Considered “The Godfather of Fusion,” Coryell has been creating and influencing many artists over his 50 year career in the business.
Coryell’s new album called Barefoot Man: Sanpaku was just released last month and it is a great jazz record that lives up to his high standards.
NEO Music Scene recently had the opportunity to chat with Larry Coryell where we discussed his career, his latest album and the music business today.
GD: Being born in Texas, I would have thought you would have been a blues musician, how did you gravitate towards jazz?
LC: I thought it was a higher form of music, then I realized that blues was the foundation of jazz. I didn’t get that connection until I was older. The first seven years of my life was in Texas and I wasn’t exposed to either blues or jazz. I was only seven.
GD: When did you first start playing the guitar?
LC: I can’t remember, it might have been when I was 15. I was a matter of how big my hands were and my hands were kinda small. When I was 12, I played the ukulele just so I could play a stringed instrument. Then I had to wait for my hands to get bigger so I could play the guitar.
GD: Who were some of your early musical influences?
LC: Chuck Berry, Chet Atkins and Les Paul.
GD: All of those early rockers.
LC: It was just the stuff that I heard on the radio. We lived in a very rural, rather back wood area and I didn’t hear jazz until I started studying with a jazz guitarist in that town. A bit later I heard Cleveland’s own John Hall and he became my favorite.
GD: Do you remember the first concert you saw?
LC: Rock or jazz?
GD: Either or.
LC: Well rock didn’t exist when I was young! Wait a minute, yeah I saw Roy Orbison when I was in high school. I don’t know why I was there, but I did see him and Bobby Freeman. It was a big advertising campaign that used music to sell products.
GD: Do you play any other instruments?
LC: I do not.
GD: Well, you are pretty proficient at the guitar, that’s for sure.
LC: I still need a lot of work. I’m not where I want to be.
GD: Which do you prefer to play, the electric or acoustic guitar?
LC: Well, they are both good in the context where they shine the most. The acoustic guitar is a nice contrast if you are playing a “set” and you start out playing 45 minutes on the electric guitar and then you switch to the acoustic, the audience feels the switch and the mood in which they are listening, it’s almost a refreshing thing. They always say “man, that acoustic was nice.” If I were to play the acoustic all the way through, I don’t think we’d get that.
GD: You started your career in the sixties when there were several different genre’s of music being played and created such as psychedelic, folk-rock, hard rock. Were there any bands that weren’t jazz related that you admired from that era?
LC: The Byrds! That solo on “Eight Miles High” changed my life.
GD: Have you ever played with Roger McGuinn?
LC: I tried to but it just didn’t happen. We both live in Orlando so it might come about sometime.
GD: That would be great! What kind of guitars do you play?
LC: I have a lot of guitars. I like the Super 400 (Gibson), the Larry Coryell model that Cort guitars made about 15-20 years ago. I like the Martin acoustic and I like the Ovation acoustic guitars.
GD: You are considered the creator of fusion jazz; how did you develop those new sounds in the late ‘60s?
LC: I made the conscious effort to try and create an off-shoot of jazz that still had the quality of jazz that I liked but I wanted to blend it into what the Beatles were doing and Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, if it were possible. I experimented with blending those different styles and it came out very nicely. Starting to create something different rather than just continue in the footsteps of the great masters who had already established their style. People like myself were trying to develop and establish our own voice.
GD: You recently released a new album Barefoot Man: Sanpaku, what was it like recording a record with today’s technology compared to the ‘60s?
LC: Not much different in terms of being in the studio, making sure we had barriers between different instruments so it wouldn’t bleed into the microphone. The difference is in the editing because it’s all done with Pro Tools. Like the engineer at the session said “If you guys would have played it right the first time, we wouldn’t have to be doing this!” (laughs) I like that.
GD: That’s excellent. What is your favorite track on the new record?
LC: I think “Back to Russia” because it’s so different. I also like “Blew Your Mind.”
GD: I really like “If Miles Were Here.” You actually got to play with this legend. If Miles were here, what would he think of the music industry?
LC: I think he would feel bad about YouTube.
GD: Why is that?
LC: He was always trying help the young musicians and YouTube has destroyed the careers of young musicians.
GD: That’s interesting. Some people would say that since nobody is really buying music anymore, YouTube is a way to break bands. You aren’t making any money off of it, but you are putting it out there for people to see it or hear it.
LC: I think something has to be done. I think the big technology giants like Apple and Google need to do something, or we need to pass laws that tax those companies and figure out a formula that’s fair to compensate those musicians. Because really intellectual property should be protected and it’s not.
GD: I agree 100%. You have to have watchdogs to make sure that material doesn’t get up there. Prince used to be real adamant that you couldn’t post any of his music or even his own music videos on YouTube. Most people don’t have the resources to do that.
LC: Right! And even artists as established as him wasn’t even 100% successful at stopping it.
GD: I’m also a high school teacher and I tell kids all the time about downloading music. They don’t think it’s a problem that they can download a song off the internet or YouTube for free. So I ask them “How is the artist getting paid? It’s not free to make a song or an album. You have to pay the engineer and studio time and what not.” The kids still think that it should be free.
LC: The nature of things that they are, it enables society to get this stuff for nothing and they don’t feel bad about it. They were born into a world that was like that.
GD: So the kids will say “Well, the bands can go out on tour to make money.” So I tell them that Beatles didn’t tour the last four years of their career because they were busy making music; but people were actually buying the music back then. What if you would rather make music but not tour?
LC: You are absolutely right!
GD: Speaking of touring, are there any plans to tour with this new album?
LC: I’m touring with the Eleventh House right now. We just did three sold out shows in Europe. We are waiting for the new record to be released next year and we are going to tour all of next year. For some reason, the people want to hear the band again.
GD: That’s great! So you will tour the States with the new album?
LC: The States and Europe.
GD: I didn’t even know about the new Eleventh House album, so when will that be coming out?
LC: That will be coming out at the end of the spring next year. All new music. It’s definitely Eleventh House music but it’s new and it’s different.
GD: Hopefully you guys will make a stop in the Cleveland area when you tour.
LC: Are you kidding? In the first incarnation of the Eleventh House, one of the top five cities that went crazy for our music was Cleveland.
GD: That’s excellent. Cleveland used to be a great music city, well it still is, but if you could make it in Cleveland, you could make it anywhere.
LC: I still believe that, I tell people that all the time! Cleveland is the quintessence of America! It really is. If you could make it in Cleveland, then you could go on to Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco.
GD: Larry, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I wish you the best with your new solo record as well as the new Eleventh House record coming out in the spring.
LC: Thank you so much Greg!
For more information on Larry Coryell and future tour dates, go to www.larrycoryell.net