Blaine Heinonen and Sarah Wolff of Pretty Gritty

Maryland Music: An Interview with ‘Pretty Gritty’ Band

12/15/2015
By Preservation Maryland

Preservation Maryland had the opportunity to sit down for a Q&A with Blaine Heinonen and Sarah Wolff, the Montgomery County natives behind the band, Pretty Gritty, a folksy duo act that self describes as, “Americana, Country, and lots of Soul.” 

Their song, “Maryland” caught the attention of our Executive Director, Nick Redding, and after learning about their love for the Old Line State we thought it would be completely appropriate to introduce our members and followers to this history-loving duo.

[NICK REDDING] WHAT’S YOUR STORY, HOW DID ‘PRETTY GRITTY’ GET STARTED?

[BLAINE HEINONEN] Sarah and I first met in DC at a bar called the Grog and Tankard. Sarah was playing bass in a hard rock band named DBauchery. Think Zeppelin, Heart, Tool and Sabbath mixed together. My band was also playing that night. I played rhythm guitar and some occasional background screams. We were called Skindeep and were a mix of Sevendust and Deftones.

Fast forward a few years later. Both of our bands had broken up around the same time and we hadn’t really kept in touch. We had both sold our rock-n-roll gear for acoustic guitars. I started singing and recording with my friend and lead guitarist of Skindeep, Derron Blakely. He suggested contacting Sarah and seeing if she would lay some bass down. I got her number and made the call. She said she didn’t really play bass anymore and that she had been singing and playing at an open mic in VA. She told me I should come and check it out. So I did. We played a few songs for a mutual friend who was moving away (including John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Wild Nights”…which has a male and female vocal).

We learned it and our eyes lit up the second we harmonized! The rest is history. Then we started to record a demo for a promo to get into bars. Learned a bunch of covers and then eventually started to write originals.

[NR] WHAT OR WHO WOULD YOU SAY WERE YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INSPIRATIONS?

[BH] Sarah says Alison Krauss is her favorite singer and her favorite writers are Honey Honey. I agree with her and would add Ray Lamontagne, Chris Stapleton and Shovels and Rope . . . and Ryan Adams.

[NR] YOUR SONG, “MARYLAND” HAS A LOT OF PASSION AND EMOTION – WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG? WOULD YOU CALL IT A LOVE LETTER TO MARYLAND?

[BH] I’ve never looked at it like a love letter but that is exactly what it is! Thanks for that, I’m gonna use it at the next show. It’s a mix between leaving home and leaving a girl I had dated in that time frame. I’ve lived not only in Maryland but even the same neighborhood for 32 years. I will always call Maryland home and represent the Old Line State…which is in the working title of a new song for the future.

 
[NR] AS MARYLANDERS WHO ARE NOW TRAVELING AND TOURING OUTSIDE OF THE STATE, WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST FROM YOUR DAYS SPENT IN THE OLD LINE STATE?

[BH] Sarah and I both miss our friends. I still have family there and miss them very much. We both miss the fall colors of Maryland. I love that Oregon stays pretty green most of the year, but nothing like back home fall colors. I also miss lighting bugs, the sound of crickets and thunderstorms. I know it rains out here but I haven’t heard any thunder in about a year and a half.

[NR] WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR PRETTY GRITTY? WHERE CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE YOU IN FIVE YEARS – WHAT’S THE GOAL?

[BH] We would like to continue to write and record more music, grow as writers and performers, make a decent living and to bump up to the next level of venues and festivals. Management and booking agencies would be nice as well. All in all we just want to create what we want and to build a lasting name for ourselves.

[NR] WHEN CAN WE ALL EXPECT TO SEE YOU PERFORM IN MARYLAND AGAIN? SO OUR MEMBERS AND STAFF CAN COME OUT AND HEAR YOU LIVE!

[BH] We are trying to plan a possible short tour back home based around a music friend of ours’ wedding in October of 2016. JB Dunn is his name and his band is the Secondhand Ramblers. You can catch them around Frederick, Maryland.

And, now for a few rapid-fire Maryland questions:

1. FAVORITE PART OF THE STATE?

We both agree with the Harpers Ferry area. Sarah used to drive through it on the way back from work and I use to go there a lot as a kid with my parents for fun and to go back to my Mother’s home town in West Virginia.

Also we both love downtown Frederick. We have a lot of nice memories there with friends. It’s also the first area that we were able to play a lot. We really built our name and fan base there. If we had stayed in Maryland, I most likely would have moved there.

2. FAVORITE HISTORIC SITE?

Sarah says Coppers Mill and Black Rock Mill. She went there a lot as a child all the way through high school. For me. I really loved learning about the Civil War in school and growing up in that area we have a lot of history like that. So Antietam would have to be mine.

3. BEST MARYLAND RESTAURANT?

So hard to choose! We both love Bangkok Garden in Bethesda. It is down the street from the studio where the song “Maryland” was recorded at Mark Williams’ studio, Sucker Punch. Sarah craved Thai food almost always. And only from there. We would all go there after studio sessions.

Personally, I love anywhere they have seafood back home and most certainly if they have a good cream of crab soup! If I’m at the bay, I’d go to Catamarans. Which I heard might have shut down now. [Editor’s Note: Sorry, Blaine, it is closed. When you come back, you’ll have to fall in love with a new restaurant.]

4. OTTERBEIN COOKIES OR BERGER COOKIES?

Berger Cookies. So good.

5. JO SPICE OR OLD BAY SEASONING?

Ummmmmmm. . . Old Bay! All day every day! When Sarah and I moved out to Oregon, the first thing we looked for was Old Bay.

Preservation Maryland

Preservation Maryland is Maryland’s first and largest organization dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites.

Meet Our Team
Our Story Donate Press & Media Resources Contact Us Site by Younts Design Inc. © Preservation Maryland, 2017.