November 26, 2013
Interview and photos by Isaac Rodriguez
Rock Legends Photographers
Q: What music or musician inspired you to be an artist?
A: When I was young in the 50’s my dad would play Elvis, Bill Haley, and the Everly Brothers, those were the early years, but I think once I picked up a guitar in the early 60’s I would have to say immediately The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and the surf instrumental music. Then I quickly got inspired by the Beatles, like everyone else I suppose, also the singer and songwriters of the 60’s. But if I would have to pick one band I would say it’s a tie between the Beatles and The Beach Boys.
Q: When did the band America originate?
A: Technically we started as the band America in 1970. We were a band in high school in London England. We went to an American school in England. My father was in the air force so we had this band in high school. We graduated in 1969 and we started writing our own material. So, America was sorta born in 1970.
Q: Are you planning any tours outside the U.S. ?
A: Well already this year we did a tour of New Zealand, a tour of Italy, and late last year we were in the Philippines, so we do travel a lot to other countries like Australia, Central America, and France, but right now there is nothing specifically planned. We are now winding down the end of our year now. There is some work already booked for 2014 but we’ll see what happens; the agency takes care of that, William Morris Agency.
Q: Is there a band in particular that you would love to tour with?
A: We have been fortunate to tour with a lot of great bands like Chicago and the Beach Boys themselves and bands like that, classic rock bands. I love lots of bands, there is nobody specific. We just played a show with The Doobie Brothers, there’s Three Dog Night and bands like that. We don’t do full tours with bands so much. In the New Zealand tour we worked with Pat Benatar and Bachman and Turner so there 3 bands down there for that tour. So it just depends, we like a lot of artists, it was fun for us to work with Chicago and The Beach Boys. We may do some more work with the Beach Boys in the new year.
Q: What would you say was the funniest or most embarrassing moment on stage?
A: ( laughter) Embarrassing moment on stage… wow! That’s difficult, we have had times when the equipment failed. In one of the shows in Italy recently all the lights, and all the gear went down. It was because they were being powered by generators, and the generators literally ran out of gas. That was kind of embarrassing. We haven’t had anything terrible happen to us on stage. A couple of summers ago my voice was completely gone, we were in in Las Vegas. I went to the doctor and was given some medication, which I thought would resolve the problem before the show. I thought if I could only get thru this, so backstage we changed some of the songs around. In the last minute when we got on stage I had no voice at all. So we did the whole show with Gerry singing my parts. That’s a bit embarrassing.
Q: Do you have any albums or projects in the works?
A: Right now we are promoting last year’s version called Back pages. The band has been around 43 years now, we did an album of cover songs that other artists we love have written, like Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Jimmy Webb, and Joni Mitchell. We are considering and discussing right now a volume two of that. There is no specific project right now in mind. We are just going to see how the new year unfolds.
Q: Other than your current band members, is there anyone past or present that you would just to get on stage and jam with?
A: Oh, man! Yeah, I always love the jam bands, The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead. Some of those kinds of bands were terrific. Santana. Actually we got to go on stage onetime years ago with Santana, so I got to play congas with Carlos playing. To be very honest with you I am traditionally very much a member of this band America. I feel most comfortable with our songs, and our guys. I am not the greatest jammer to begin with. But I certainly love to join people, and we have gone on stage with bands and sang encores. That is always fun. I love all the bands that do extended jams, I love blues bands. Yeah, I would like to get on with a blues player like Buddy Guy or BB King. I could play the guitar at a blues fest for a little bit, so that would be fun.
Q: Do you have a favorite city or venue to play in?
A: As for touring we have always loved Italy for some reason. We like the people and the outdoor venues are really nice. There are some venues that we go back to every single year, and they have become a second home. There is a place in San Diego called Humphrey’s we play in every year. There is also a casino called the Mohican Sun and we have literally played there over twenty times so, we feel comfortable in those places. A nice theater or performing arts center is perfect for us. We have some videos that we present behind some of the songs, and the sound is always good in those venues. Virtually all the big cities have a performing arts center. Those are our particular favorites, but we like all the venues. Casinos are great, looking forward to Miami by the way.
Q: Out of all your songs, do you have a favorite that you just love to play?
A: Well, I usually say “Ventura Highway”. Out of all big hits its “Ventura Highway”. It sort of stays young at heart with that nice free wind blowing through your hair. So if I had to pick one song I would pick that. But of course “Sister Golden Hair”, all the big hits are important to us.
Q: Have you heard of the Rock Legends Cruise?
A: Yes I have. I am not much of a cruiser guy. I can’t do boats that well. But I have heard of them and some of my friends have done that.
Q: Is that something that would interest you if contacted?
A: Ya’ know, we have discussed this before. I am not good on the boats. We have done a few before. We did a cruise out of Singapore, and I am just not good on boats unfortunately.
I would like to say thank you to Michelle, Richard, and Rene for making this interview possible. It was an honor and a pleasure for me to do this.
You can see the rest of the great photos Isaac captured at the America performance at Casino Miami Jai Alai here.