Luke Grimes Details His ‘Dream’ Creative Journey To His Debut EP, ‘Pain Pills Or Pews’

Grimes’ eight-track collection draws inspiration from his childhood, life in Montana, and wide range of musical influences.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

October 20, 2023


12:16 pm

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Luke Grimes; Photo by Jake Hoffman

Luke Grimes, multi-talented singer/songwriter/actor has carried his love for music through his childhood in Ohio as the son of a pastor, to the wide-open spaces of his current home in Montana and most recently, into songwriting sessions with some of Nashville’s most sought-after songwriters. Grimes emerged from this journey with an eight-song collection that serves as his introduction to country music. 

Out now, the Mercury Nashville / Range Music recording artist’s debut EP, Pain Pills Or Pewstakes a walk on the wild side as listeners get a taste of the talent Grimes has been keeping inside while pursuing his successful acting career. 

The project was produced by Dave Cobb and showcases Grimes’ skills as a songwriter on six of the eight tunes, giving fans just a taste of what’s to come on his yet-to-be-announced major label debut album. 

EP Out Now

Luke Grimes - Pain Pills Or Pews
Luke Grimes – Pain Pills Or Pews

Music has always been an important part of the rising star’s life, but now he’s finally getting the chance to carry it to the next level, leaving his days of playing solely for fun behind. This journey all began with the release of his debut track, “No Horse To Ride,” which debuted inside the Top 10 of the Country Songs sales chart at No. 7.

Inspired By His Upbringing

Co-written by Grimes with Jonathan Singleton and Tony Lane, “No Horse To Ride” serves as the leading track of the project, followed by tracks such as “Hold On,” “Burn,” “Playin’ On The Tracks,” and the homegrown sentiment of “Oh Ohio.” 

A set of common themes running through the new collection are honesty and an aching longing for freedom. These messages and raw parades of truth come to light even in the title, Pain Pills Or Pews, which gives listeners a glimpse into Grimes’ upbringing in a faith-centered world.  

Luke Grimes; Photo by Manuel Mancilla
Luke Grimes; Photo by Manuel Mancilla

“It was a song title I had, and I was thinking about what to name the album…Where I grew up and how I grew up with my dad being a pastor, I just felt like the religious aspect and my upbringing needed to be tied into this album somehow, because it’s such a big part of it, especially this first outing. I felt like the idea behind that song was that, where certain people are from, those are sort of your options and it felt like where I come from. It is very different.”

“Ain’t Dead Yet” Is The Most “Unique” Song On The Collection

Among all the songs, Grimes plucked out the final tune of the track list, “Ain’t Dead Yet,” because of its moody delivery that stands out as a significant sound on the project.

“Clearly, we’ve tried to make sure that all of them kind of have their own identity, but the one that sticks out to me being the most sort of in its own lane and unique is probably ‘Ain’t Dead Yet,’ the last song on the EP. I’ve just never heard anything like it.”

He went on to describe the writing session behind this song when he and Aaron Raitiere went in with practically zero ideas to pull from. Eventually, the conversations took them to the likes of Nirvana and their love for the fact that the group’s unplugged sound is somehow reminiscent of country music in their ears. 


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“We’re like, well, what if Kurt Cobain was country? What would that sound like? And we started there. That’s how that idea came up. If you listen close enough, you can hear the Nirvana influence in there, but we’re like, yeah, if Kurt Cobain was like 70 years old and from Kentucky, what would he say to his wife? That was like the whole idea. And then the way Dave recorded the song, it’s just so fun to watch something like that from no one even having an idea, just seeing this become one of my favorite songs. And it’s the song we close every show with because it’s really fun to play live. It’s got a lot of energy.”

Teaming up with Cobb, the pair drew influence from a variety of artists whom Grimes has connected with throughout his lifetime, such as Tom Petty and The BeatlesWillie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Nirvana and more. This blend of genres effortlessly intersects with the spirit of the American West as each track illuminates Grimes’ gritty vocals and the impressive array of soulful instrumentals.

Life In Montana

The sounds of this EP often reflect the backdrop of staring into a burning fire in Montana, which, as the budding artist explained, is where he found inspiration for many of these songs. 

“I think it’s really inspiring. First and foremost, there’s just this perfect backdrop, which inspires creativity. It’s beautiful there and I’m always kind of been a nature person, so the nature keeps me feeling inspired and also less distracted.”

Luke Grimes; Photo by Manuel Mancilla
Luke Grimes; Photo by Manuel Mancilla

Residing in Montana is a far world away from his days of being lost in the sea of people, activity and constant movement in Los Angeles, CA, and he’s found that this lifestyle serves him well mentally, physically, and creatively.

“I think my time living in Los Angeles, it’s very easy to distract yourself or to never be bored or to never… just make yourself sit down and get through the writer’s block and actually just go deep and let yourself kind of do that,” he continued. “It’s easier to just go out and meet a friend for a beer or something. And I feel like in Montana, it kind of puts me in that zone, especially in the wintertime. I mean, it gets dark at 4:30pm and then you have nothing to do but sit there and read books and make music and watch films.”

“It Really Has Been A Dream”

Stepping off the set of the popular TV series Yellowstone and finding his way into the recording studio has certainly been a learning curve for Grimes, however, he seems to be loving every minute of it. 

“Little did I know how much I was going to like the people in this business and the town and Music Row. It’s been awesome. It really has been a dream,” he said. “I was just busy somewhere else for a while.”

Earlier this year, the Ohio native booked his first-ever set at the annual Stagecoach festival in Indio, CA. Since that milestone moment, he’s continued to build his on-stage presence through various performances throughout the summer. 

The dream come true moments will extend into next month when Luke Grimes hits the road for a nearly entirely sold-out run of eight shows. Beginning November 9, he will visit Columbus, OH, Minneapolis, MN, Rosemont, IL, Austin, TX and more before wrapping up in Boston, MA on December 16. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.