Little Big Projects

Donatos power couple Tom Krouse and Jane Grote might have a modern day-Brady Bunch-style merged family, but the sounds that are coming out of the Krouse basement are a damn sight better than Greg’s and Marsha’s.

Tom and his son Joey have just put the finishes touches on their own home recording studio, a project born out of finding a new connection between father and son. Sure, Tom has been playing guitar for years (his band Grassinine can be seen on stages all over central Ohio), and Joey has been playing electric and standup bass since the third grade, but when his mom and day split a few years ago, music ended up being the ideal communication activity. The two, along with older brother Chaz on drums, would improv for hours, dashing together a few tunes, and eventually playing even playing a block party gig or two.

Krouse, who had moved into the self-described “classic divorced Dad complex situation,” called these jam sessions the ultimate connector.

“It might sound weird to say, but I think the divorce itself caused me to be more connected to my kids,” he says. “Before I was a role player—went to work everyday and came home, maybe we’d play a little ball… now, when they’re with me, I am fully in charge. It was an element in defining my role as a father.”

It’s even more acute when you’re dealing with teenagers who have a natural tendency to rebel, he adds. Plus, they end up playing just about anything other than Tom’s band’s preferred genre.

“Teenagers get into times where they’re not communicating with their parents—but this was not me telling him what to do. It won’t be bluegrass. They’re not really that into that,” he laughs.

And now, what they’re into has rubbed off on what their dad is into. The studio has only been up and running for a month or so, but the father-son duo are already brushing up on their current knowledge of recording technique, with Joey teaching the old man a thing or two about hip-hop and sampling. Tom admits that his sons are surprised when they discover artists like Chance the Rapper in their dear old dad’s playlists.

“They were pretty surprised. I think they assumed I didn’t like it all the times they played it for me, but it was probably just not wanting to hear that much of the F-bomb in my car,” Tom laughs.

Perhaps most interesting about the Krouse musical connection is how it’s extended through their family tree in unexpected ways. Joey, with the help of his friend Dom, recently surprised Tom with a new hip-hop song, spun from a poem written by Tom’s father, who passed away long before any of his grandkids were born. Tom was blown away.

“They talk about him a lot, even though they never met them. You transfer music through generations back and forth; now, there’s a creative thread between him, and me, and the kids. That’s pretty cool.”