Grayson Wray - Building A Temple To The Rock Gods
If variety is the spice of life then Grayson Wray has built an empire, a temple to the rock gods that have long since passed on. He could have been successful in any decade of music with his homespun down to earth process. He offers a multitude of styles and sounds on the new album Tales of Mystery and Loneliness.
Wray goes from song to song trying to make each one unique, unable to repeat himself, even if he tries. He makes his best efforts to put songs that fit together for an album, believing that it is better for the listener to have variety. Listening to his music was like a trip back in time for me.
I heard many bands that I listened to on a regular basis in this music. I heard the Beatles (That's What I'm Talking About), the Beach Boys (Too Many People), Dylan (Gladiator), King Crimson with Adrian Belew on vocals ( Bad Girl and Sun God, amongst others), 10cc (I Will Never Die), then flat out rockers like "Hate About Love," which made my temperature escalate and my blood pump. The variety of sounds and influences are simply mind-boggling. It was almost as if this person knew what kind of music I grew up on, it was freaky but I loved it just the same.
Artist like Grayson Wray are rare these days. Take away the glitter and glitz, the overproduction and overt emphasis on computer-generated sounds (he does sample but with care and brevity) and you have simple rock 'n' roll with essence. This is what artisans like Wray are made of. He is solid in his approach, diversified in his tastes, and above all, sensitive to an audience that demands quality and originality. He has all bases covered, just as a hand weaved blanket or a patchwork quilt that keeps you warm on cold winter night.
I asked Gray where his musical and life influences come from and he replied with a lot of enthusiasm...
Musical Influences: "In music The Beatles had a big impact on me but I like a lot of others like Elliot Smith, Sam Phillips, Talking Heads, David Bowie, David Byrne, Radiohead, and many more. I just heard The Zootons and I think they are great. In classical music, I like Debussy, Beethoven, Bach and many more.
"Lately I have been listening to '40s music and I love it because it is upbeat, sophisticated, and catchy. Harry James Orchestra and Glenn Miller is some of the music I have been listening to and I am finding some excellent Frank Sinatra albums as well."
Lifetime Influences: "In life, I am crazy about Joseph Campbell, anthropologist, philosopher. He explains very nicely the mythological world, what we cannot see, what is behind everything. It is just great how it all ties together and it is very important in understanding life suggesting-do not let the mind rule even though it wants to take over, listen to your feeling and your body. I really like what he says about following your bliss. Do what you love and do not be afraid even though people will try to take you off your path. Do things that catch you rather then forcing yourself."
His success is readily apparent with Tales of Mystery and Loneliness, which is finding its way into college airplay quite frequently. Wray attributes this quick rise in popularity to the melodic sophistication of the album and the warmth that may be lacking in our surrounding world, not just in a musical sense of the word.
Wray is a multi-talented individual-singing, playing guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, programming sampling, and including the colorful artwork on the CD sleeve and back cover. He thinks it is important to complete the circle with a project by contributing the art work because it all works together in a general feeling about what he is projecting, believing the art should be a visual representation of the music.
The general feeling in the Indie community regarding big labels and corporate America is that the labels will eventually just go away because of the DYI attitude that artists have, and their ability to empower themselves with all the tools available such as the internet and home recording capabilities. Grayson thinks the big corporations have been killing music and movies.
"They do everything by formula so it is all very predictable and boring. I think the Indie companies will be very successful because that is where the innovation is. In addition, I do not buy into the thinking of doing it for the lowest common denominator. I think the public should be given more credit for their intelligence."
In closing Grayson wanted to give credit were it was due and pay tribute to the important people that helped to make the recording happen, this is what he had to say...
"Several people contributed a lot. Angie Donkin who has sung on all of my albums sings great harmony and lead. She is a wonderful singer and very professional. Chris Sendry added some excellent guitar parts. He is very talented. Susan Yeh played violin and viola on ten of sixteen tracks and it added a lot of warmth. She has excellent intonation and feeling. Antonia Ramirez did a great job on cello on "Last Man On Earth." Maria Jose Estivariz Da Silva played some great bass and she is in the live band. Caleb Bain, also in the live band contributed some fine harmonies. Jim Cypherd, who has worked with some big people, helped a lot with mixing and mastering."