Bill Wray Interview
Bill Wray is one rocker to watch. He's written songs for Diana Ross, "Fool
for Your Love," and "So Close." He's opened shows for a variety
of artists including Foreigner, Toto, Rick Springfield, The Kinks, BTO,
Peter Frampton and Joe Cocker.
As a young boy, Bill met Elvis Presley. That meeting led him to adopt
rock 'n roll as a way of life.
Of late he's been writing with the Motels' Martha Davis, and working on
projects for producer Richard Perry which includes the Pointer Sisters and
Julio Iglesias upcoming albums.
Bill also composed all twelve songs for the soundtrack of 1979's Brooke
Shields film -- "Tilt."
With a new album out on Liberty Records, "Seize The Moment, '' we
talked with Bill Wray about his life and work.
Q. Bill, you at one point promoted your own shows.
Understanding the business side of music is important isn't it?
A. I think so. I'm real glad and feel fortunate that I came up the way I did,
playing a lot of college things, a lot of studio work, that now that I have
my deal and fortunately having some success, that I know the inside and outs,
and know what a contract is, and different ways of promoting. A lot of the
bands don't. A lot of the new bands that I'm around. I find myself, even though
we're the same age in years, telling them stuff you would think they would
know, even bands that have had more success as far as record sales than myself.
Of course, it's a lot more fun to write a song than read a contract, but in
this day and age, especially when you have people depending on you, I'm glad
I know what I'm doing, at least I hope I do.
Q. How did you hook up with Diana Ross?
A. My attorney, John Frankenheimer had one of my tapes in his car. He also
does a lot of work for Diana Ross. He was playing it one night. She heard
it and liked it, and asked him about me. Now this was months before we finally
got together. It was down to the wire on her album and she called John and
said do you think Bill could come up to New York, and we'd work on a couple
of things and see what happens. She asked me to write a certain style of
song and I wrote one. Then she asked me to write another one and I wrote
that. It was just one of those things that work. I've been real fortunate.
I get along pretty well with people.
Q. Do you remember much about meeting Elvis?
A. I just remember he was real nice and then I was fortunate enough to meet
him later on. This was years later after I was in music and he was playing
in Las Vegas and I was able to meet him, and it was really special.
Q. How old were you and where did you meet him?
A. I was about eight, and met him in my front yard, in Shreveport, Louisiana.
He had a friend across the street that played for Ricky Nelson and ended
up playing with him. He didn't actually live across the street, his friend
lived there, and they played guitar together, so Elvis was friends. And he
came, and they knew my older sister and they were just around that area in
Q. You've turned down gigs and a lot of money because
they weren't special. You want a show to be an event. What do you mean
A. It got to a point in the South where I did really good. I played tons of
colleges. I would get offered by a promoter, a lot of money, for a quick show
in say, New Orleans, 'cause I draw really well. Say I just played that market
two weeks ago, and even though I could play that market, sold out, and really
done well, I just played there. I wanted some time in between, even though
I was on a smaller level because I didn't have hit records. I handled it kind
of like a major act would, not burn an area out. Sometimes when you turn something
down, they offer you more and more money when you would have done it for the
money they were offering you, but you didn’t need it.
Q. When you've opened shows for other people, how
have you been treated? Without naming names, have you been allowed a sound
check or enough lights?
A. I've had some that have been the best. Anything you want they just come
over to the dressing room before you start. When you're on stage, they come
up there and tell you, you did great. You do an encore, and they ask you to
do five more dates than you were supposed to. I've had the other side, where
one night I had three encores and they replaced me with a comic the next day.
It's always different. You just deal with it.
Q. Producers like Richard Perry, do they contact
you? Don't producers go to song publishers for material?
A. A lot of people go to publishers and say do you have anything that fits
this group? But a producer nowadays, especially somebody like Richard with
his track record, who's done so many albums, he has a lot of one on one writers
who write for him or that he knows personally and likes their style, and calls
on to write songs. We started getting friends 'cause he heard some things I
did and really liked them. We were friends four or five months before he ever
asked me about anything. I'm friends with several producers who will call me.
I haven't been writing for other people very long. I just started that. I've
been real fortunate to be doing pretty good at it.
Q. Johnny Carson has said about rock 'n roll, "Kids
are very fickle and there'll be another band along next week. If that
one falls out of favor, there's somebody else." Is he right about
that? How do you keep your sanity in the situation Carson is describing?
A. I'm not sure anybody is sane anymore. (Laughs). But for me I like doing
a lot of things and I've also done this over the years. I feel real fortunate
in the success I've had and the variety of success. I mean, a lot of people
who've had platinum records would love to be able to write a song for an artist.
I have the confidence that my time will come. The spotlight spins around. When
it does come my way in full force, 'cause I feel like I've gotten a little
of it already, I'll know enough and be good enough in all areas, to stay there
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