By: Dr. Matt Warnock
L.A. guitarist Gary Melvin has definitely got the pedigree one needs to succeed in the music business. A highly skilled performer and composer, Melvin also has 7 years of musical study under his belt, and a Masters degree to go along with it. Besides his rigorous training, the California picker has spent time touring Guam, Japan and Korea, as well as four years on the road with musical legend Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, not a bad way to cut one’s musical teeth.
With all of this experience behind him, it’s no wonder that the young singer-songwriter is garnering so much attention for his own work, including the 2010 release Trust. Featuring catchy, yet meaningful lyrics, excellent guitar work and a strong attention to detail and creativity within the arrangements, Melvin falls back on his intensive musical upbringing to produce an album that is a testament to his past, as much as it is a vision of his future.
This is not a jazz-guitar album, as one might expect from someone who has a Masters in the genre, but it is reflective of the dedication and discipline it takes to master such a difficult music. The songs are well written, expertly performed and fun to listen to, what more could one ask for in a Sophmore release?
But enough from us, we’ll let Gary take it from here.
Matt Warnock: You spent four years touring with Frankie Valli, what did you learn from that experience that has helped you as you step out on your own as a recording artist?
Gary Melvin: Yes, four great years with Frankie. I learned a lot about all of the things that go into being an artist outside of just the music, such as touring, travelling, appreciating your fans and everyone you perform for, adjusting to new venues and stage situations, keeping focused and maintaining “normalcy” while on the road, things like that.
But I also learned a lot musically speaking as well. I was fortunate enough to be in a band with really talented players, and we worked hard to be consistent and on top of our game. I learned about the importance of putting on a great performance, and how to deal with having an off night. It was definitely a valuable experience all around.
Matt: “Taking Over Me” has been featured on The Young and the Restless several times. What’s it like hearing your music on one of the most successful TV shows of all time?
Gary: I won’t lie, it felt pretty amazing. Hearing your music anywhere is special, and having that place be on national TV is even more so. In addition to simply using the song, they put it behind some pretty powerful scenes and gave the song a chance to help carry the story, which is quite flattering. It’s nice to know that the music you make can be used like that.
Matt: For that track you teamed up with Brett Boyett, what was it like working with Brett and do you have plans to work with him again in the future?
Gary: Brett is a very talented writer. We’ve written together several times and it’s always a joy. We’re both busy with our own projects right now, but I’m sure we’ll continue to find opportunities to write together again down the road.
Matt: Trust is your sophomore release, which is always a tricky point in an artist’s career. Did you feel that you had more pressure on you for this record to succeed because of how your first album was received by the fans and the press?
Gary: I think the only pressure I felt was to grow from a songwriting perspective. I definitely wasn’t trying to one-up Spare Time, but it’s important to me that I continue to evolve as a writer, both musically and lyrically. I’ve never felt like I can predict how others will receive the music I make, so I try not to think about that element while working on a record.
Matt: You have a Masters in jazz guitar, how has that training and study of jazz helped you as a singer songwriter?
Gary: Studying jazz for 7 years taught me about the importance of melody. After learning all kinds of complex changes and how to blow over them, it all came back to melody for me. That helps me while writing as well as while playing.
Flurries of notes or chords that push the boundaries definitely have their place, but I believe that most of the time the simplest melody speaks the strongest.
Matt: Do you recommend that other artists pursue a formal musical education to help better prepare them for the life of a professional musician?
Gary: I believe that totally depends on the player. I know that going to college for music helped me tremendously, but that’s just me. I thrive on discipline and I was self-motivated to pursue an in-depth study of music, but that’s not necessarily true for everyone.
I know several musicians who learned on their own, or in clubs and on stage. Some of those people wish they had more music theory knowledge, but you don’t have to go the formal education route to learn theory. I think the biggest benefit of college music programs is the community aspect.
If it’s a good program, you’re studying along with lots of other talented players and you can potentially learn a lot more playing with them than just from classes alone. It’s all about finding what works best for you and dedicating yourself to making the music you are drawn to create.
Matt: What guitars and amps do you use live and in the studio, does your studio set up differ from your live rig?
Gary: I’ve cultivated my rig down to a couple amps and a small number of guitars that are my primary choices that can be used well both live and in the studio. My main amp is a divided between 13 LDW 17/39, but I also have a ’77 Twin.
The two main guitars I use that play beautifully are made by John Carruthers, I have an S6 (Strat) and a T6 (Tele). I also have an Epiphone Riviera and a ’65 Strat that saw a lot of playing time on Trust.
Matt: Where do you go from here?
Gary: I’m going wherever the music takes me. I’m doing my best to find and get my music out to listeners who will get something from it, both through recordings like Trust as well as live performances. I’m working towards taking things on the road and performing for people all over the world, if they’ll have me.
The focus now is exposing people to the music I make, and the goal is to continue making it for them, indefinitely. It’s certainly an enjoyable journey, that’s for sure.