Trout Fishing in America
Trout Fishing in America (TFIA), based in northwestern Arkansas, is a musical performance duo consisting of Keith Grimwood, who plays bass and sings, and Ezra Idlet, who sings and plays acoustic guitar and banjo. The name of the duo comes from the seminal 1960s experimental novella by Richard Brautigan. Trout Fishing in America has been nominated for four Grammys and has released more than twenty albums.
Grimwood has been a bass player since the age of eleven. He earned a degree in music from the University of Houston and performed with the Houston Symphony. Idlet, a guitarist since the age of fourteen, performed as a strolling musician at a Houston dinner theater. The two met as members of the Houston-based folk/rock band St. Elmo’s Fire, which Grimwood joined after the Houston Symphony went on strike in 1976. In 1979, the group disbanded after a disastrous tour of California, and Grimwood and Idlet began playing on the streets of Santa Cruz in order to feed themselves. In an interview with Acoustic Guitar, Idlet says about this time, “We learned a valuable lesson. People will stop if they’re entertained, but if you’re singing these sad introspective songs, people will walk away as fast as they can.” The duo soon formed Trout Fishing in America, which was originally located in Houston but moved to the Prairie Grove (Washington County) area of Arkansas in 1992.
When the compact disc (CD) revolution took place, TFIA formed Trout Records and began to record and market its own music successfully. The band’s style is eclectic, mixing folk/pop and family music with reggae, blues, jazz, Latin, and classical influences. Many of the songs focus on children’s themes, featuring catchy tunes with lyrics on topics as broad as the importance of family to a humorous song about a booger monster. The song “When I Was a Dinosaur” became a favorite of radio disc jockey Dr. Demento, who played it frequently on his radio program.
TFIA has received four Grammy Award nominations in the Best Musical Album for Children category for inFINity (2001), Merry Fishes to All (2004), the 2006 live performance release My Best Day, and Big Round World (2008). In addition, TFIA recordings have garnered three National Indie Awards: one in 1992 for Over the Limit, which helped the band achieve national distribution for its label, Trout Records; one in 1995 for Mine!; and one in 1997 for My World. The band has also won several Parents’ Choice Gold and American Library Association Awards. In June 2008, TFIA was chosen by Performing Songwriter Magazine as one of the top 100 most influential independent artists in the past fifteen years. TFIA was also inducted into the Kerrville Folk Festival Hall of Fame. In April 2022, the due released their twenty-fifth album, Safe House, based, in part, on their own experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The duo tours extensively, traveling to all fifty states and several Canadian provinces. In addition to touring, TFIA also conducts song-writing workshops for teachers and students in schools. In an interview with National Public Radio, the duo described its music as for kids and adults. About the eclectic nature of the band’s music, Grimwood said, “You can do that if you call it children’s music. If you’re playing adults’ music you’re not allowed to play…different styles.” The two have said that they try to avoid writing songs that tell kids what to do or think. Instead, they take a lighter tone with songs, including: “It’s Mine,” “Why I Pack My Lunch,” and “My Hair Had a Party Last Night.” These songs are meant to appeal to adults as well as children, but the duo writes music for adults as well. In an interview with Shelton Clark for Bassics Magazine, Grimwood stated that, “Adults recognize similar things that they’ve experienced. I think that’s why we appeal to a lot of generations.”
For additional information:
Hill, Jack W. “Singing Duo Now Writers with Chicken Book, CD.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 17, 2009, pp. 1E, 3E.
———. “State Duo Gets Grammy Nod.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 8, 2009, p. 4E.
Trout Fishing in America. http://www.troutmusic.com/ (accessed April 11, 2022).
C. L. Bledsoe
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