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Pretty Gritty has an Americana chemistry

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Published on: Thursday, May 09, 2013

By Donna Broadway

ROCKVILLE – Guitars, vocals, musical spoons, whistling, rockabilly, blues, honky tonk, and jazz all help describe the musical marriage of Pretty Gritty, an Americana duo from Montgomery County. Blaine Heinonen, 31, and Sarah Wolff, 32, say their paths crossed by fate.

Wolff and Heinonen both began their own musical career in their elementary school bands before becoming involved in local bands much later. One day, when Wolff’s band, Debauchery, and Heinonen’s band, Skin Deep, were both billed to play at the Grog and Tankard in Washington they exchanged numbers but lost touch.

After both of their bands broke up, Heinonen was working on a project that needed someone to do some bass work. He got Wolff’s number, and the two began doing open mic nights together. Heinonen said the chemistry and the passion were an instant fit. That was more than three years and two albums ago.

“We both have the same drive, and we’re both just very dedicated. There are a lot of people that are dedicated, but they aren’t crazy. We’re a little crazy about it,” Heinonen said. “We practice for hours. We start at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and end at midnight or 1 a.m., and that’s how we started playing together; we just practice, practice, practice.”

The duo is working on its third album with Mark Williams of Bethesda’s Sucker Punch Recording Co. Heinonen said he and Wolff write songs separately before coming together to make necessary changes.

“It’s going to be a different sound. The last two albums were great. We love them both; we put a lot of work and effort into those, and the producer was a great guy and we all worked well together, but we wanted to try something else out. Something new, change it up a bit,” Heinonen said.

Later this month, Heinonen and Wolff are going on a tour starting in Virginia, going to Alabama, Florida and Tennessee, and ending with a two-week stint in Colorado. The duo often plays at small venues and festivals in the DMV area.

As an independent act, Pretty Gritty books its own dates but is looking for big backing and management at minimum.

“We’re entertainers and we love to be out there, so I wouldn’t mind playing in front of huge crowds of people,” Heinonen said. “We’d love to be able to tour, but if we can make a good living with someone to help us book a bunch of shows and steer us in the right direction with guidance, I would be a happy camper.”

As a male/female duo, the question of a romantic relationship is always in the air.

Though he called Wolff his musical wife, Heinonen laughs at the idea of him and Wolff being romantically involved, insisting they are both single and even play as each other’s wingman.

“If you spend enough time with someone of the opposite sex, you definitely have chemistry. We are human, but at the same time, me and her are so close; we are really, really good friends and we’re business partners. We have a good work ethic with each other, so it never crossed our minds to cross that boundary,” Heinonen said.

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