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A country music prophet in Austria
C Adolf Bereuter - Bregenzerwald Tourismus

A country music prophet in Austria

A country music prophet in Austria

Prinz Grizzley has dedicated himself to the genre of Americana. He loves to compose and play music featuring country, folk and blues roots with an Austrian twist. The Prinz lives in the Bregenzerwald and goes by the name of Christoph Comper in everyday life. Perhaps he’s even painted your house? But who cares about everyday life? He’s dreaming of the stage.

When you think of country music singers, you probably think of long hair, a trucker hat, blue jeans & cowboy boots. But how about the name Prinz Grizzley? Is this an artist’s name or perhaps a fictional character? “That’s an interesting question,” says the Prinz himself, deep in thought. “It all depends really. Sometimes Prinz Grizzley is Christoph Comper, sometimes he’s not.” Christoph, who? Oh okay, now I understand, that’s the name on his passport… “Sometimes Christoph Comper would prefer to be Prinz Grizzley as opposed to Christoph Comper.” I finally feel like we are getting somewhere… “It’s difficult sometimes. But I haven’t really thought about whether there’s really anything schizophrenic going on,” he says, flashing a big grin. After all, the transitions are fluid. What Prinz Grizzley wouldn’t do, in any event, is “put on a pair of painter’s pants. Only Christoph Comper does that.”

Christoph Comper, the painter, is from Bregenzerwald. But what about Prinz Grizzley? “When I go on stage as Prinz Grizzley, a part of the Bregenzerwald naturally goes with me.” Actually, Prinz Grizzley is quite an international fellow, having played in Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden. He has also been invited to perform in Austin, Texas, and toured England for three weeks with stars of the scene. Prinz Grizzley is like a prophet for American music in his native Austria and beyond. But then there’s Christoph Comper, the Bregenzerwald painter, who brings Prinz Grizzley back down to earth. “Some days you head to the construction site and start prepping for a day’s work. There are no fans there to applaud you. As you paint, suddenly an image pops into your head: thousands of people listening to you play music in an old theatre in Liverpool that used to be a circus. In such moments, you catch yourself thinking: What in the world am I doing here? A few minutes later, however, you return to the ceiling that still needs painting.”

Prinz Grizzley, seemingly a world away, still has close ties to the community where he is from. “When someone from the Bregenzerwald looks out the window, he sees mountains, villages and rivers. When I write a song about my home, it might sound similar to someone writing about their home somewhere in the Appalachian mountains because, after all, when they look out the window, they see the same things that I do. The confinement, the valleys, the thought processes… there are a lot of parallels.” And this is how stories from the Bregenzerwald, when put to song, become relatable to a wider audience. In character, Comper resembles Prinz Grizzley, the country star: he’s down-to-earth and laid-back, thoughtful and dreamy.

During the pandemic, Prinz’s wings got clipped, but luckily his alter ego the painter helped him bridge the time with some much needed income. “My work allowed me to get through the last several months without having to worry too much about money.” This is one of the reasons why he was able to get through the crisis while also seeing the positive sides: time for the family and time to reflect. “What do I want? Where am I going?” He knows that now. And as for his next gig? Just point me to the stage and “I’ll play,” he says with a wry grin.The Prinz is ready to hold court.

Author: Bartholomäus Natter
Issue: Winter 2021-22 Travel Magazine