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Guest interview: TSOL singer Jack Grisham (and His Humanitarian Efforts)!

13 January 2010

Got this excellent interview with TSOL founder/frontman Jack Grisham from our contributor Jeff Alexander and wanted to share it with you!
By now, many of you probably know how I feel about Grisham, the former California gubernatorial candidate (he would have been better than Ah-nald!) who has been leading the group for the most part since it began in 1979. This feature is particularly refreshing, as it focuses on Grisham’s humanitarian and charity efforts, which have been considerable for many years. Enjoy this as much as I do! And since their new album Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Free Downloads made my Top 5 for this past year, needless to say I totally recommend that as well. It was just issued on vinyl, in fact, via the DC Jam label. Cheers! And happy new year everyone!—Jack R

True Sounds Ringing Louder
By Jeff Alexander

True Sounds of Liberty (T.S.O.L.) made the most of their 30th anniversary by offering fans the chance to join in their commitment to humanitarian efforts. Singer Jack Grisham explained that his journey toward community activism was gradual and unplanned. “It was years of people telling me how selfish I was, so I stopped doing the damage and little by little I started learning to put my hand out and it spread out further and further,” he explains. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Free Downloads is T.S.O.L.’s thank you to all the fans that stood behind their tumultuous career.

The idea behind Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Free Downloads was for fans to download the new record and donate whatever they could to a list of organizations T.S.O.L. supported. “I don’t really like the word ‘charity’ because I feel if one person is less fortunate, then we all are because we’re all connected,” he affirms. “We took corporate money and made a record and our only condition was to go to these organizations and give whatever you (they) can and instead of giving us money, give it to them,” he suggests. Fans had the online option of supporting PETA, Surf Rider or Midnight Mission. “Five or ten dollars is the difference between a family going hungry and having dinner,” states Grisham. Jack declares he wasn’t interested in how much money was raised and offered his opinion on how monetary goals can negatively impact humanitarian efforts. “It doesn’t make a difference to me [how much money was raised]. People get all caught up in the grand scheme of things with raising a lot of money and it detracts from the good things they accomplished if they don’t reach that monetary goal,” he says.

Grisham is currently working on a memoir chronicling his experiences with helping individuals. “I’m doing the revisions now and it’ll be released on ACW Press. It’s quite different than your standard memoir,” he insists. Once the book is published, Grisham will ambitiously begin his own non-profit foundation called Amends. “It’s an umbrella foundation that will use money for food banks, victims of violent crimes. and purchasing beds for recovery shelters. If we serve just one person, we succeeded.”

T.S.O.L. are no strangers to helping individuals in recovery. Guitarist Ron Emory proudly shared his personal triumphs over drugs and alcohol with me and is currently celebrating over 10 years of sobriety. Emory once ran a halfway house called Bauhaus Sober Living. Grisham reveals that T.S.O.L. holds impromptu AA meetings when they tour extensively. “One of the things about helping people with addictions is you have to basically walk in hell and hold their hand and walk them back out,” he notes. According to Grisham, some of the most traumatic events in an individual’s life can actually be a turning point. “Look at the book Man’s Search for Meaning — it was written in Auschwitz!,” he exclaims.

Despite good intentions, T.S.O.L. earned reprisals during their appearance on Warped Tour ’99. “We auctioned off backstage passes on eBay to individuals struggling. Warped Tour got mad at us because they thought we were counterfeiting tickets!” laughs Grisham.

“Basically, we cut out the middle-man. We gave the money directly to Midnight Mission,” Grisham recalls. “I remember Warped Tour approaching me and saying ‘Please tell us you were the only one involved.’ Asked if he was ever disappointed that more artists were not actively participating in humanitarian work, Grisham carefully choses his words. “I used to be really into ‘Why not you?’ ‘Why aren’t you?’ statements, but I learned that I really don’t know what other people are doing so I just focus on our efforts.”

Grisham took his passion and efforts to a higher level and became a candidate for California governor in 2003. The recall election gave disenchanted citizens a broader platform to voice their disgust with local economic and immigration issues. The widespread media attention allowed him to reach a mainstream audience. “I wish people really saw the recall for what is was, a chance to really do something,” he reflects. Celebrities eventually made their way into the recall and Grisham felt the media attention overshadowed the state’s lack of government accountability. The man who once shouted “Abolish government!” finished in the top quarter. Asked if he would ever consider running again for public office, Grisham was quick to share his disdain for the electoral process. “It’s sickening. But the one positive thing to come of it was showing younger people how to make a change on their level, like in schools.”

Meanwhile, Grisham returned to academia and recently earned a master’s certificate. “I earned a degree in Hypnotherapy and I see clients. Through issues like weight loss, it gives me a foot in the door to help with bigger issues.” Despite his dedication to helping struggling individuals, Grisham urged people seeking to become involved in non-profit work to exercise caution.
“Things are never really cut and dry. You have to make sure your efforts don’t hinder people and that you’re not being used. But, if you can extend your hand, you should.”

According to the singer, many individuals involved in non-profit work don’t have the privilege of directly seeing how their efforts impact the people they serve. “I’m in a unique position, because I work one-on-one with the people I assist. I listen to them and I work with them to steer them in a direction to help them appreciate life,” concludes Grisham.

As Grisham continues to personally evolve, we are reminded that T.S.O.L.’s message has transcended the test of time. Each member has struggled with addiction and other personal demons, issues that took an exhausting toll on the group’s creativity. With their renewed spirits gaining strength, we are reminded that their empathy and dedication resonates within their respective communities.


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