By BRUCE DENNILL
Phil Gregory is a singer songwriter who hails from the South of England, although he currently spends his time between the UK and South Africa. Born in the 1950s, Gregory grew up with a mixture of music (country, rock & roll and pop) that has subsequently influenced his British style of country music. Good Intentions is a ten-song collection of a mix of contemporary mainstream country rock and classic country hits. The single Names is available now.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
I can’t say that any one artist and and song influenced me, and from an early age I was listening to an array of genres, but I was always interested in the combination of great melody and story-telling lyrics. My early memories were of listening to Jim Reeves, and Hank Williams, before moving on to listening to Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Ron Sexsmith, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Bowie, and many others.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
No, my preferences have not changed – just the artists that are producing it, and in particular from the country genre, so it’s the likes of George Straight, Vince Gill, Keith Urban, Dan & Shay, Brett Young and Luke Coombes now.
Name one song you wish you’d written or, if you’re not a writer, one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
There are a number of songs over the years that I really wish I had written, including, 10cc’s I’m Not in Love from the 70s; Missing You by John Waite from the 80s; Just The Way It Is Baby by the Rembrandts in the 90s; 4AM by Cherry Ghost from 2007, Red by Daniel Merriweather from 2009, and Lance’s Song by The Zac Brown Band. All fabulous melodies, lyrics and tempos that just a makes you want to play them over and over again.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
More recently my work has been a collaboration with my nephew Billy Gregory, where I was predominantly writing lyrics, although I still focus more on the right combinations of melody and lyrics as a writing priority. I also focus a lot of energy on vocal accuracy and the messaging that different tones create.
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (selling CDs from a box in your car or similar) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
If I’m honest, I am so old school that I really don’t know anymore. I’m inspired to write and be creative, so the ultimate for me is working with creative and talented musicians in a studio environment in creating and recording material. I struggle a bit with social media as a route to market as I don’t really understand how to get the best out of it. Playing live was always important to me, and remains a major route to creating new listeners.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
Given that I don’t currently have the ability to perform my new work live, I am having to learn how to engage with social media, and digital opportunities, but the fact that I can get my music accessed through so many digital channels in so many countries is simply mind-blowing, and beats an old fashioned distribution deal.
What is the story behind Good Intentions – the genesis of the songs, the people involved, and the muse behind its creation?
Good Intentions was inspired by my nephew Billy Gregory, from the band Crystal Tides in the UK. He was a fan of some of my older work, and wanted to work with me. We wrote a song for my brother’s 50th birthday, which was brilliant fun, and that led to us discussing a larger project. His encouragement and belief in my talent got me back involved. We spent almost two years completing the project, only writing and recording when I was back in the UK – a fantastic experience. The album was recorded on the South Coast of England at The Old Chapel Studios, where we worked with a number of other musicians, including Billy Gregory, Harry Knowles and Dan Wheeler on guitars, Todd Hooker and Paul Evans on drums and percussion and David Evans on keys, with all vocals by me, Billy and Harry.