By Johnny Griffith
If you’ve been to The Grove in Tyler recently on a Sunday morning for brunch, chances are you’ve been listening to the solid grooves of Chris Oliver & Company whether you realized it or not. Originally born in Tyler, Chris attended both Robert E Lee and John Tyler high schools before finishing at North Garland High School in 1995. Eventually moving back to Tyler, Oliver has been a mainstay in the music scene for several years. An accomplished drummer, Chris now fronts the eponymous Chris Oliver & Company and their mission is to make sure you walk away from a show with a smile on your face and the beat in your heart.
We talked with Chris recently to get more info on what they’ve got going:
Johnny: Who makes up the “& Company” portion of Chris Oliver & Company?
Chris: Chris Oliver & Company is myself, Josh Brock, Calvin Sheffield, and Dr. George Faber. That’s been the lineup since we started.
Johnny: How did you guys all meet?
Chris: I grew up with Calvin pretty much all my life and he’s been one of my best friends. We’ve played in church as well as playing in several other bands around the area including being the rhythm section for Wesley Pruitt. Dr. Faber has pretty much been a mentor to both of us since we were both young and has been playing forever. I met Josh Brock about 4 years ago and he was one of those guys that came in and fit like he’d been with us for years.
Johnny: How did Chris Oliver & Company form?
Chris: About 2 years ago, from another gig I was doing, I was asked to do a Sunday brunch show over at The Grove. I had to put together a band specifically for that and, you know, it’s not easy getting a bunch of musicians to do a mid-morning gig on Sunday after playing out till 2am the night before. That first bunch I put together is still Chris Oliver & Company today.
Johnny: You guys play a superb mix of songs…what genre would you consider your wheelhouse?
Chris: That’s a hard question. Everything has a season and I can look back and see where my musical life has been a steady progression with different styles and preferences each taking their turn. If I had to pick one singular style, I’d have to say blues-ish, but it’s really not that simple.
Johnny: You guys were invited to play down in Austin at the Heart of Texas Blues Challenge last year. How was that experience and what do you feel you learned as a band?
Chris: Yeah, we got the invite down there so Josh, myself, and another bass player went down due to Calvin not being able to make it, and we auditioned. They were impressed enough that we were invited to actually participate. We went back down in August and won the preliminary round which got us to the finals. While we were eventually beat out, it was a great experience. The finals were at Antone’s in Austin which has had some legendary players on stage over the years. That atmosphere, on that stage, you could feel the vibe and the history and we grew a lot from that.
Johnny: How far are you traveling to play shows at this point?
Chris: Right now we’re staying local until our album is finished. We will be getting ready to do a tour after that, which will take us out of state but until then it’s home.
Johnny: About how many shows are you playing a month these days?
Chris: We’re mainly hitting about four shows a month, really focusing on the album, and playing the standing brunch gig at The Grove.
Johnny: How have local crowds reacted to a band that doesn’t really fit the mold for this region?
Chris: Every time we hit the stage, I don’t care where it is, if they call us to play and you see this band and our show, I want you to have an experience. If you’re down, we’re going to hit a point in the set where we’re going to lift you up. But we’re not really there playing for the masses…we’re there for that individual and when you connect with lots of people on an individual level, something special happens.
Johnny: Are you working originals into your set list or is it primarily cover tunes?
Chris: It really depends on how we’re feeling that day. Some people who have heard our originals will ask for them but it really depends on the vibe. Sometimes we will throw some out and see what kind of reaction we get.
Johnny: How would you describe a typical Chris Oliver & Company show?
Chris: We try to get your attention, make you listen, make you have fun…we might take you to church, it just depends, but we always end with thank you and an appreciation for the audience.
Johnny: Any big plans on the horizon for the rest of the year?
Chris: Our main priority right now is finishing the album and putting together a tour to get the word out.
Johnny: So after two years of Chris Oliver & Company, what would you say has been your most memorable gig to this point?
Chris: That Antone’s gig for the Blues Challenge was easily most memorable. Everyone brought their “A” game and was on point. Again, that combined with the history of that place and the players that have graced that stage…it was unforgettable.
Johnny: Who would you say you’re listening to right now that gets you excited?
Chris: I’d say right now I’ve been listening to a lot of Donnie Hathaway vocally, but I’m just a fan of music in general.
You can catch Chris Oliver & Company at facebook.com/chrisoliverandcompany. You can also catch Chris Oliver & Company most Sundays during brunch at The Grove in Tyler.