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Jay Gordon: You Have To Be Unique

by Gary Schwind (writer), Laguna Niguel, October 30, 2008

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Guitarist Jay Gordon discusses his music, his influences, and the importance of being a unique artist.

Jay Gordon is a guitar player with ten albums under his belt. In 2007, he won the South Bay Music Award for best blues/rock band. In 2006, he won Best Blues/Rock Guitarist at the Real Blues awards in Canada. He is currently working on three albums: a live album (“Fresh Blood Live”), a slide guitar album, and a studio album with his band. In April 2009, he will perform at the Leesburg (FL) Bikefest. Via phone, Jay discussed his influences, his music, and other jobs he’s held that have not satisfied him like music has.

What do you tell people that your music sounds like?

I basically tell them I sound like me. I never tried to sound like anybody. In the beginning when you’re learning to play music, you always have your influences. You pick your favorite players, or your favorite songs, and you learn from that. After that you have to be unique and develop your own style. Critics will put my music in a certain bag. It’s guitar-oriented, so they’ll say it sounds like Hendrix, or it sounds like Vaughan. Something like that. In my opinion there’s two types of music. It’s good or bad. I don’t think I sound like anybody.

If you were going to create your own “file under” category, what would it be?

I wouldn’t put it in a category, because then I’m boxing myself in. I have notoriety as a blues-rock guitarist. In my spare time, I play all types of music. I don’t know if you’ve heard any of my records.

I’ve heard Gold Rings Silver Bullets.

On that record, even when I’m playing rock, you can still hear the blues. You can hear a lot of different types of music, because I’m playing with a trio. When you play with a trio, the guitar becomes like an orchestra. Even when I’m playing guitar, you’ll hear something that maybe a horn would be playing. That’s what I try to do as the soloist and guitar player. I try and play stuff that would be other instruments. That’s how I feel music.

You grew up in Chicago. What were some of the blues artists you listened to growing up?

When I started playing, I listened to Son House, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam. Players like that. Paul Butterfield, the real blues guys. I grew up in the heart of the blues and I feel very fortunate. The blues is my favorite music of all time. Even though I love rock and roll, I love classical music, I love jazz. The blues bug got me when I was very young. I listened to all the great Chicago blues artists. And I had the chance to hang out with a lot of these people. That’s where I cut my teeth, showing up to all these jam sessions with players that were better than myself at that particular time in my life. I always surrounded myself with people that were better than me. I think everybody should do that. Not everyone has the opportunity to be around great players like I had. There’s so many great players. Chicago was and still is, the home of the blues. Even though it came out of small country towns, they all migrated to big cities to make a living playing music. I love all music.

I really started listening to delta blues. I had a guitar and I tuned it to open chords and I really tried to emulate Robert Johnson and Lightnin’ Hopkins, before I ever played rock music. When you’re thirteen, fourteen, other white kids didn’t understand where I was. They were playing Black Sabbath, The Beatles, stuff like that. Cover music. I’ve always tried to stay away from being in cover bands. It’s kind of impossible. Even now, when I play in clubs, I prefer to play all original music, but people want to feel connected. You have to connect with an audience. I take songs that I can do justice to, that I really dig, and re-arrange them, and do them. Whether they’re rock and roll songs or blues songs. To make a connection quick. Then you slide your own material in there. Half the time, people are drunk anyway, they think they’ve heard it before. [laughs] Two weeks ago, we headlined America’s Biker Fest in Palm Springs. You had fifteen thousand people there, which was incredible. I got to cut loose and do my thing. I played a two hundred thousand watt PA system, and there were fifteen thousand people there. At least three thousand of them hanging out by the stage. So I got to cut loose and play at the volume I like. I play small clubs, I feel confined. You have to play to the room no matter where you’re at. I’m playing electric guitar, and I say turn it up.

I don’t disagree with you.

Club owners sometimes, I don’t know if you play music, but I’m sure you’ve interviewed a lot of musicians and guitarists. A lot of people have volume problems. You’re playing in a small club, they feel it’s too loud sometimes. You’re gonna open up a club and play rock and roll, I think they should realize it’s going to get loud. Otherwise, hire Lawrence Welk and get a bubble machine.

What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?

That’s a tough question. As a young boy, I wanted to be a scientist. I was always interested in scientific, the science of man’s quest for eternal peace. I’ve been playing music for so long. I’ve done other things, and I’ve never gotten any satisfaction from any job other than playing music. I got involved in lighting motion pictures for a while when I first came to Hollywood. That was probably the coolest job I ever had. The majority of my life, I’ve focused as a songwriter, and a singer, and a musician. That was always my job, something I wanted to do. Something I was driven to do. That’s destiny and fate. The lighting gig with Olson Stage Lighting was great. It was a fun job, and I had various functions over there. I used to put down the stars on Hollywood Boulevard. I used to do the crowd control thing. I would do the sound, so the sound you heard on the television [during the star ceremony], I was recording it. It was a fun gig. I love film. Eventually, what I would like to do is direct movies. I’ve done music for film, where I sync music to action. That is great. They just used two of my songs on Parking Wars on A&E. They used “Fire and Brimstone Boogie” in episode twenty-one. On episode twenty-six, they’re using a song I wrote called “Drive Me Wild.” Episode thirty-three, they’re going to use “Fire and Brimstone Boogie” again. It’s cool, a lot of exposure for the music. It’s a cool program.



About the Writer

Gary Schwind is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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