I grew up outside New York City in Norther New Jersey. In the early 1970's college radio stations like WFDU-FM carried the wave of upcoming folk artists while historic WHN Am still carried the music of established country stars. The sincerity of the lyrics caught my attention. Since high school I have been writing songs in the influence of writers like Tom T. Hall, Loudon Wainwright III, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie and the like. The stories of real life have been the mainstay of my work. Over time I expanded musical varieties, but still lean toward the storyteller tradition. You find this genuine honesty in a lot of musical genre, it's not just country or folk songs, it is a quality that makes the story real to the listener. Even if you made the story up, it has to relate to something the receiver can recognize if you expect it to make a connection. It has to be something that I believe if I have any chance of the listener believing it, too.
In the post high school years, I performed with The Pochuck Valley Mountain Ramblers playing mandolin and singing songs from favorite writers like Jonathan Richman, Loudon Wainwright and John Prine. I was the only one who could remember lyrics. It wasn't due to any vocal talent back then. Since moving to Vermont I often team up with friend and vocalist Cindy Baxter. I have performed in small venues and festivals around the Southern Vermont, Eastern New York and Western Massachusetts area for decades. While all along writing songs, we never recorded any of them seriously. You're The Only One Who Thinks You're Funny is the first GVH studio venture to date. I've also started performing with other members of the studio band, which has been really exciting. Past performances include The Southwestern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival, Bearsville Theater, The Rattlesnake Cafe, Oldcastle Theater, The Vermont Arts Exchange, Kevin's Pub, Cafe Lena, Argyle Brewing's Depot, Unihog, various Elks clubs, Peaceful Valley Campground, The Clear River Inn, Bountifare, Harvest Brewing, Hubbell Homestead...
'Greg Van Houten' eventually got shortened to 'GVH' by friends and fans and is now my recognized name around this adopted hometown of Bennington, VT. Now, it's emblazoned on the head stock of my custom-made acoustic guitar from friend and keyboard player Chris Ivory. One of my old nicknames was 'Hootie,' as a shortened version of my last name. I used to think I'd use it for music, but then, you know what happened to that. I'd thought for years I'd record a CD, but I decided to give the digital streaming industry a chance to get started first, I suppose. I still like to have the physical recording and own the music when I can. There's something more genuine for me when I can read through liner notes and listen to the album as it was arranged. After John Prine passed I purchased the entire catalog of music from his guitar player, Jason Wilber. I wanted to get to know his music more intimately, partially as a thanks for backing my hero for twenty years and part because I have admired his playing so much. Going through the CD's is a totally different experience than a stream. It's just better.
GVH has been promoted using the Americana tag to describe my music for most of my performing career. Taking the term from the original David Bromberg Band, I use it as a genre to avoid choosing a genre. Americana is a place where many types of music can meet and mingle. I don't like to listen to just one style of music, I sure don't like to play just one. Sometimes it's folk, sometimes it's blues, sometimes I don't worry what it is. The amazing quality today's young musicians have is the knowledge of so many styles. They have decades of reference material to draw from. When we started the CD recording process, that was a huge help in adding variety to the record I wanted an album you could load in the car and listen to for the whole ride. These young artists knew just what I meant and just how to play it the whole way through. I owe their parents an enormous 'Thank you!'
I saw the chance to finally record some of my songs in 2016 when I met local percussionist Adam Turner and his band mates from Bennington College; Sam Clement, and Matt Scott. They'd started Akin Studios in Bennington and had just moved it to nearby Hoosick Falls, NY and were excited to take on this project. Being skilled and gifted musicians, Clement and Turner provide the bulk of the backing tracks making scheduling sessions far easier than I expected. Picking the songs took a while, but once we got the list, we started to make headway. Official release was July 1, 2019. "You're The Only One Who Thinks You're Funny" comes from Ray Romano's TV series, but has become a common phrase in the GVH household.
Obviously, this takes a lot of time and work, and that doesn't happen without the support of friends and loved ones. The goal is to create something beautiful that wasn't there before. As with any venture in art, there are the key people who believe in you that keep your cynicism at bay and push you forward. Jane is number one; she never wavers. Sam, Adam, Matt, Hillary, Cindy, Chris and Dave were all big parts of keeping me on track and seeing this through. Thanks to everyone for believing and making this possible. -GVH
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GVH is a registered trade name of Greg Van Houten. Pudgy Dutchman Records is a registered trade name of GVH Studio, Inc.
Member of ASCAP and Americana Music Association
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