The Greg Mayo Interview: Universal Communication
Posted by Kelly Carroll on Nov 2, 2008 - 3:12:00 AM
The Greg Mayo Band has a sound that lifts your soul. Jazz, funk, soul, call it what you will—it’s a great vibe and you just feel good listening to it. Universal Communication is their latest CD. I recently spoke with Greg Mayo about this band, this sound and the creative process behind this musical fusion.
KC: How long has The Greg Mayo Band been together?
GM: The band that I have right now, in its entirety; we are now an eight piece band, we have been together about a year and a half.
KC: An eight-piece band, that’s very cool. What are the plans that you have for your music?
GM: Right now, we have recently, in April or March, released our first full-length album as a band. It’s called Universal Communication; we’ve released it independently, based here in New York. We have been promoting as much as we can, and doing as many shows as we can”¦ We are just starting to send stuff out to radio stations and to reviewers to get some press and some radio play to help promote the product.
KC: What would you call the type of music we will be hearing from The Greg Mayo Band? It is such a great sound and a great fusion. How would you describe it? What would you tell someone who hasn’t heard it yet?
GM: First of all I would say it’s based in danceable soul music. I would say it’s very high energy soul music. Then of course I would name some examples of artists that I think we kinda, you know, borrow from and understand. I’d say it’s very much a Stevie Wonder type of sound, it’s a Marvin Gaye type of sound, it’s even like a Jamiroquai sound from the ”˜90s, early 2000s. Lately we’ve been actually dipping more into the older school like Motown...kind of like an Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, early Motown, like the young Stevie Wonder stuff. Material like that is the best way to describe us right now.
KC: Who does all the arranging and who writes the songs? What’s that like?
GM: The way it works is, I usually bring a pretty good sketch of a tune into the band rehearsal. I’ll have all the lyrics and the melody and most of the chord changes and part of the horn arrangements together on my own ahead of time and I’ll walk into a rehearsal and say, “Okay, hey guys, here’s what I’ve got and here’s what I was thinking for it and let’s see if we can build something out of it.” So I’ll give everybody the chord changes and then say, the base player and the drummer will start to discuss how they want to produce the groove and then me and the guitar player will discuss how we want to arrange the chordal parts, and then the horns will take apart the horn section part and rebuild it into what it eventually becomes as the final product. So as much as it is me doing work ahead of time and writing out charts and you know, writing the tunes, it’s very, very much a collective process between all of us to put the whole tune together so that it is a product of the band and not just me. I really feel it becomes more than the sum of its parts essentially. Because everybody is really excited about it”¦they have all put their hands in it and put their own flavors on it.
KC: Describe what it feels like, at its best creatively, when you’re mixing what has come through you and then what comes through the other people in that process. What does it feel like when everything is really clicking together and grooving”¦?
GM: God, it feels exactly like what music creation and art creation should be. It’s what I’ve always imagined it to be. When I was a kid I used to really look up to some groups I was into”¦ I was really into Hall and Oates at the time, I was really into Stevie Wonder and his group, [and] I was into the Motown stuff. And I always tried to imagine what it was like to put a tune like that together and have the whole band throwing their flavors on it. That’s the way the Motown Label worked”¦ they kind of had the chart, like I was saying, and they would just put it to the band and they would build whatever came about on top of it. It really is just an incredible feeling for me, especially with this group of people, is that, sure it’s my band, and I write the material, and my name is on the cover and all that sort of stuff but it is just such an honor for me to be surrounded...in rehearsal space I’m surrounded by musicians who I feel are in many ways light years ahead of me on each of their instruments, and stylistically, what they’re good at. In a way it becomes 20 times more than I could ever have imagined it. I’ll walk into a rehearsal and I’ll have this idea, by the time we walk out three hours later, the tune, I wouldn’t say sounds nothing like it did, but it sounds like a highlighted version of what I came up with.
KC: Does it surprise and amaze you, the changes and where they come from?
GM: Oh, absolutely. Of course. Say for example, the base player is really into the group The Band and the drummer is really into the drummer Steve Jordan and the horn players, their primary objective is Jazz music and myself and the guitar player come from a Soul oriented background so the ideas come from all these different places. The base player will say, there is this one tune that I really dig and I learned this part on this tune maybe I can change it around and make it work here. And the drummer’s like, well let’s put the kick drum or the base pattern here to like turn the beat around on itself and all this other stuff”¦it becomes a whirlwind for a half an hour of all this really brilliant talk and really brilliant music coming about and then all of a sudden it clicks, and the tune is finished and I’m just amazed. I’m so honored that all these people are that interested in my music and my ideas and then are that creative and that interested an interesting to be able to put it together”¦ it becomes that great of a tune and that great of a product. And I think, at least I hope, it shows in the music and it shows in our live shows and it shows in our album.
KC: On your website it mentions that the completion of the creative process is playing your music for the audience. Tell us about what it’s like to have the creative process—everything you guys have put together and let come through you as a band—then go out and be received by the audience.
GM: As much of an honor as it is for me to play with the guys and the girls that I am playing with right now”¦ it is so much more, and when you speak to any musician I think they feel this way; you walk into a venue or a club”¦.I look at the audience and say, all of these people are here, and have paid money, good money from whatever they do, and they have come here to be entertained by my music, by my art. I find that such an overwhelming and incredibly honoring experience for me and for us. This audience is here to thrive off of the vibe that we’re giving to them. Of course the energy that they give back to us is being reciprocated over and over within a song or within a set or a show. Of course, after the show we try to meet everybody in the audience or as many as we can to say thank you, how did you hear about us and we really do appreciate that you’re here every time or however many times and that you are bringing people to the show. It’s such an honoring experience for me, or for me to say to the band—wow, there’s people talking about us, there’s people saying we really, really love this group, we love the vibe they give, they are such great happy, positive message sort of group that I am going to tell everybody I know to come out, and pay, like I said, to pay good money to come see this band play. It’s just such an incredible experience that I am actually touching more lives than just myself or just the people that I play with—it’s the people that I play for. It’s really for the audience just as much as it is for us. It’s an incredible experience.
Here’s where you can find out more and pick up your copy of Universal Communication by The Greg Mayo Band: