcoming, open environment I’ve ever been in.”


Larcom’s practice routine is much different these days compared to when he was taking piano
lessons or attending UT Martin. The expectation for Nashville musicians is “play a song that you’ve never
heard before and nail it,” so he must stay at the top of his game. However, instead of scheduled practice
time, he plays to satisfy his musical curiosity and improves by exploring and creating at the keyboard.
Conversely, PMJ rehearsals are structured and divided into four eight-hour days. Larcom knows that other
musicians would love to be in his situation, so with no day being typical, he stays flexible.


Along with his musical gifts, flexibility and patience might be among Larcom’s most valuable
assets. He would remind other young musicians that the music business ebbs and flows, so he has other
talents to fall back on, such as web and graphic-design skills. Despite his early success and varied talents,
it’s not always been easy to persevere.


“I think the goal for everybody in life should be to find something you love to do and then figure
out how to make a living off of it, and that’s what I finally have been able to do,” he said. That said,
Larcom has had moments when he’s been tempted to rethink his future.


“Even after this last tour with PMJ and I hadn’t heard back from them for just a little while, I was
like, ‘This is it. This is it.’ I was considering moving back home,” he said. Fortunately, PMJ called again
with another touring opportunity, and Larcom has remained in Nashville to pursue his dream.
Elaine Harriss is among those who isn’t surprised by Larcom’s early success.


“Grant thoroughly enjoys making music, and he does it well,” she said. “His pianistic technique,
his understanding of music theory, his facility with various styles of keyboard playing, and his ensemble
flexibility are the musical characteristics necessary for his chosen field.


“He also has the interpersonal skills, which make him easy to work with and he’s interested in
trying out new things.” 


As he makes his way in a competitive and uncertain business, this talented musician can’t help
but look back to when his parents encouraged him to take piano lessons. Their support pointed him
toward the stage and ultimately to the next tour destination – wherever that takes him. Grant Larcom is in
a place he wants to be, and he and his piano welcome the bright lights as he shares his musical gift with
the world. (Follow Grant’s career at grantlar.com.)

(This story was previously published in October in the 2023 summer/fall edition of Campus Scene, UT
Martin’s alumni magazine.)

UT Martin graduate Grant Larcom, a Union City
native, takes his piano talents on the road as he performs with Postmodern Jukebox. He’s pictured in this
portrait image, performing on stage, and following a show with PMJ (Larcom is second from left).
(Portrait provided by the UTM Office of University Relations; the performance images are courtesy of
Eric Morgensen Photography.)
Image courtesy of Eric Morgensen Photography.
Taken by Nathan Morgan in the Office of University Relations

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here