Jack Russell discusses Rising, the newest studio release from Great White.

Save Your Love, Rock Me, Once Bitten Twice Shy….gw-picture-shirt1

Three songs from the 80’s that most people remember. But when you say the name, Great White, these songs are not the first thing to come to mind. To be honest, when this interview was set up, I worried about how to talk about the events that took place at The Station, the Rhode Island nightclub that is associated forever with the band. Ultimately, I decided that this interview was best suited to discuss the reason I am familiar with the name, Great White- their music.

Great White got together in the early 80’s, and grew their fame during the hair metal era of the late 1980’s.One thing that has differentiated the band from the glut of others are the vocals of Jack Russell. Another is the band’s writing, which steers more towards the stripped back rock of the 70’s than the overproduced sounds of their contemporaries. This combination of songwriting and Jack Russell’s voice has helped the band achieve multi—platinum success. On the Eve of the US release of their new album, Rising, I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with Mr Russell to discuss the cd.

CH: I have been listening to your new cd for a week or so… It has already been released in Europe, correct?

JR: Yeah, it has been out for two or three weeks. The response has been great so far. It’s always a pat on the back, makes you feel good when you put your heart and soul into a record and people respond they way they have. It’s a good feeling, you never get tired of it.

CH :It looks like you have a pretty busy tour schedule coming up starting when the new cd, Rising, hits the stores. How much of the new record makes the set?

JR: We play a couple new songs from the new album. You hate to inundate people with new stuff…I don’t think its fair. Most people come out to hear the classics, so you throw a couple new things out as a tease so that they will go out and buy it and discover it for themselves. You don’t wanna just blast them and say, “Here is the whole new album.” That is just not fair, especially when some of them have been coming to see you for almost thirty years.

CH: So that brings up another point. You guys have been together for quite a while…

JR: Yeah, Kendall and I started playing together in ’78, when I was seventeen. We became Great White in 1982

CH: It is great that you get to do the thing you love for a living, and for so long…

JR: Yeah, I have no complaints. I am so blessed. I look at a lot of my contemporaries, and they are not able to do that, and I am .. just so blessed and thankful to have Great White be able to go out and do what we love to do and make a living at it.

CH:… and still put new music out. A lot of bands are existing only in the songs of their past.

JR: Yeah… I wouldn’t want to do that, just become a cover band of yourself, and just make a living off your catalog. There was a long stint where Great White didn’t make any new music, almost nine years, and it was killing me. It is great to be able to do that. We already have plans for our next record.

CH: Let’s talk about your news album, Rising. The thing that strikes me about it is that you are not trying to replicate what you have achieved success with. Sure, there are elements of that classic Great White sound, but it seems you are stretching a bit more, some songs have a bit more polish. A lot of the album felt very familiar… take “Last Chance.” It takes me back to back to a much younger era, when FM radio was first rising to prominence…

JR: Ah, Thank You very much… that is a huge compliment.

CH: The entire album has that feel. Big Hooks and great vocals, which are a little different than your previous work.

JR: You know , I try to do something a little different on each album. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. I try to use different parts of my voice… like “Sanctuary,” that is a blues/gospel song, and I had never done anything like that before. It was a different approach and key than I would normally take. It was a lot of fun. I really wanted to experiment and do some things that were out of my normal realm. There is nothing wrong with “Rock Me,” but I don’t want to keep writing it over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great song, probably the quintessential Great White song. When we write, we write very selfishly. If we like it, it is going on the record, if somebody else likes it that is just icing on the cake. This writing of this record was more collaborative than any other record we have done. I really wanted to get the band involved. This was also a record where there was nobody else in the studio when we were getting it done. That was awesome, no external influences.

Nobody to tell us that we should try this or that… We know what we are doing, and we know what we want to sound like.

The results of this newly found independence are on display on the newly released cd, Rising, which is in stores this week.


Raul Malo- a brief conversation


photo ©Kristin Barlowe

photo ©Kristin Barlowe

Throughout the 1990’s, the Mavericks released 6 albums that produced 14 chart singles on the Billboard country charts. After disbanding in 2003, lead singer and principle songwriter, Raul Malo began a solo career releasing two albums which contained interpretations of the music of Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and others. In March of this year he released his first collection of original material in 7 years, Lucky One. Featuring songs drenched in melody, this cd highlights the songwriting skill and incredible voice of the Miami native.

CH: Hello Raul. I have to mention this before we get started. I had your new cd playing at dinner last night, and my seven-year old daughter looked at me when “Moonlight Kiss” came on and said, “Daddy, I have to get up and dance.” So it looks like your new cd is a success already!

RM: Fantastic! That is great.

CH: Lucky One, is packed full of melody and hooks, and it is definitely a singers’ album. It really showcases your voice…

RM: Thanks for saying that. I certainly write for my voice, so I gravitate towards melodies. It is probably why I like the music of bygone eras so much, because there was such an emphasis on melody. And now that I don’t have to be genre-specific, I can kind of do whatever I want, and not have to be conscious of having it fit within someone’s parameters. When we were picking the songs for this record, it almost didn’t matter what style they were. We just went for what sounded the best to us. Sometimes you are not so prolific, but I happened to have a lot of songs, because the last three albums were cover albums. But I think you are right, they are probably the strongest songs melodically that I have had in a long time. And part of that is because we were able to really weed through a lot of material.

CH: I notice on this album that you are playing all the guitars. This has not been the case in the past… I did not realize your prowess on the guitar… Are you playing all the guitars on your tour?

RM: HA HA. I didn’t realize my prowess on the guitar either. Ha. I enjoy playing guitar, I really do and as I was making the demos for this record, Steve Berlin (producer), kept asking me “who is playing the guitars?” I kept telling him, “That is me, I am not lying.” Haha . And he liked it. That made me hear it in a different way, because I have always had guitar players come in and play. Steve likes to leave some room in the production and my playing fit. It was more …playing parts. I am not one of those blazing guitar players. Yes, I am playing the guitars, along with our sax player, who also plays some rhythm acoustic. But I am doing all the heavy lifting.

CH: A highlight on the album, for me, is “Moonlight Kiss”, which, with its gang backing vocals, really bring back the bygone era you mentioned before.

RM: I think a lot of what is missing from music today, is a sense of humor. We kind of forget that our job is to entertain. And I mean “we”, as artists forget that our prime directive should be to entertain. I think if we remember to do that, we are doing our gig. I think that song embodies that attitude, it’s kind of playful and silly, there is not a heavy meaning there, it is just fun…It made your seven year-old daughter get up and dance!

CH: It made her announce she was going to dance- she was called to action by your song!

RM: That is it- prime directive achieved.

Raul Malo is bringing this prime directive- and big voice to the Cat’s Cradle on Tuesday April 21, mixing classic Maverick’s material with songs from his three solo albums. His new cd, Lucky One, is in stores now.