I love hearing about people's lives. It is intriguing to me and quite frankly, inspirational to hear about people overcoming their struggles. I find it fascinating how musicians’ lives function and how they maintain balance through such a demanding lifestyle in the music industry. Sometimes I get to peek behind the scenes of life off stage. It is my favorite part of interviews because when people tell their own story to someone it reminds us all to focus on the good things instead of highlighting the negative things.
Meet Matt Graunke, a singer/songwriter from the great state of Minnesota. His main career is in the fabrication industry in a sales and marketing position. His passion is in music and has been for a couple of decades. He has been a member of several successful local bands, and has been playings solo acoustic shows but more recently has put a full band together; The Crow River Rebellion. Matt Graunke and The Crow River Rebellion are booking shows and those shows are listed on the website linked below.
Contrary to many other musicians who take advantage of the summer months in Minnesota for festivals and outdoor shows, Matt focused on enjoying his summer and is booking more shows into the fall season. He is a motorcycle rider and likes camping and four-wheeling while the weather permits.
Matt has worn a few hats, including a fireman's hat for about 10 years. He was able to volunteer time to serve and be a part of his community. When he left that position, it left a bit of a void and he needed a new way to fill it. His love for music brought on an opportunity and he switches his hat. Matt became a member of Midwest Country Organization at its beginning stages and is now on the Board of Directors. The Midwest Country Music Organization consists of people who promote local country musicians, their teams, sound engineers, radio personnel, and others in the music industry for the upper Midwest.
I asked him how he keeps his life in balance in such time-consuming endeavors when it comes to traveling, writing music, family, work, health, etc. His response was to stay organized and limit social media use. Matt said he has about 10 calendars going most of the time and noted that “if it gets out of balance, all of it suffers.” He keeps his music career organized on his website and has let social media for the most part drop off his radar.
If he is in the audience you'll likely find Matt sitting in the back of a small venue watching the show. (Funny, I prefer the exact opposite, or this short girl can’t see a thing, just in case you wondered.😉)
I asked him which bands would be on his lineup to see, living or not. Matt had a hard time deciding but would have to include Black Label Society, the Allman Brothers, The Thrillbillies, and Blackberry Smoke. His personal playlist consists mostly of outlaw country bands.
After Matt Graunke and I had been chatting for a little while, we had quite a lengthy discussion about another hat he's happily wearing, probably the most personal and the most challenging. He is a 3-and-a-half-year cancer survivor. He found out he had an extremely rare tumor after episodes of breathing problems following a health change and weight loss. Once it was discovered in his chest wall, he began treatments, had surgery, and is now cancer free! He documented his journey on a caring bridge site, and it was written in possibly the most positive wording that I’ve read in a while. He attributes his positive influences to three men. Matt gave credit to his dad and his stepdad for showing him how to be a good man and live his best life. He also gave credit to his friend Joe Mottlow for his influence. Joe helped him stay focused and remain positive during his recovery. Matt has continued to pay attention to his diet since his recovery. The most impactful things that changed for Matt have been his perspective and patience with life. Cancer recovery taught lessons on "how to handle the things that matter most and to always address them (problems) after they're identified. Focusing on things that really hold value and not minor things that you cannot change." He re-reads his caring bridge entries often enough to remind himself what he has survived. Matt’s recovery story is inspiring, and he reminded me that cancer can be part of a story, but the story is the journey.
I asked him what would be on his highlight reel if we watched it right now.
The first thing was when he was a firefighter even though he said there wasn’t any specific moment that came to mind, secondly, his cancer journey including everyone who had been supportive, and the resilience he gained, then a fundraising effort he was a part of and a couple of motorcycle trips.
Thank you, Matt Graunke, for taking the time to chat with me and talking so openly about your life and letting me share it.
Matt Graunke and the Crow River Rebellion will be performing at the #LIVIN festival on September 16-17 and is dedicating his performance to a friend who took his own life not long ago.
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