Article Search...
  • Posted July 2019

     

    Gordon Lightfoot 01croppedImagine being an artist whose career is about to span seven decades (yes, seven). Imagine, writing songs that are immediately recognizable by every generation who listens to music today. Imagine writing songs that have been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Olivia Newton-John, John Mellencamp, Harry Belafonte, and countless others.

    The artist who personifies that and so much more is none other than Gordon Lightfoot. My earliest remembrances of the Canadian artist (and national treasure, in the opinion of The Band’s Robbie Robertson) are of hearing “If You Could Read My Mind” on the Phoenix radio stations when I was a radio listening eleven-year old. I became an instant fan. That following was further solidified when I watched Elvis Presley cover “Early Morning Rain” on his historic “Aloha From Hawaii” televised concert.

    When I heard that the Canadian legend was going to be performing in my neck of the woods (East Tennessee), I had to reach out for an interview and was thrilled that it was granted. I reached Gordon at his home in Toronto. After making small talk, I asked him how he felt about still performing and having performed over six decades.

    “Well, I think I better be prepared! I think I had better be prepared and I stay prepared. I have a group of people working with me and they’re all prepared. We’re ready to go. We go out seven times a year. We go on tour seven times a year. Each time we do about ten or eleven shows. So, if you add up the year, we’ve done about eighty shows and we play all over North America!”

    When I mentioned that he’d be stopping at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga (my neck of the woods), he said:

    “Yes! That’s indoors! We try to keep things indoors in the summer. We do festivals. But I’ve played Chattanooga before. I’ve played there a couple of times already, so we’ll get back and pick up the ol’ vibes!”

    I noted that Lightfoot had seen countless changes in the music business. I asked him what the best and worst changes in the music business are that he had seen over the years.

    “Ah! That’s a question I cannot answer. It’s evolved. Things change into different modes. Country music becomes more rockGordon Lightfoot 02 Reduced and roll. That’s the best example I can think of. The rest of it just keeps rolling along; keeps changing. Hip-Hop music is out there big time right now. People like to tap their toes and dance to that stuff. So, do I!”

    And his opinion of the music business today?

    “It’s ongoing. If your stuff is good enough, it’s going to make it on the radio somewhere. The cream’s gonna come to the top. Take Drake, for instance. Drake is building a house right across the street from me. It’s a big thing around Toronto here. He’s been building it for two and a half years. I’ve never met him. But I wanted to what made his record be number one on the record chart for five weeks! Number one on the record charts for five weeks! I said, ‘I wonder what’s so special about him?’ I went and bought one (his CD) and it was like a great rap record. The great vocals. The great arrangements. Great rap, you know?”

    Word has been circulating about a possible new album of new material by Gordon, so I asked him about it.

    “The record is from some newly discovered material which I had forgotten I owned. Honestly. At that point, I really didn’t have enough for another album but when I found this stuff accidentally one day while cleaning my office. It became apparent Gordon Lightfoot 04that I had enough material available. It was interesting, too, because it was done just before I had a serious illness. I was at full strength. I was playing really strong on my guitar. My vocals were really at a peak at that point. It was about the year 2000. The stuff was written over a three-year period there. I dug it out and it was so good that I kept it all. I was able to work on it and do some orchestrating. That stuff sounds great! That’s going to be my 21st album. All original material.”

    Canadian Television has been airing a documentary on Gordon Lightfoot. It’s not yet available in the States so I asked him about the documentary and how he felt about it.

    “I’ll tell you, my wife and I have watched it together now four times – my wife, Kim, and I. She’s so philosophical about it that I really can’t believe that. I really got to give her great credit. It covers my personal life to a certain degree. But, mostly, it covers the titles. I have about twenty-five titles in there. A lot of photographs. Everyone from Elvis Presley right on down, performing my songs; like Gordon Downing. He just passed away last year. I had one called Black Day In July which got banned way back when. He did a great version of it. They showed me working with Johnny Cash and people like that. It was really fun. It showed some of my “Today” stuff with my band the way it is now. Now, it’s a five-piece band. Everybody’s all ready to roll. They’re a great bunch of guys. I have fourteen people in my entourage!”

    When I asked Mr. Lightfoot what fans can expect from this tour, he shared:

    “Well, okay, they’re gonna have a two-set show with a twenty-minute intermission. Each set is about sixty-minutes long. If theyGordon Lightfoot 07reduced can sit through that, they’re welcome! Some of these people, my goodness, they’ll go on for three hours up there! I like to be polite with my audience and time is one thing that I take very serious. I don’t like to work too long. We give them the best of everything we’ve got. And, believe you me, they play it well. We’ve got a good little orchestra here! By the time we get to The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, they start to get really excited.”

    With such a stellar career and a still successful touring regimen, I wondered what Gordon would like to do, career wise, that he hasn’t yet done.

    “It always comes to mind that Springsteen did his Broadway show. It’s there on Netflix. That’s a great show. I might do something like that, but I don’t think I could. You gotta be Bruce Springsteen to get on Broadway like that. Ha! Ha! A whole year! He’s one of my biggest influences! I love that guy! I love his work! Him and Bob Dylan and quite a few other people, too. Leonard Cohen!”

    Since Elvis had a song or two of his, what were Lightfoot’s thoughts of the King?

    “He covered my song, Early Morning Rain, better than anybody and that takes in a whole bunch of people because, I tell ya, a LOT of people recorded that song. I like George Hamilton IV doing it best of all. But, Elvis? Yes, I almost jumped out of my car when I heard it on my car radio because that was the first time I knew that he even done the song, when I heard it one day on my car radio when I was driving down the highway. I didn’t even know about it. All of a sudden, there it was, and I said, ‘Oh, my goodness! He’s done it! I remember buying a guitar when I was fourteen when I first started hearing Elvis Presley and there he was. I almost jumped out of my car, but I was doing about 75 miles per hour at the time. Ha! Ha!”

    Did he meet him?

    “Came close. Could have. They made a way for me in Buffalo. I was supposed to meet him backstage at the hockey arena when he played there. I didn’t make it back in time. They left by the time I fought my way back there. We were going to meet, alright. I just couldn’t get back there in time. They had to go.”

    I don’t what possessed me to do it, but I the legendary Gordon Lightfoot the ongoing question among baby boomers: Beatles or the Stones?

    “I gotta take the Stones because they’re still going at it and they’re this weekend up hear in Toronto! They’re doing a great big show! They’re expecting about twenty-five thousand people up there. You gotta choose the Stones because they’re still doing it! What else can you say? They’re still a band! They’re still out there doing it; playing their music! It’s amazing! I’m amazed that I am still doing it!”

    And why does he still do it?

    Gordon Lightfoot 01“I’m over eighty. You’re not supposed to still be doing this when you’re over eighty, so they say; still out there playing music. They tell me some people still play until they’re ninety. A prime example is Willie Nelson. Tony Bennett. They’re still playing their music. They’re not getting any younger. I really love the work. I feel confident and I like my material. I stay ready to perform. I stay prepared. You always got to be in a state of readiness to go out seven times a year. Those little month-long stretches in between there, they go by pretty quick and you gotta go back out there again, doin’ it. Each one is like its own little trip. Of course, you gotta make arrangements, too, for the work permits, all the time doing that for fifty-six years. I could’ve moved down to the states if I wanted to. It was my songwriting that got me accepted by the industry down there, originally. My songwriting deal allowed them to petition on my behalf for the work permits.”

    We all hope that Gordon Lightfoot is around and performing for many more years to come. That said, I asked him a question that I’ve asked many of his peers: How do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy is? His answer was short, sweet, and to the point.

    “My answer is always so simple, it’s so stupid: That I took care of business! That I took care of business. Yeah!”

    Please check out GordonLightfoot.com to stay current on his touring schedule and other related news.

  • Posted August, 2018

    ThomasGabriel0001bNext month, it will have been fifteen years since the world lost the great Johnny Cash. Cash was brash, creative, and even bleeding edge in his approach to music and performing. If you have ever wondered: What if he were young and alive today; what if he were writing and performing music today; what if . . . a lot of things about the Man in Black.

    The answers to those questions just may be in the person of his eldest grand kid, Thomas Gabriel. If you don’t believe me, give his debut CD, Long Way Home, a close listen and tell me it ain’t so. 

    Yeah, really.

    It was because of Long Way Home – and coordinating with his label, CashTown Records, and his crack publicist team at Blue Moon Experience Group, that I had the privilege of speaking with Gabriel by phone at his Middle Tennessee home.

    I genuinely like his work and the story he has to tell. While his grandpa is obviously a draw for him, I really think his story is compelling without the sizzle of the Cash name. I'd have wanted to interview him just for that, alone. He's going to have a tremendous, positive impact on people. 

    Because his name isn’t yet a household name, I asked Thomas to give us the Reader’s Digest version of his story.

    “Obviously, I’m the oldest grandchild of Johnny Cash. I’m originally from California – Ventura, California, and moved here (the Nashville area) when I was young. My mother was extremely young when she had me, so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents; spent a lot of time on the road, motels, hotels, and buses and planes and that sort of thing. 

    “I called it ‘The Fish Bowl’ growing up. We were in the bowl looking out to see all these faces every time we pulled into a newEverythingKnoxvilleLogoEdited city, you know? That’s kinda where I started. 

    “I got into music early on. In the early nineties, I was working on some projects and felt pretty good about it, actually. I had a pretty good EP together. I played it for my grandpa and he said he liked what he heard but because of that, he wanted me to have a backup plan; go finish school or get a job or whatever. In case it falls through, ‘I don’t want you to put everything into music quite yet. You’re too young.’ 

    “I just turned twenty-one and he said he wanted me to go to the police academy. So, I went to the police academy. I was a police officer right under eight years. During that time – I’ve always had addiction problems like my grandfather did. Same chemicals. Same type of addictions. Pills got involved and that caused some series of events that led to me having to resign. Soon after, I started building an arrest record that got to be pretty lengthy pretty quick. The next thing you know, I also did about seven and a half years in prison.

    About the same amount of time that I was a police officer, I was in prison! 

    “So, while I was in prison, I worked on music, again. It was the first time in a while that I had a clear enough head to start to sit down and really start putting my time and efforts back into that. It’s a God thing that that happened. 

    “When I got out, I immediately started working on the projects that I had started in prison. That was in 2013 when I got out. So, it’s been about five years, now. When I got out, I still had some chemical issues, but I went to a rehab facility. After I was clean a year, Brian Oxley – the Executive Producer of the album – called me up and said, ‘Hey, you’ve been clean a year. You’ve had time to get your stuff together. Are you ready to hit this full-force?’ I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ So, we’ve been doing it ever since.”

    I asked Thomas if Long Way Home was the same music as the EP that he played for Grandpa Johnny. 

    “This album here is eleven songs. It’s an LP. The songs on it – no. None of them were from way back then. Basically, this album here is all of the events leading up to all the pain, all the chemicals, the failures, the mistakes. The dark part of leading up to this album. That’s what this album is about. The next one might be a lot happier. Ha! Ha! Who knows what the next one will be? But this one, I wanted to get all that out. I wanted to get it all out in the open and get it off.

    “It’s got some songs that I wrote in prison. It’s got some songs that were presented to me from other people, also, that I related to. And, then, I co-wrote with others. It basically is the feel of everything that’s led up to this point.”

    When I posited that – like his famous grandfather before him - his music may be the silver lining to his drug and ThomasGabriel0002incarceration, he agreed.

    “Yeah! I totally agree. I agree with that a hundred percent! Like I said earlier, I think the prison thing – even though it was terrible, and it was devasting not only to me but to my family and everything else – but if I wouldn’t have, I think probably would’ve been dead by now.  And, not only would I not be here, my kids wouldn’t have a father but, also, the music wouldn’t have happened, I don’t think. Even if I wouldn’t have died, I would’ve been so preoccupied with all these meaningless things that I was doing.”

    I had to ask the obvious question: Why didn’t his grandpa’s experiences be a lesson to Gabriel to dissuade him from substance abuse?

    “You know? I’ve wondered that myself and I’ve been asked that, too. Not quite like that but I’ve been asked similar questions. Personally, looking back, if I remembered back then, if I could put myself back in that time frame – say to the time that I was old enough to remember – from age 2, on – it was just part of it. 

    “It was never really a matter of, ‘Oh, that stuff’s bad.’ It was a matter of, ‘Oh. This is just part of what you do.’ It was the norm. Everybody that I was around and everybody I was related to and everybody I was associated with in the music scene – which was the only thing that I was exposed to – it was just part of it. I remember the availability, as a child, even. Then, of course, in the seventies – nowadays, if you gave a kid a sip of wine or let ‘em light your cigarette or whatever, you’d be all over Facebook or social media or whatever. You’d be on the front page of the newspaper. But back then, it was not such a big deal. 

    “So, the availability to me – even as a child – by the time I was eleven, I was a daily user. I was a daily drinker. By the time I was thirteen, I was introduced to AA. So, we’re talking about in sixth grade, it was the norm for me to have booze or whatever – pretty much anything I wanted. 

    ThomasGabriel0003“It’s kind of like the Drew Barrymore story. I was reading hers not too long ago. We were at the same age thing going on with these chemicals. It was just the availability. It was just part of it. It was another ingredient to the whole mix. It was the norm. 

    “So, I don’t think I really saw it as – until I started having serious, serious consequences from it, I don’t think I ever saw it as something that I was doing anything different from anyone else around me. I might be doing a lot more than everybody else around me. For some reason, I’ve got this natural resistance to – I mean, I’m one of these guys who can drink a half gallon of vodka and walk a straight line. Lots and lots of practice.”

    On a brighter note, Thomas describes his music.

    “I’ve tried to put a genre on what I do and what the music is. I’ve got a lot of influences. I’ve got country influence, obviously. I’ve got folk influence, obviously. Granddad didn’t even call himself a country artist. He called himself a folk artist. My album is a mix of rock with some Indie mixed in with some country mixed in with some – I don’t know. It’s just whatever I’m feelin’, man. 

    “I played some tracks for a friend of mine the other day. I played him all eleven songs. He’s, like, ‘Man! You covered all bases! One minute, you’ve got a steel guitar in the background with a full-fledged country song and the next you know, Pink Floyd comes on.’ Even if you get somebody who’s looking for one certain genre on it, all they gotta do is change to the next song and see if that one suits them better.

    “So, I don’t know, man. It’s all about how I feel. I’ve written some really, really dark songs. Some of them I had to spread out across the album. Some of them I had to omit just because they were too dark. The other ones are just as I said. They’re about getting everything out; all this emotion; all my experiences – good and bad. Putting it down to where it’s an expression of me. It’s not me going and saying, ‘Hey, this is commercial. This will sell. Let’s try to get something that everybody will like.’ It wasn’t about that. It was about letting me get out what I’ve been wanting to get out for a long time.”

    If someone wanted to catch Thomas Gabriel live, how would they go about doing that? The man, himself, says:

    “All that is in the works, right now. Before I really committed to any sort of tour dates or anything, I wanted the album to be released. I didn’t want to go out there without a product. So, now that the release is July 14th, starting at the end of August, there will be a tour that will start in Nashville and going west – I know as far as Las Vegas. We’ve got some dates in Georgia and North Carolina, I believe. We’re also going to do the east coast, too. Starting in August, there are going to be a lot of tour dates. I don’t have them in stone, yet.

    “When I’m in Tennessee, I don’t like playing Nashville. The Nashville Scene – I’ve done it and I could go without it. It’s not ThomasGabriel0004what it used to be. Which, by the way, there’s a song on my CD that talks about that, as well. It’s called, Twang Town. It describes exactly how I feel about Nashville. So, when I play Tennessee and Middle Tennessee – the Nashville area, I play Bon Aqua, which is Storyteller’s Hideaway Farm. I’ve got full access to it. It’s my grandpa’s old place. My grandpa’s old farm and the stage that he owned for a while. That’s home. I play there when I play – quote/unquote – the Nashville area.”

    As for what’s on Gabriel’s radar for the next year?

    “Trying to get this album out and, hopefully, see the world. Get around and meet as many as I can. My big thing is, like I said, I want to get it all out. But, also, because of my history and because of the things I’ve been through, the prison thing and the drug experiences and all that, I kinda see it as there’s so many times that I should’ve been dead, that, now, it really is about what I can do for everybody else. If my album, my presence, my show, whatever, helps a couple of people that are going through the same thing that I was stuck into for so long, that, right there, I think that God gave me that extra chance. If I didn’t do that, then I wouldn’t accomplish anything.”

    Keep an eye on Thomas Gabriel. Do so not because of the obvious innate talent that’s embedded in his DNA, but for the impact this man is going to have on lives in a way that matters . . . in a way that resonates throughout eternity in the lives of many long after the music of life stops. 

     

    Keep up with Thomas Gabriel atThomasGabriel.com.  To book Thomas, please visitBlueMoonExperienceGroup.com. Also, please check out Thomas' record label, CashTownRecords.com