St. John's Confidential File
Gregory Abbott: Shake You Down Wasn't Enough
By Michael St John
Feb 16, 2013 - 6:21:12 AM
HELLO AMERICA!—I first met singer, record producer Gregory Abbott in
the 70s. He was married to singer Freda Payne who was one of the
hottest singers around for her songs "Band of Gold" and "Bring the Boys
Home." I was impressed with the many songs he had written not only
for Freda, but for several other singers as well. He appealed to those
of us in the business because was a quiet, gentle kind of guys who
made you feel comfortable. There were no phony affectations, just a young guy who wanted to be respected for what he might be able to offer as a creative artist. I liked him then and I still do.
MSJ: How was life in Hollywood before your first hit song "Shake You Down"?
GA: It was very productive. I got to know a lot of people in the business,
especially, singers and they wanted to hear some songs I had written. So
much of my time was writing and playing my stuff to singers at Motown,
Capitol and all the other companies. At the same time it was a learning
experience, as well. I had to get to know what was hot and what was not. I learned very quickly that it's not healthy simply to concentrate only on what you do or create, understanding marketing is invaluable -- the bottom line is having a clear view of the business aspect of the music industry.
MSJ: What influenced your early interest in music, generally?
GA: While attending college at Berkely and later Standford, I did a lot of
research on musicians, singers and even those known for musical films.
And I was fascinated by it all. I grew to respect the classics as well as
the pop stuff and soul offerings. I noticed the effect it had on people,
how all types of music made their lives easier and better to deal with from
day to day. So, I played around writing lyrics, music that represented the
lives of simple, every day working folks. Songs about love, jealousy,
struggle and dreams and all the rest of it. The bottom line is that I really
enjoy watching and talking to people. You can learn so much about yourself.
MSJ: When you married singer "Freda Payne" known for her hit "Band of
Gold," did it make life easier for you as an artist?
GA: No, not really. Of course, I met many more important, talented people in the business -- that is to be expected based on Freda's presence. However, I still had to hustle and make things happen on my own.
MSJ: And you wrote several songs for one of Freda's albums.
GA: Oh, yeah! That was a lot of fun and it helped to get some personal notice as a composer. Then too, being married to someone who is so recognized in the business was definitely a plus. But I still had to prove myself time and time again.
MSJ: Of course, you weren't known or recognized as a singer, but mainly a
song writer, isn't that right?
GA: Yeah, that's right. Of course, I had always done some singing through
the years, no matter what the circumstances, but I found it was easier to
hustle my music first. There was a time when I worked as an entertainment columnist for "Players Magazine" a national publication. I covered concerts, shows, and did a lot of interviews with celebrities in Hollywood. And I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.
MSJ: You also did some acting in the early days.
GA:Yes! And it was quite a challenge. I had small parts in a few films and I even appeared in a soap opera. All of it was a learning experience. During those days I was open for anything and everything -- I just needed the experience. It was pure luck that it happened the way it did. A few directors and producers spotted me at a few parties and asked me to give them a call, and I did. One never knows how things will turn to your advantage in this business.
MSJ: What is life for you now after so many years in the business?
GA: It's beautiful. It's productive. Best of all I have been able to survive as an independent creative product. I've had several hit songs, developed my own production company and I've been recognized in different parts of the world as a singer, record producer and composer. I've been very lucky and I know it!
MSJ: What is the difference between the Greg Abbott of yesteryear and today -- and do you like it?
GA: Well, the Greg Abbott of today is wiser. Takes life more serious and looks at things with a more realistic view. And some times the act of giving is more rewarding than taking. Yes, I like who I am today. There is a well of peace around me and it feels good.
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