"Music is maybe the most powerful tool in our world. It should be handled that way, never used to hurt or divide. Use it to uplift souls and bring hope. I do however believe in its use in forging positive social change. I’ve had an Alzheimer patient sing along with the words to a song with nurses amazed. It happened to touch where nothing else could. Music is a powerful thing."
Harvey Dalton Arnold: Soundtrack Stories
Harvey Dalton Arnold is a singer, guitarist and North Carolina-native who has a passion for the blues. He sold millions of albums as a member of southern-rock band The Outlaws from 1976-80 and has played at Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall. He has also shared the stage with the Rolling Stones at Anaheim Stadium. Harvey performs a left-handed finger-picking style and slide playing on electric and acoustic guitars. He has received much acclaim for founding and performing with The Harvey Dalton Arnold Blues Band. The Outlaws legend Harvey Dalton Arnold released his new album "Stories To Live Up To" (2020, Music Maker Recordings). For the guitar cowboy who quit high school and left his home in rural Eastern North Carolina to hit the road playing rock and roll at 17, Stories to Live Up To is a retrospective album, examining the emotions and choices that have defined Arnold’s life. His decision to hit the road eventually led him to become the bassist and vocalist for iconic Southern Rock band The Outlaws during the peak of their fame.
Arnold’s tenure with The Outlaws came at the peak of an American art form that spoke to a generation. On his new record, his second released by Music Maker, Harvey doesn’t just look back, he wails through the everyday experiences that make an opera out of every man’s life – the perils and the joy of love, cheating, loss and longing. Accompanying Arnold in the studio is a crew of musicians with a righteous set of their own rock and roll bonafides. On bass Zev Katz, on drums Charley Drayton, on Piano, Rhodes, B3 Organ, and Keyboards Rob Arthur, and Zak Alister on Rhythm Guitar.
How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
I was raised in the American south in the 1950s and 60s in a time of racial segregation and little tolerance for change or individuality. When my father invited a black farm hand to play blues piano in our living room one afternoon, that forever had an impact on me. I think I was 5 or 6 years old. I played blues and rock n roll from an early age eventually it led me away from my small town and into the big world where the people and musicians I’ve met have taught me to have an open mind, respect for others, and to try to be a decent human being to people that are different than you. Musicians need folks to play with, so we also learn to tolerate craziness, bad habits and egos or else we'd all be solo artists. LOL
How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?
I think my sound is pretty basic raw and honest. I don’t try to dress it up or make it slick. My last 2 albums have been recorded basically live, so it’s pretty natural good or bad. I wait for the song to come to me; I can’t sit down and say I’m going to write. The spark or idea could come anytime and then it torments me until I finish it. Usually between in my head and a guitar. My songbook shows pieces of my life being blues, gospel, bluegrass or rock n roll. Our journey makes us musically who we are.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
I’ve been blessed with great memories from opening for The Stones in Anaheim Stadium, CA to playing with Dickey Betts of The Allmans at Radio City Music Hall, NYC. But my biggest thrill may have been recording with Bill Szymczyk who had huge hits producing The Eagles. I was in total awe that he had produced 'The Thrill is Gone' with B.B. King. AND HE LIKED MY SONGS!
"It’s a real fantasy that everyone in the music business were rewarded for talent and character and less on being manufactured into a star through technology and corporate politics."
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I did 4 albums (3 studio and 1 live) with the southern rock group The Outlaws in the middle to late 1970s and each has a different producer. It raised my eyebrows to the totally different approaches to recording each one. Those were my most important meetings. My best advice was from a 91-year-old bluesman who told me to never try to sound like anybody but myself.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I miss hearing guitars in popular music and human beings playing instruments. There are some occasional bright spots, but it was much more real and with more feeling before the digital age. I hear reason for hope in young musicians honoring blues and pioneer rock n soul. My fear is that they can’t figure out how musicians get paid for their recorded work via the internet. They are struggling with that now.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
It’s a real fantasy that everyone in the music business were rewarded for talent and character and less on being manufactured into a star through technology and corporate politics.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?
I’ve learned the basics along my musical path: Be on time, be easy to get along with, play less than you think you need to, know when to shut up musically and literally and never spend music money until you see it in your hand.
"I miss hearing guitars in popular music and human beings playing instruments. There are some occasional bright spots, but it was much more real and with more feeling before the digital age. I hear reason for hope in young musicians honoring blues and pioneer rock n soul. My fear is that they can’t figure out how musicians get paid for their recorded work via the internet. They are struggling with that now."
How do you describe "Stories To Live Up To" sound, music philosophy and songbook?
Stories To Live Up To is a bunch of songs that I’ve written with the intent of kind of painting a picture or telling a story. I’ve been playing and writing mostly in the blues vein that I love so much, and I believe that this album is a fresh adventure for me. The album was recorded at Cowboy Technical Services Studio with Tim Hatfield, the owner engineering. We were all in one small room with no isolation, and we mostly played live, including my guitar solos and vocals. The record is not perfect, but its very human and has a spontaneous soul about it… I’m very proud of it and it was my most satisfying, fun recording experience ever. I look forward to supporting this CD with a video and live gigs in the future and my heart goes out to my friends in NYC as they and all try to survive the virus pandemic.
Do you consider the Blues a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?
As a musician I consider the blues a form of expression. On the surface it seems like a simple form, yet it can convey all emotions. Some people hear the word blues and think of sad and lonesome music, but it came into being as a means to uplift the spirits.
What would you say characterizes North Carolina music scene in comparison to other US scenes and circuits?
The NC music scene is extremely more diverse than I think people realize. I don’t know how we compare to other scenes in the US, but you can find most any genre here in NC with really talented musicians.
What are the lines that connect the legacy of American Roots music from Blues and Folk to Southern Rock and Americana?
I would say the lines between all of these are beautifully blurred. If I had to categorize today’s music, I would have an extremely hard time.
"The NC music scene is extremely more diverse than I think people realize. I don’t know how we compare to other scenes in the US, but you can find most any genre here in NC with really talented musicians." (Harvey Dalton Arnold with The Outlaws, 1976 / Photo by Dano Malarkey)
What were the reasons that made the 1970s to be the center of "Southern Rock" researches and experiments?
I believe that the seed of all southern rock began with Duane Allman; it was his creativity that produced the Allman Brothers Band. In combination with Capricorn Records, which recorded a lot of great early bands, southern rock became what it was. The first wave of southern rock bands (Allmans, Marshall Tucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Outlaws, ARS) did not try to sound alike or duplicate one another. I cut my teeth on those bands and to this day include their music in my live sets.
What is the impact of music on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?
Music is maybe the most powerful tool in our world. It should be handled that way, never used to hurt or divide. Use it to uplift souls and bring hope. I do however believe in its use in forging positive social change. I’ve had an Alzheimer patient sing along with the words to a song with nurses amazed. It happened to touch where nothing else could. Music is a powerful thing.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
I’d love to spend a day in Mississippi to hear firsthand the birth of blues music. From the singing in the fields (it was wrong, but it was real) to hearing a few minstrels along the road or buskers on a Clarksdale street corner. If I could end the night in a small joint drinking liquor and watching Robert Johnson or Charley Patton play, that would be just fine.
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