Q Interview: Brian Ray
Brian Ray is best known as being the guitarist in Paul McCartney's world touring band. Now though he is set to step onto centre stage with two singles from his solo album This Way Up due out on 6th July. Q talk to Brian just weeks before the realisation of a life-long dream.
Q: What has motivated you to step into the limelight?
Brian Ray: I've been writing ever since I was a kid. I would go and re-write lyrics to songs and think of them as my own. That went on to become more serious as I began to actually write my own in my more formative years. It's just an important part of what I do. Without writing I'm not complete, there's the writing part and the recording part but writing is really important to my happiness.
Q: Have you ever thought about giving McCartney a few tips and having him incorporate some of your ideas?
BR: [Laughs] I think that Paul McCartney is doing pretty well on his own without my help. He's just an inspiring guy. We're on stage in front of 60,000 people and he'll walk from the centre stage microphone over to the piano walk away crossing me, I hear him whistling a tune he made up. The guy is just living, breathing and talking music at all times so I guess that by osmosis I just picked up some of that spirit. There's a great freedom to his melodic sense and he's always creating.
Q: Do you have Paul's blessing with the new material?
BR: He's been really good about it. He's put my own CD in his merchandising and he's heard some of my material before. I remember giving him some songs of mine once and I was disappointed the next day that he didn't come back and tell me that it was great and that I was a genius. But then 6 weeks later he had listened to it and he pulled me aside on a plane ride to one of our shows and he went on and on about three different songs, details about the lyrics, the drum timing and had a great memory of the songs. I was really chuffed. When he did give me those remarks on the tour I was like, let me go and get my tape recorder and have you say it all again just because it is very touching coming from him.
Q: Happy Ending is a very interesting song. What do you think about the post sexual revolution?
If we look at the greatest songs through the years of rock'n'roll since the 50's to now, the 50's began with a lot of bravado similar to the way the rap and urban stuff has been for the last decade and a half. We went into the 60's which was a very sort of 'we are all as one' philosophy, and then the 70's was an era of needy men talking about being all by themselves and 'how am I supposed to live without you,' these awful sappy sentiments which even the writers joked about. Then we went on to the 80's which was a strange rigid period of writing in terms of sexual politics. I notice out there now that women have really finally found their power in the post sexual revolution and they're acting like the guys act
Happy Ending is one of those songs where the guy is saying I'm gonna go out and pull a bird tonight and he's trolling around the internet and finds a really good one, they get together for a date and he quite likes her. She was just happy about being a car date but he wants something more than a happy ending. I think that's kind of where a lot of people find themselves. What the hell are the rules now?
Q: What about the other song to be released I Found You? What is the idea behind it?
BR: Well I don't know about you but I've found that my whole life I was searching high and low for something to fix or complete me, whether it would be drugs, booze and fast cars or money, obviously relationships and sex too. I think that song is all about the search.
There's some references to the 60's when we were all in a searching mode together up to now where we find ourselves. Sometimes it's right in front of you and it might even be found inside of you, not in the outside world at all. Not to get too California on you but the philosophy is that it's been inside of you all along.
Q: Are you still searching or are you completely comfortable with what's inside of you?
BR: No I'm on a search like I always have been.
Q: Is it for money or sex or fast cars?
BR: None of those things right now, funnily enough I've been a mediator for almost four years and that's part of it. But meditation is much more fun if you're having a lot of great sex I must say.
Q: Is meditation a way to keep yourself calm and level headed?
BR: No doubt about it. My practice has me doing it two times a day now for the last four years and it's rare that I miss a day. You wouldn't believe it, the people who I tour with have secured a room for me in the biggest venues. I can go and get quiet for 20 minutes and I do this right before dinner, before going on in front of 60,000 people. I'm alone in my own zone somewhere for that time and I come out feeling really groovy and calm and centred, almost like being high. It's very surreal then to go out and play.
Q: Why has it taken you quite a while to release this album?
BR: I guess I was just busy. If you look at my resume I've made myself and been fortunate enough to make myself really busy doing this music 'job'. The other part of that is that I'm not the kind of guy that likes to sit alone and overdub every instrument myself. I like the interaction of real people and a real studio with a real engineer and I want it to sound rich. It costs money to do it that way. I simply couldn't have done it before Paul McCartney to be honest.
Q: You've worked with people from Smokey Robinson to Kelly Clarkson. What are your personal highlights?
BR: I started with Etta James when I was just out of high school and I was her band leader for 14 years on and off and I guess one of my highlights would have to be Etta James at the Montreal festival when I was 19 years old and it was her husband and I traveling to Switzerland and it was my first time to Europe. We had a band put together for us by the person who had been running the festival and that band included John Paul Jones of led zeppelin on bass and Rick Wakeman of Yes on keyboards and there I was at 19. I was a huge fan of Zeppelin and Zep was still together at that time I was invited to dinner with them and those are the memories I will treasure.
Shoot forward a couple of years and we were opening for The Stones, with Etta James and then I find myself playing with Paul McCartney for the President of the United States in the White House. It has been a pinch yourself career.
Q:Where did you perform? Just in front of his desk?
BR: [Laughs] Yeah like a crew of buskers. We were set up in the East wing in a room that famously has an old portrait of George Washington and Martha Washington on the wall. They have a few events in there but it's rare that they have a rock'n'roll show. The President was sitting four feet away from us with his wife and two kids and 250 other people Wherever we go with Paul he has a way of setting an ambiance and you can't help but feel comfortable because Paul's so comfortable. He has a great way of charming and disarming.
Would you have gone down there in the Bush years?
BR: I think we successfully avoided the invitations during the Bush years.
Q: Having always had ambitions to write an album yourself this must be a dream come true
BR:I finished it some time ago and I'm feeling anxious. I hope people think it's good. These days in music it's crazy to think of making millions of dollars as an independent artist. For me it's just about people hearing my music and getting a taste for it. To have some memories attached to my music will mean a lot to me. I feel really good about it. I'm lucky that I don't listen to it and think that it's rubbish or that we should have done it a different way. I feel strongly about it and I was surrounded by some really talented people. We made a fun record.
Brian Ray's double release will be available from Tuesday 6th July
Visit Brian Ray's website
Follow him on twitter
4:24 PM | 01/07/2010
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