Gregg Rolie, keyboardist/vocalist for the likes of Santana and Journey (he was a founding member of both), will be appearing at the Iridium in New York on March 2nd and 3rd. Rolie spoke with us from his home in Austin, Texas about the Iridium shows, last year’s Five Days EP (available at greggrolie.com) and his new gig in Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band.
Elmore: These shows coming up at the Iridium—what’s in store for those who attend?
Gregg Rolie: Well the music is going to be a duet. If somebody is going there to hear conga drums, they’re going to the wrong place; they’ll have to come see my band. This is more like “welcome to my living room.” It’s based on something I recorded here in my house just for the hell of it. Five Days is a CD of just piano and vocal. Actually, my son is the one who prompted me into doing it. He recorded it and we just did it here at the house.
Then I got Alan Haynes, a guitarist out of Austin here. He’s the first musician I met out here when I moved to Austin. I struck up a relationship with him. He’s a great blues player, so I called him up and asked him if he wanted to do this stuff. He said, “are you sure about this?” but he said he’d love to. The music is different, but it is blues-based; all my music is blues-based.
We’ve written some new songs. So we’ll be playing some of the stuff from Five Days and a couple things from Journey and Santana. A very eclectic group of songs. And with questions from the audience in between. It’s kind of like a payback to the fans that have made my life really great. I figure they might want to get to know me more than what they might see on a giant stage—from a spec in the audience to a spec on the stage—this is a little closer.
EM: So it’s going to be a very personalized experience for the fan?
GR: Yeah, absolutely. They’ll get to know me a little bit. I’ll stay and sign autographs and talk to people after the show. It’s very personal and straight forward, as is the music.
EM: Tell us a little more about Alan Haynes. I know he’s been kicking around for a long time…
GR: He came from the Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter school and knew those guys. He’s played with Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed…He was part of the Antone’s house band for about ten years. He’s been playing blues since he started, and his goal is, as he says, “I just wanna play with all the greats.” And he did.
Austin is a funny place like that. There are a lot of players. When I built my house here, everybody who was working on the house was a musician. Everybody played! It’s just the way it is. It’s a great town for that.
EM: You’re now a member of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band.
GR: Yes I am!
EM: What are your plans, musically, for that?
GR: Pretty much anything he wants! I’m a sideman. I’ve never been a sideman before; it should be interesting. But playing with this guy, are you kidding?
EM: There’s an opportunity you’re not going to turn down.
GR: Actually, I did when I was working on my band. They called up a couple of times and I just couldn’t do it. But this year I’m taking the time; I really want to do it. They’ve sent me some of the songs. The band is going to be great…Steve Lukather from Toto, Todd Rundgren, Mark Rivera’s on sax and another keyboard. Richard Page from Mr. Mister is the bass player. It’s gonna be a great band. And of course Ringo, and Greg Bissonette also on drums. So I’m looking forward to it.
I got one Facebook message that I thought was kind of funny. It said, “how cool is it that you’re going out with Ringo Starr [I’m paraphrasing], but I’m having a hard time seeing you and Steve Lukather playing ‘Yellow Submarine!’” [Laughs]. I talked to Steve about it and he’s going, “what are you talking about, it’ll be awesome!” So I can’t wait to play some of this stuff.
EM: Not only do you do Ringo’s and your own material, but you do the material of everyone else in the band as well. I can see you playing “Bang on the Drum” also.
GR: Yeah yeah. Right! It’s going to be awesome; I’m really looking forward to it. And from what I’ve heard, Ringo’s just a great guy, and I’m sure he is. You can tell by his personality he’s a pretty easy going guy. I’d be doing the same thing if I was in his shoes. Actually, I’m kind of doing it now; the band I have is made up of great players and we just go out and have fun. The way I’ve described it is we tour steakhouses throughout theUnited States in various places and then coincidentally play music the following day. It’s like a boys club. But I’m really looking forward to playing with Ringo. It’s the music that got me into playing. So this will be quite an honor.
– Barry Fisch