Q&A with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason, over half a century and encompasses producing, performing and song writing

"What I’d like to change is change the radio back to what it was and turning people to new music. It’s very hard for an artist such as myself to get new music heard. So that would be the biggest thing that I would want to do."

Dave Mason: The Legend Feelin' Alright!

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason’s career spans over half a century and encompasses producing, performing and song writing. Fans and critics alike hail Dave as one of the most talented songwriters and guitarists in the world - which is why he is still performing over 100 shows a year to sold-out crowds. Mason has been playing guitar most of his life. By 15, Dave had founded two bands: The Deep Feeling and The Hellions. At 18, the Worcester, England native teamed up with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood to form the legendary band Traffic. At 19, Mason penned the song "Feelin' Alright". The rock anthem, first recorded by Traffic and then covered by dozens of other artists (including Joe Cocker), cemented both Dave’s and Traffic’s legacy and had a profound influence over rock music that continues today. Mason left Traffic in 1969 to pursue a solo career in the US. Dave has penned over 100 songs, has 3 gold albums: Alone Together, Dave Mason and Mariposa De Oro and a platinum album Let it Flow, which contained the top-ten single "We Just Disagree".

(Dave Mason / Photo by Chris Jensen)

In addition to cranking out hits, Dave has performed on or contributed to a number of famous albums, including: The Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet, George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, Paul McCartney and Wings Venus and Mars and Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland. Mason is featured playing acoustic guitar in “All Along the Watchtower” on Electric Ladyland, a favorite in Dave's live shows! Dave, a prolific artist in his own right, has collaborated with an enviable list of the who’s who in the music industry: Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Rita Coolidge, Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell, Ron Wood, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, and Jim Capaldi, just to name a few. In addition to his own productions, Mason’s distinctive work is featured on numerous gold and platinum albums. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first solo album “Alone Together” (1970), Dave Mason has re imagined that iconic release with “Alone Together Again” (2020)Mason says: "Alone Together was my first solo album. Like all firsts, they are special. The original tapes that burned in the 2008 Universal fires was heartbreaking. But it occurs to me, the Music never dies. I’ve played these songs for the better part of 50 years because I love them. I re-recorded the whole album because I still feel inspired by the music. This makes Alone Together Again a true labor of love. Some things I know for sure; music is relationship and love is best when shared. That is the whole conceptual play of Alone Together."

Interview by Michael Limnios / Transcription by Katerina Lefkidou

Special Thanks: Melissa Dragich-Cordero (MAD Ink PR) & Dave Mason

Like a déjà vu, an old-new album “Alone Together Again”. What do you miss most nowadays from the music and the feeling of the past?

Dave: Me personally, I’m still making the music that pretty much I’ve always done, I’m more experienced me, to me it’s pretty much the same as it’s always been, I love making music.

Too many experiences in your life, too many experiences in music. What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience?

Dave: It’s probably too many to list. To be a musician is being out on the road playing concerts and you have to sort of go with the flow, cause sometimes you need to change ships on a dime as they say, so flexible, probably more than anything.

How do you describe your music philosophy, where does your creative drive come from?

Dave: I really don’t know, it’s just me, what I’ve been doing since I was 16 years of age, so that’s nearly 60 years. You have to have passion. It doesn’t matter what it is you’re doing; you have to have a passion for it. If you have a passion for what you’re doing, it’s really not work, so that would be the most important thing, I think. I mean for playing and going on the road is little tiring, I’m 74 years today, so, (laughing) it’s not like I’m 18 anymore. I like playing. So, I love getting up there with the band and playing, it’s my escape from it all, I suppose.

"Fears? I think that’s already happened. (laughing) There’s a big issue for artists and song writers with no more record titles. We’re all. I’m old now, but I’m doing what I was doing when I was 17, 18, 19, playing shows. Live shows, that’s it. But we can’t make our living now." (Dave Mason / Photo by Chris Jensen)

50 years later, so why do you think that Dave Mason music continues to make such a devoted following?

Dave: I mean that’s hard to pinpoint exactly where I touch certain aspects from people that are familiar, basically I’m writing, making music to myself. It’s what I do. I do when I’m writing songs, I an approach to lyric writing that would be somewhat timeless that’s some of my songs, some of them are “Alone Together, Again”, “Love Alert”. Somewhat timeless, that’s why I guess they lasted as long as they have. Something that in people looked familiar.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you and you keep it like a moto of your life?

Dave: I suppose it would be the values that I got from my parents that kept me a true person. “Strange times are strange people”. So, I would say that would be the most valuable thing for me frankly through my life. You’re from Athens, right? You know the song “Feelin' Alright”? I wrote that on Hyrda (Greek Island).

Yes, I know the story, it’s a really nice story. How did you start to write it?

Dave: “Feelin' Alright” is just an unrequited love song. The song is just about not feeling too good myself, that’s what the song is about.

What are you hopes and what are your fears for the future if the music?

Dave: Fears? I think that’s already happened. (laughing) There’s a big issue for artists and song writers with no more record titles. We’re all. I’m old now, but I’m doing what I was doing when I was 17, 18, 19, playing shows. Live shows, that’s it. But we can’t make our living now.

What is happiness for Dave?

Dave: Well, I’m here actually, in the middle of it. Fortunately, I have a place in Maui, Hawaii and this is where we are. I spend time here until all this. Cause I can’t work, I can’t do anything at the moment and probably until next summer, so we’re in lockdown like everybody else.

Do you find any difference between UK and US music scenes?

Dave: I’ve been living in the US since 1969 so I really don’t have anything to compare it with and I’ve spent very little time in England.

"It’s probably too many to list. To be a musician is being out on the road playing concerts and you have to sort of go with the flow, cause sometimes you need to change ships on a dime as they say, so flexible, probably more than anything." (Photo: Dave Mason & Jimi Hendrix jammin backstage)

Let’s go back to the 60s in the UK. From Chris Barber - jazz, Lonnie Donegan - skiffle, Alexis Corner, Cyril Davis - Blues and later Graham Bond and the other psychedelic rock bands. What were the reasons that made the UK to be the Mecca of music research and experiments?

Dave: Well basically, if it wasn’t for American music there wouldn’t be any, you know... if it wasn’t for American blues, guitar players, BB King, Albert King, Elmore James in the West and Robert Johnson, there wouldn’t be the Rolling Stones or the Beatles, so basically, we just copied from American music. The biggest distinction being, in Europe we didn’t have segregated radios. Black music was in the back stations, there were many divisions even in radio in America. So, we didn’t have that here. We heard it all, we heard everything. So, we copied it and basically, we copied what we learned in American jazz, blues and put our own spin on it and sold it back to them. Actually, turned it into our own music. And that’s what was happening in England and basically in one place, i.e., London. That’s where everybody finished up in that one city. There was a period in the 60s where yes, it was a fascinating place to be.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine. Where would you want to go with a time machine?

Dave: That’s a good question but I don’t know. I’m not sure that I’d really want to go anywhere at this point. It’s fine where I am as a matter of fact. Actually, if I did have a time machine, I would like to move forward to where Covid would by anymore, that’s what I would be doing with it at this point.

What moment changed your life the most?

Dave: I think that’d be, well that’s like saying what’s your favorite song, what’s your favorite color. There is not any one specific thing. At this point in my life there is not one thing, there’s a combination of things. So, we would be here for a while just talking about that. It’s a lot of stuff.

How do you want your music, your songs, to affect people?

Dave: Just enjoy. I’m not looking for any deep revelations or great answers or anything, just enjoy it.                                                 (Photo: Dave Mason with Traffic)

"Well, they all have in some way or other, I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of great people, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood, there’s a bunch, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, I also had the most unique first hit with Jimi Hendrix, recording with him, doing “All along the Watchtower”."

What is the impact of your generation, what is the impact of your generation’s music on the sociocultural implications?

Dave: Socially, there’s too much popular music, it’s a fashion, it’s a trend, it depends on what kind of music you’re listening to, I guess. If you’re 11-14 you’re listening to bubblegum stuff, it’s all about fashion, it’s all about looks. If you’re in a more sophisticated musical way that’s, because part of your life, you like certain music it becomes part of your culture, the way you are, it’s into your lifestyle. It happens in many ways, you know.

What is the difference between the albums: “Alone Together” (1970) and “Alone Together Again” (2020), to you?

Dave: One of it is that I finished it with mostly my band that I go on the road with, they’ve been with me for some time, so they know these songs really well, the tracks have more zip in them. It was basically cut live in the studio. The “World in Changes” is the only thing that I’ve put in there where I have a radical departure from what the original version was. But, the song lyrically is so timeless, that maybe something just a little more current and now, just to throw in there was kind of cool. Bridges have a little more season, a little more quality in it. I feel the songs, I think they hold up, they’re all very timeless themes.

I know you have met so many great musicians and personalities. Which meetings have been the most important experience for you?

Dave: Well, they all have in some way or other, I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of great people, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood, there’s a bunch, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, I also had the most unique first hit with Jimi Hendrix, recording with him, doing “All along the Watchtower”.

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as an artist and has this helped you become a better musician?

Dave: The hardest thing to for everybody to overcome can be your own way

"Socially, there’s too much popular music, it’s a fashion, it’s a trend, it depends on what kind of music you’re listening to, I guess. If you’re 11-14 you’re listening to bubblegum stuff, it’s all about fashion, it’s all about looks. If you’re in a more sophisticated musical way that’s, because part of your life, you like certain music it becomes part of your culture, the way you are, it’s into your lifestyle. It happens in many ways, you know."

(Dave Mason / Photo by Chris Jensen)

If you would change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality what would that be? What would you like to change in the musical world?

Dave: What I’d like to change is change the radio back to what it was and turning people to new music. It’s very hard for an artist such as myself to get new music heard. So that would be the biggest thing that I would want to do.

What does the blues mean to you?

Dave: Great guitar players. Learned a lot. We all have.

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