What We Say: “I was a scrawny, dopey kid – the worst athlete on the face of the planet,” says Wakey!Wakey! frontman Mike Grubbs. “You know tee ball? I got to first base one time.”
Good thing Grubbs had a burgundy baby grand to wail on instead, the centerpiece of a Partridge-like music room that also housed a French horn, clarinet, violin and autoharp. Grubbs started climbing scales and chords here when he was 5. Back then, his mother – a longtime piano teacher and choir director – would ask the kids to sight read songs before they could even think of eating cereal. And homework, why, that was something you did simply to score more bench time.
“For every subject done,” he says, “I could play the piano for an hour. It was almost like video games for me.” The games got a bit more complicated in high school, as Grubbs stumbled upon the songbooks of Billy Joel and Elton John. Not to mention the arena-ready anthems of Led Zeppelin. That unholy trinity, combined with the three B’s – Bach, Beethoven and Brahms – was enough to steer Grubbs away from the church music he was forced to focus on from an early age.
“One of my main influences now is the fact that I didn’t have someone teach me proper jazz or rock playing,” explains Grubbs. “I had no idea how to put a song together; no one telling me, ‘Hey, you should check out Gershwin,’ but it was all so fascinating to me. So I found my own style by experimenting with what works and what doesn’t.”