Rockin' blues guitarist Gregg Wright talks about Mick Fleetwood, Michael Jackson, Fender, and his own blues road

"Do it for the right reasons. Do it because you love music and can’t live without it!"

Gregg Wright: King of the Rockin' Blues

He's the only man in music history to have played with the two biggest record sellers of all time! Michael Jackson and Mick Fleetwood both saw Gregg Wright's guitar genius and quickly hired him for their tours and albums.  Audiences from Monterey to Serbia have witnessed him bring that same skill and intensity to his live shows as leader of the awesomely tight Gregg Wright Blues Band.

But Wright says he is hungry for more . . . "I've always wanted my own band. I put every ounce of my musical soul and experience into putting on a show no one will forget!"
Gregg Wright got his first guitar while attending junior high school in Wichita Falls, Texas. He began playing in bands in high school around the Washington, D.C. area, where his father, a career military man, was stationed. He began his professional career on the U.S. Southern circuit in the mid-1970's, playing years of one-nighters.
Opening shows for Blues legends Albert King, Freddie King and many others, Wright learned the Blues game from the Masters. “I  worked around greatness!” says Gregg. “Albert and Freddie encouraged me to keep pushing and I learned a helluva lot from watching and listening to them!” Following 1980's move to Los Angeles, Wright become a top session guitarist winning awards, doing albums and tours with many of Pop music's elite.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Gregg, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?
“I’ve been around the Blues my entire life. It was the music my parents listened to. My first music idols were Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Albert King.”

What does the BLUES mean to you & what does Blues offered you?
“Blues is the living narrative of the joy, sorrow, triumphs and tragedies of Black people’s experience in America from slavery to the present. Blues have evolved to where nowadays, everyone participates in telling their own personal story, because the Blues is ultimately, a human story.  It allows me to express myself honestly and directly!”   

What do you learn about yourself from music? What experiences in your life make you a GOOD bluesman?
“What I’ve learned is that I have an innate need to express myself. What makes me a good Bluesman is that I’m not faking it. This is real!”

How/where do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?
“Inspiration comes from everywhere. I always hear things, even in dreams. Music and words are in my head, 24 hours a day! My biggest influence in songwriting is John Lennon. I once read an interview where he said what made him such an effective songwriter and more importantly, a communicator, was eliminating all unnecessary words and getting to the core of what you’re trying to say. So, I’ve always taken that approach. ”

Do you remember anything funny or interesting from the recording time?
“Oh Man, when we record, we try to keep things loose and flowing. As a result, there’s a lot of cracking jokes and laughter, especially when somebody plays something totally crazy!”

What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had?
“There are so many great gigs . . . Madison Square Garden in New York when I played guitar for Michael Jackson, the Lionel Hampton Room in Paris during the Chicago Blues Festival, I could go on and on. I once got to jam with Hendrix’s drummer Mitch Mitchell. We played “Red House” and “Voodoo Child.” That was a real treat!”

What's been their experience from “studies” with Opening for Albert King and Freddie King?
“What I learned from watching and hearing those guys up close night after night, was how to be a professional, how to present a show and how to work a crowd.”

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music? Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?
“Man, I’m like a sponge. I learn something from every single artist I hear! But really, the deepest secrets about Blues come from digging deep inside myself, because the information is already there from my experiences growing up in America at the time I did. Of all the people I’ve met in my musical travels, I’d have to say I admired Michael Jackson the most. His work ethic was unbelievable!”

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Michael Jackson?
“Michael’s total dedication to excellence in his craft is what stands out in my mind. He pushed himself to be that great and would never allow himself or the people around him to give less that their very best at all times. I wish more musicians and people in general would follow this philosophy. The world would be a very different place!”

Where did you pick up your guitar style & what were your favorite guitars, effects and amps back then?
“My guitar style is a combination of Southern Blues, Rock, Urban Funk and Southern Soul. I picked up all the different pieces from various periods in my development. It continues to evolve as I gain more experience. My favorite guitar is without a doubt the Fender Stratocaster. I started with it and it’s never changed. It’s like my third arm! My favorite amp was and remains Marshalls. I know most Blues cats tend to use Fender amps, but they just don’t have enough balls for me. I want to feel the guitar go right through my shoes!!”

What characterizes the sound of Gregg Wright? How do you describe your music philosophy?
“My sound comes from my fingers and very deep in my soul. Although I have my amp preferences, no matter what I play through, I’ll always sound like me. My music philosophy is to reach as high as I can and allow the music to flow as pure and honest as possible. There is always something new to learn, so I’m never satisfied.

Are there any memories from Mick Fleetwood, which you’d like to share with us?
“Mick Fleetwood is a person totally dedicated to excellence in his craft as well, but in a different way. He is a master at getting great groups of people together and getting great things to happen musically.”

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet? What turns you on? Happiness is……
“I would have liked to meet and talk with Elmore James. Man, that stingin’ electric slide he played was somethin’ else!! What turns me on is life itself. There are so many wonderful, simple things . . . rain, blue sky, forests, animals, clouds and so on.   Happiness is family, friends, good food, good wine and making my living doing what I love!

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
“Do it for the right reasons. Do it because you love music and can’t live without it! Don’t do it to become famous or as a fast way to get women & money. Those are illusions and will lead to nothing but sadness, bitterness and disappointment. Being a musician takes a lot of courage and dedication. It is not for the faint of heart!”

What do you think is the main characteristic of your personality that made you a bluesman?
“The desire to tell my story, my way!”

If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would avoid to do again?
“I would definitely learn the business side of music. Early in my career, I paid no attention to the business of music and as a result found myself in very unhappy situations over which I had no control. I would also avoid excessive partying and drugs. It was never a problem for me, but I’ve seen it destroy many great musicians.”

How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?
“Nowadays, an artist has much more control over his or her music product. You don’t need to go to a major record label anymore, to be heard. Technology and the internet have brought about artistic freedom and empowerment on a massive scale. When I started out, your only chance of being heard was to make a deal with a major label. In most cases, this was like signing your soul to the Devil. You were literally at their mercy. You had no control over your product and you never got paid. At best, maybe you got famous, but fame in itself is not success. Fame is simply, fame. Now is the very best time to be a music artist. I own my record label, publishing company and have complete control of my music and how it’s presented.  Nobody can tell me what to do, what to play and I keep control of my record sales. That’s empowerment. I hope more musicians take control of what they do!”   

What is the “think” you miss from the 70s?
“Absolutely nothing!”

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES
“The Blues remains with us because it tells the truth about people and life. However, my one big wish for the Blues is that it is allowed to grow and evolve like everything else on this little blue planet we call Earth. Too many people have very fixed ideas about the Blues and what it’s supposed to be. So called “Blues purists” aren’t purists at all. I’d call them “Blues suffocators”, because their fixed, rigid attitudes don’t allow for the natural growth of the form. As a result, we see and hear a lot of Blues clichés and rehash on record and at a lot of Festivals. This will surely kill off any chance of the Blues remaining a vital, living form of expression.  It will end up in a museum! So, this Blues snobbery has to stop because it is impossible to do 1936 in 2012.”

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
“Right now is the most interesting and productive period in my life. I have a wonderful family, a beautiful home, a full production recording studio where I can work in complete freedom and enjoy being a professional musician more than ever. What could be better than that?”

Gregg Wright - Official site

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