Graham Winchester may be the purest embodiment of what it means to be a Memphis musician. Hardworking (he currently plays anywhere from three to eight gigs a week with upwards of nine different bands) and immensely talented, Winchester has carved out a niche for himself in several corners of the city's often fragmented music scene through both relentless determination and his ability to charm almost anyone.
Though he's primarily known as a drummer with well-known local acts like the Shieks, Devil Train, and Jack Oblivian, Winchester is a capable multi-instrumentalist, proficient on at least 10 different instruments, and also something of an emerging presence as a singer-songwriter.
The success of his 2014 solo debut Graham Winchester and the relatively rapid ascent of his namesake group Winchester & the Ammunition are testaments to his sharp skills as both a songwriter and bandleader. Now he and the band are gearing up for the release of a follow-up (though technically the first using the Ammunition moniker) called Until the End, which is being released in digital formats this week by the label American Grapefruit. To celebrate, Winchester & the Ammunition will play a show Friday at 9:30 p.m. at Young Avenue Deli, along with guests Jana Misener and Victor Sawyer.
Flyer: What was your process for recording Until the End?
Winchester: I started at High/Low Recording in the summer of 2015 for this album. Toby Vest and Pete Matthews engineered it, and we were all a production team together.
The two of them helped this record breathe and find itself. They helped sculpt every song. They are also amazingly aware of space. If you invite them into the production world of the songs, they will undoubtedly help in the best way.
How do you compare Until the End to your debut?
It's a little bit darker. The first album was more traditional, instrumentation-wise. Until the End uses more keyboards, especially synths. The lyrics ring in a little more personally. I don't know which album is better, but I know the second one feels better to play live in rehearsals.
You can and do play many of the instruments on your albums yourself; where does the band fit in?
The guys contributed so much — not only in terms of the playing and singing, but also in helping shape sonic landscapes on specific songs.
Is it ever difficult for you to make time for so many projects?
It can be strenuous, but I try to balance time with different bands and keep it all to a strict calendar. I like to explore different musical worlds, so that's the fulfilling reward of a tedious and busy schedule involving lots of different musicians.
Has starting a family affected your focus or availability for playing music?
I see making music as a natural act and one so important to my life. It's been really inspiring. Erica [Winchester's wife] and my son Everlee both love music, so we naturally have a lot of it in the house. I feel like I've slowed down my live shows maybe one gear lately to spend more time with family.
In recent years, you've become sort of famous for putting together lots of tribute and benefit shows around town.
I really enjoy putting together tribute and benefit shows and kind of just being a show booker of sorts. I breathed a huge sigh of relief that we successfully did a Talking Heads tribute when nobody had passed away. That's the plan from now on — try and [pay tribute to] people who are alive. Of course, if and when a true legend passes away, an honorable tribute is always a worthy remembrance.
To what do you attribute your ability to move within so many different sects of the local music scene? I just enjoy playing lots of types of music. Too much of anything gets boring to me. A lot of my close musician friends agree, and that's why we get along so well. I'm just happy musicians from a few different genres will put up with me!