The Wes Liston interview: 7 questions for Gritty Flyright's frontman
By Robin Gibson
In my darkest seasons of life, I have leaned on music to explore and express my emotions.
Life has a way of bringing kindred spirits together and I definitely felt a bond with Wes Liston the first time we met. It wasn't just the song I heard him singing with my hometown in the lyrics that drew me in — even though it definitely caught my ear. No, it was the ease of our banter and the familiarity I felt that cinched our connection for me. Some people just click and he and I did.
Gritty Flyright is no stranger to the local music scene even if I am a little late to jump on the bandwagon. But, boy, am I glad I did because that bandwagon is headed places with Liston at the helm. I feel it in my bones — just like I felt that connection. If you're not a fan, I hope you become one. I recently had the chance to find out more about who he is and what makes him tick. Read on for his take on what music means to him, how he feels about living with a chronic disease, and how proud he is of a recent charity singing competition. And check out the new single, "Spartanburg County Bound," below.
RG: Tell us a little bit about yourself. You're South Carolina-born and -bred with a deep love and appreciation for the Palmetto state, but what else should we know about you?
WL: I didn't grow up playing music. I have only been at it professionally for about six years. My original career was teaching. I graduated fromThe University of South Carolinaand taught 4th and 5th Grade for ten years.
I am really excited to share another true story inspired by my own experiences.
RG: Your wife, Virginia, wrote an essay ("Virginia's take: a wife's loving tribute to Gritty Flyright's Wes Liston," Charleston Grit, July 8, 2021) detailing your journey through a Crohn's Disease diagnosis and how it led you to music. Given that it was penned from her perspective, what is yours? What was it like to go through what you did and how did music help?
WL: Virginia did a great job with the essay. I really appreciate her take. For me, living with Crohn's Disease has its challenges and demands on my body but I have chosen to never identify as a victim. Just a waste of time, and not going to help anyone, especially myself. Instead, I always try to stay humble and grateful for all the opportunities in my life. I use the diagnosis as fuel to knock down doors, make lemonade, and empathize with others as they face their own problems.
For me, living with Crohn's Disease has its challenges and demands on my body but I have chosen to never identify as a victim.
Music was and remains a therapy for me. In my darkest seasons of life, I have leaned on music to explore and express my emotions. So thankful to have people like my wife, Virginia, as well as many others in the Music Family who have encouraged me, and who continue to speak music into my life.
RG: You have a new song out called "Spartanburg County Bound." What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
WL: The new single "Spartanburg County Bound" was released today, Friday, July 30th on all major platforms. Apple, iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Youtube, etc. I am really excited to share another true story inspired by my own experiences. Being raised in Woodruff, SC in rural Spartanburg County, I am continuously traveling up and down the same stretch of I-26 — Charleston to Spartanburg County — for what seems to be a collection of benchmark dates. My brother's and sister's weddings, the birth of a new family member, death of a loved one, etc. I just thought it would be nice to come up for fun... just to hang out or play music. Got my wish when my friend, Ben Harrison, gave me a call and an exciting invitation to open for"The Highway Queen" Nikki Laneat his bar and restaurant,TAP THREE.So, verses one and two are referring to my hustle up and down the road for friends and family, and verse three is the reflection of me actually getting to visit for a fun night of music!
Typically, a feeling comes first, then lyrics are applied to the feeling, and, finally, music is mapped out to serve the story.
I will be LIVE on Facebook Friday, July 30th at 7:30 p.m. to officially release the track and play an acoustic version in what will hopefully be a beautiful Charleston sunset. Also, look for me LIVE on Tic-Tok this weekend at some point to promote the track and the story behind it.
RG: In your craft as a songwriter, what's your process? What comes to you first? The music or the lyrics?
WL: I'm still developing it and starting to get some healthy tendencies. I'm an old school paper and pencil guy skipping lines in my rough draft for all those sure-to-be revisions. Typically, a feeling comes first, then lyrics are applied to the feeling, and, finally, music is mapped out to serve the story.
I'm very proud to have worked along side Trident United Way to raise over $65,000 for Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley Counties, and really grateful to my neighborhood here on James Island for their support and tolerance of live music.
RG: You recently won the Trident United Way songwriting challenge. What was that like?
WL: Winning theTrident United Way"Sing United" Challenge was an incredible experience for me and my Music Family. It was a great vehicle for raising money to meet the needs in our community. I started off with a casual heart, but once I advanced to the Sweet 16, I jumped in completely and leaned on my friends and family, local businesses, and musicians in the area to make a run to the Championship. I'm very proud to have worked along side Trident United Way to raise over $65,000 for Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley Counties, and really grateful to my neighborhood here on James Island for their support and tolerance of live music. I'm proud to have challenged myself with originals and covers, to have played unplugged from a friend's shop throughout the process, and really just bring my stuff each week from a vulnerable place.
I hope to connect with other musicians and songwriters, and share my stories with as many people as possible.
RG: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
WL: Good question. As I mentioned, I never dreamed I'd be playing music, writing music or changing careers so I'm wide open to opportunities. I look forward to spending time with my wife Virginia, and my two sons Henry and John. My dreams are to continue as a singer/songwriter, and keep growing the Gritty Flyright brand here in Charleston and beyond. I'm hustling for public and private events all over the country, and pushing my own writing with hopefully an album due out early next year. I hope to connect with other musicians and songwriters, and share my stories with as many people as possible.
Music was and remains therapy for me.
RG: How can folks hear your music and where can they see you perform?
WL: As of today, all three singles will be on all major platforms: "Statesman's Plea," "Tripping Through The Fall" and "Spartanburg County Bound." I have officially bought the domainGritty Flyrightwith information on upcoming dates and venues. Also, Facebook, Instagram, Tic-Tok, and Youtube offers access to Gritty Flyright Music. Facebook, Instagram and the website are primarily responsible for posting events and informing the public, whereas Tic-Tok and Youtube serve as more for entertainment and a behind-the-scenes perspective.
LISTEN: "Spartanburg County Bound," Gritty Flyright