NEW YORK – It's hard to think of a current musician so universally accepted into the rock 'n' roll fraternity as Dave Grohl.
The Foo Fighters frontman dines regularly with Paul McCartney. He wrote and recorded a pandemic-era song with Mick Jagger. Joan Jett read bedtime stories to his daughters. He formed a group with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.
An outgoing personality who takes his music more seriously than he does himself, Grohl naturally draws people in. Besides, how do you not like a guy who shows up at stage doors with a wide smile and a bottle of whiskey?
“I'm like the Labrador of rock 'n' roll,” he says with a laugh.
Grohl had no shortage of material when he decided to spend much of his enforced downtime writing a book called “The Storyteller,” released Tuesday. Call it the typical tale of a high school dropout who becomes the drummer in Nirvana, then after unspeakable tragedy transformed himself into the singer, songwriter and guitarist for a band that sells out arenas. And, at age 52, he still listens to his mom.
In fact, he counts his mother, Virginia, as one of his best friends. As he writes in “The Storyteller,” she was influential in him joining Nirvana.
His time as the drummer in Scream, the Washington-area punk band that Grohl left high school to drum for, was winding down. But he was loyal, and conflicted when he got an invitation to come to Seattle in 1990 and jam with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic.
“I called my mother and said, 'I'm not sure what to do,'” Grohl recalled. “And she said, 'sometimes you have to do what's best for you,' which was funny because her entire life was devoted to other people as a school teacher and a mother.”
Grohl lived in a ragged apartment with Cobain as the band prepared material for what would be its breakthrough “Nevermind” album. He sensed when they left to record it that they'd never return to that apartment, but no one could anticipate their explosive success. It proved too much for Cobain, who killed himself in 1994.
Post-Nirvana, Grohl faced a career crossroads when offered a job as drummer in Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. Working for a musician he grew up listening to, in one of rock's best backup bands – it defined job security. But he said no.
Around the same time, he wrote and recorded the songs that would become the first Foo Fighters album.
What gave Grohl the confidence he could do it?
“It was the lack of confidence,” he said. “Just being unsure of yourself can be a great motivator. So, yeah, it took me a decade to become comfortable as the frontman and singer of the Foo Fighters. Now, I love it.”
The message that burns through “The Storyteller” is to those who watch him onstage now: Deep down, I'm just like you. I've worked hard to get where I am, but I obsessed over the same music you do. I'm a fan.
That thought also comes to mind when Paul McCartney is in Grohl's living room, banging out “Lady Madonna” on the piano to his kids.
Really. That happened.