Larry Mitchell Interview

Larry Mitchell is one of the fastest rising guitarists on the rock scene today. He's toured with Billy Squier, Tracy Chapman and Ric Ocasek. He's recorded with Mica Paris, Ric Ocasek and Red Bone. And now Larry Mitchell's debut CD “Mind, Body, Soul” has been released on the Ridgetop music label.

We spoke to Larry Mitchell about his career and his music.

Q. Larry, is this your first solo recording effort?
A. No it's my second. My first one came out on a label called Grudge/BMG, distributed by BMG Records, in 1990. It was self-titled and it’s out of print now. But, I'm probably gonna try to re-do it, at some point, or do a "live" record that has somebody else on it.

Q. Didn't you also release something on Guitar Player Records?
A. I had met some people at a co. who started working with Guitar Player, and Guitar Player wanted to start a label. So, they recommended me. I had already recorded a record myself with the help of some friends who played on, people who had been playing with me for awhile. Our friend at a studio lent me a studio and we recorded a record. Guitar Player got involved and they wanted to put it out. So we did. We were trying to get the distribution together but it was just not happening. Someone recommended to Guitar Player that they talk to the people at Ridge Top. They called up and were very excited about it. We talked for awhile, and everything's been great.

Q. Is your studio band the same as your road band?
A. All of the people on the CD have at one point been in the band. All of 93 they were pretty much in the band. I'm not sure, but I think Jimmy Jackson, the drummer who played on six of the tunes is probably gonna go on the road with me. I'm not sure yet.

Q. You were playing the New York City club circuit for years?
A. Yes, from 1988 doing my stuff. I've been playing New York City clubs doing other people's material for years.

Q. In cover bands?
A. Not really cover bands, other people's original bands.

Q. You did a mid-west Clinic Tour. Were you offering playing tips to up and coming guitarists?
A. Playing techniques. We talked about what it's like being on the road with some of the other people I've been on the road with. How do I write songs? We did the Clinic Tour as a band, the band I was using at the time. It was fun.

Q. You toured with Tracy Chapman and Billy Squier. They seem like they're worlds apart.
A. They are. (Laughs)

Q. How did you get those gigs?
A. They had shared the same management that managed Ric Ocasek. I had worked for Ric and he recommended me. They called me up and I thought they were kidding. I though it was somebody playing a joke on me. I investigated it a little more and it was for real. I sent Tracy a couple of my CD’s just to make sure she knew exactly what I did most of the time. She liked it. But one of the things I got from playing in many different bands is playing many different styles. In 1986, 1987, 1988, I was playing in about nine different original bands in New York City at the same time. One was a very strange, almost punkish band called "The Mystery Girls", fronted by Debbie Valente. Another one was very straight ahead rock 'n' roll. I also played in pop bands behind female singers, behind male singers. One group had a duet, two singers. Some bands we played an R and B Funk Rhythms. With Tracy I had to learn how to play banjo or fake banjo quickly for one song.

Q. Were you working another job during the time you were in all these bands?
A. No. The people doing the showcases usually pay you. They usually pay you for rehearsals and the gigs.

Q. In one of these photos you bear a resemblance to Jimi Hendrix. Is that a comparison you like or dislike?
A. Honestly?

Q. Yes.
A. I dislike it. (Laughs) I mean I like Hendrix. It's just that after awhile, you try to do something someone com­pares you to Hendrix, and it's kind of hard.

Q. Is anyone out there doing what Hendrix did?
A. I think there are people that are like him, but it’s not gonna be someone who sounds like Hendrix; people who are pushing the envelope, yes. If anybody comes out now and sounds a little bit like Hendrix, even if someone thinks they're just as good, they're still going to be com­pared to Hendrix. When you compare somebody to some­body else, it's not the same. They're not gonna live up to it. Hendrix is bigger than any guitar player could ever get.

Q. Larry, where do you want to take your music?
A. Hmmm. On a small scale around the world. I've trav­eled through Europe and America with other artists. I'd like to be able to do it with my stuff. I'd like to get people's reactions. I like to play for people and get their reaction to it. I like to hear people laugh, smile, cry, whatever. If they enjoy it then that's great. If they don't enjoy it, I under­stand that. Music is a personal choice, so I don't expect everyone to like it. I just hope I can reach a lot of different people. I've gotten interesting letters from people over the years, about they're in a particular place or time and they were listening to one of my records or listening to one of my songs and they tell me what happened, about what kind of mood it put them in. So, I kind of like that.

Q. What do you do with yourself everyday? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
A. I get up and I'm taking vocal lessons from a won­derful teacher named Kerry Cole. So I work on some vocal exercises. I usually, depending on what time of day it is, and what I have to do, I'm making lots of phone calls. I'm trying to get a booking agency together right now, which means I don't have a booking agency right now. I'm booking my own shows. I make sure I have the band together for it. Making flyers for the shows. I teach a little bit, prepare for students. I'm trying to write some columns for a couple of magazines and I write music. So I have a little sequencer and I write songs. I've been doing a lot of writing the last two years with a sequencer, and taking it to the band and saying this is pretty much the way I want the song to go. Then I go out and see bands. I have so many friends that are playing out all the time. Sometimes the day goes by really quickly and sometimes the day drags on.

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