Reclamation – The Smell Of Success Conversation
VH: We’re getting hit pretty hard with the Lake Effect snow, and the car is having issues. Gotta love the weather up here.
B411: Yeh this winter has been one of discontent for sure. Well all but for one small issue, you ‘The Vincent Hayes Project’ Reclamation release has been nominated for a Blues Music Award! Congrats.
VH: Yeh, so ya heard about it – and heard it ! We are so pleased to be recognized for our work.
B411: Yeh it’s doing really well. I am so impressed with it. To me it sounds like a timeless blues release. ‘Thank You Baby’ is the one that pulled me in hard.
VH: Well that song was maybe half written maybe ten years ago, and I finished it up within the last year before we started recording. There were a couple of verses I wasn’t happy with, and the riff itself mutated over time. When I listened to it on my little tape recorder, like ten years ago, it was a very different groove, and it mutated into that groove as we went along.
A lot of the songs on the disc were more spontaneous creations, they just poured out. Others have more of a lineage, little bits and pieces transformed over time, and that was one of them. So I was really happy when it started to get played a lot. I hear a lot of people say they like that song and they like the groove and I think I’ guess it’s good I waited ten years to do anything with it.
B411: When I hear the Reclamation release – to me – it’s really a personal statement from you. Most songs we hear get related back to ourselves in some form, but with your music it really comes thru as you and your scene. Am I getting weird on this ?
VH: There is an element of familiarity that most people look for in music, there is a small percentage of listeners who are honed in, looking for inspired music. They are looking for something that they can relate to, that has more of an identity factor. They have been listening to this band or that band and they go to a show and they want to hear some music that reminds me of a familiar situation – something I can relate to.
B411: Is it a background thing ? The way we were introduced to music?
VH: I was born in ’71 and my father had a big influence on me. He got me into Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash, and Chuck Berry. So I had a well rounded musical influence back then. So for me, as a listener, it is a challenge when I go looking for new music I’m not gonna be impressed by flashy licks or a hot instrumentalist – or a great voice alone – I want a presence or a reason for that song to be there. Sometimes I wonder if that makes me a music snob because of that, but to me music is such a personal experience for me, that’s why I chose to be a musician, when I’m a listener I apply that same level of criteria or standards as I would to my music.
VH: Yeh, there is, your roots are where you begin. Its your initial impression of whatever area of art you gravitate to whether it be music or visual arts. You have those roots and they also are reflective of your early personal life and your perceptions of the world. The stimulus of what you take in and encounter along that journey you take it in and process it. Then you get to a point of understanding the overall direction of ‘yes I am an artist or a musician’ and establish that fact – you can continue and hopefully will be, influenced for the rest of your life. I think a big mistake some artists make is that they get to stuck into saying that I got to say what I have to say in this style or way and I’m not gonna allow for any other variables along the way to steer me in any other direction. There is a difference between keeping yourself open artistically and not. If you are open to those experiences along the way that you have to deal with it has an effect on your art. It is related to how you live your life.
B411: What about you and the Blues? When did it ‘hit’ ya’?
VH: When I decided that I was going to play the Blues, Blues is what gets me — I think there was a certain niavity that I had — I wanted my stuff to sound like this box of influences over here. Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Elmore James, those cats that moved me to the core. So if my stuff doesn’t sound like that I am breaking the code of the music or the purity. So when I reached a certain point I realized that it was OK not to sound like them, I’m not BB King or Elmore James. So I just let things come. I realized not to filter out the other things for a purity sake, the purity of I gotta sound a certain way – I gotta sound like Vincent Hayes 100%. So I am an open person so I am influenced by many other things. Your roots are where all that perception begins.
B411: The roots are always there, while influences can come and go. You can hear something and decide to add that bit of it to your work while maintaining your ‘roots’.
VH: Yeah, I don’t just listen to Blues. The first thing that comes to mind is Ray LaMontagne. I first heard of him a few years ago when I was going thru my divorce, somebody had one of his tracks on their MySpace page, and I thought he was some cat from the 60’s that I missed. So I check him out and in the next couple of days I buy one of his discs. I was just blown away by his passion the rawness, honesty of his voice – he was singing it just exactly how he f*ing meant it. In fact one of my first dates with my current girlfriend we went to see him in Ann Arbor, it was just one of the most intimate shows ever. It was just four single color spotlights on each member of the band and black elsewhere. It was the only show that while he was playing you could hear a pin drop and when he was done the audience erupts into a roar then they settle down again.
He’s got a lot of that Memphis soul in him, and Stephen Stills was a big influence on him, and Stills has that Blues edge in him. So I can see why I gravitate to him, he can be in that pentatonic zone and other times he’s just straight ahead singing his song to four simple chords. To me that’s the real art of songwriting – can you get your point across in a few chords and transmit that emotion to me so that I am riding that story with ya. If you can do that in four chords and simple poignant melodies then that’s really what grabs me. We have these great songwriters all over the globe, as good as the 60’s and 70’s, but the problem is that our musical taste is reflective of where we are in society. People don’t really want to go too deep into where they are, there is a faction who do want to get in touch with the inner core of who they are, but the majority factor is people who don’t want to go to deep.
B411: Ray certainly has had cross over success as a song writer for sure, Lucky Peterson just covered Trouble on his latest release. So tell me a little about the Vincent Hayes Project, the band.
VH: I had been playing coffee shops thru most of the 90’s, basically a solo act. That being said, Dave, Donnie and I would jam off and on for years. So every once and awhile I’d get a gig that needed a band and I would say yeh I got a band and I’d call them and I knew they could just drop and and get on the groove.
Eventually I decided to put together a three piece – and did the Blues challenge – went to Memphis to the IBC’s and did all that. I must say in those couple of years playing as a three piece we were really able to tighten the rapport between us. We were going to go in the studio right after the ’07 IBC’s, that’s when I called Glenn Brown. I then ran into Steve ‘Doc’ Yankee, we didn’t know each other nor had even heard the other play, but we were from Michigan, and I knew he was a brother, a cat. So we decided that we would play with each other at some point.
So I’m trucking with my three-piece band, going thru my divorce, and it’s three years past the mark, and we still gotta make a CD, come on guys we gotta do it ! Most of these tunes we had been playing live for like five years, so when we finally got around to doing the disc, I started hearing horns and thought about putting in a horn section, but at the time I was giving lessons at a store here in town and that’s where I met Christian – I’d throw some of my tunes at him while hanging out and he’d jump in and play along and killing it so I finally asked him if he wanted to record with us. Doc came in because we got in contact with each other and told him I was going to record and he asked why he wasn’t invited – busted – so by time the disc was done we had become a band.
B411: I love the sound, 2 keys, funky bass, killer guitar and solid vocals, it’s a great sound. How long did it take you to cut Reclamation?
VH: Studio sessions started September of 2009, all together we had about five or six where we did tracking, and then a final mix down session. Glenn mastered it in about a week. If I recall correctly, it was one session every six or seven weeks. What we would do is lay down five tracks originally, as a three piece, then the last couple of sessions we were recording live. Docs’ tracks were live, all three, no overdub.
B411: That’s interesting because it doesn’t sound like a heavily produced release. Yes, there are some layers of sound but it has a raw quality to it that is so nice and primal.
VH: I appreciate that, for me Blues is best when it’s not overproduced. Ya gotta allow for a little bump in the mix, a bad note that sometimes turns into the good note. Every session I was going in thinking it was a permanent performance, I was going to make it count. We took that fire into the studio from playing live, just plug in and lay it down. The depth and aura that you hear there, I gotta give Kudos to Glenn, I sought him out as a result of Root Doctor and Greg Nagy s’ last disc. Everybody I knew in Lansing was saying get Glenn Brown. He not only has an amazing ability to work the gear but he has an amazing ear. This guy was telling me how to tune my guitar ! I’ve been tuning guitars for thirty years – I know how to tune a guitar. But I’d be playing a chord and he would stop us and say ‘hey man, your B string is a little out’. I’d go no – he’d say check it out – so we’d plug it into the tuner and sure enough the B string would be out. His level of what he perceives sonically makes me feel like a kindergartener again.
He has the ability to put things in the right places, plus I think there is some magic in the board we used. We used the Muscle Shoals board that has this insane history of these Gold and Platinum records that have been recorded on it. So if you believe in the transference of energy then there must be some of that mojo hanging out there. I am really happy with this recording which is a surprise cause I am my own worst critic.
B411: That’s a good testament to the music and what went on in the studio.
VH: There is really a wide array of influences between the five of us. There’s the gospel factor, blues work, see, Dave and Donnie came as a unit to me. They have a history of playing together over like five or six years before I got them to join up. Dave (bass) played Reggae in Detroit and Reggae is the Blues of Jamaica. It’s so great to have these guys. Doc is so traditional – more traditional Blues bands, East/West coast New Orleans, Chicago – the more traditional sound that he brings to us. While Christian is more seventies rock, Pink Floyd, YES sound and some others we won’t mention. It’s so very cool for me to have such talent around me it just helps with the creativity of us all.
B411: Do you have a favorite track on Reclamation?
VH: Well let me talk a little bit about how some songs happened. Donnie was the one that said we need to write a song called ‘ Insecurities’ , and I said really, and Dave threw the title ‘doubletalk‘ at me, so it is a group effort. Funny with ‘Doubletalk‘ I came into the studio next time with lyrics for it and we put the groove together. Others I had written earlier and they added their part to it. It takes a lot of pressure off of me to always be the one to come up with the chord change lyrics. I’m always on a conscience look out for the guys in the band to get recognized, they don’t just back me up.
As for a favorite song….I do have a couple – on the level of how personal they are to me. Some I had almost left out, it was tough for me to let go some of the associations these songs had in the sense of the original inspiration of the song, and the ones that almost got left out really didn’t apply to me on that level anymore. But when I looked at those songs in the light of the songs being stories, and my job is to tell stories that people can relate to and absorb even if it’s in their own way. ‘Some Kind of Fool’ was one I almost left off, the other one was ‘Halfway Out the Door’ only because to me it was a strong emotional connection for me, and Christian had not played that song before, so he was forced to write his part right there in the studio. In the studio we were pretty much done, and started to unplug and I said “..no we have to record ‘Halfway Out The Door‘.” When Christian came in for his session he had put all his parts down and he had to get home, and I tell him there’s one more track – he was surprised, and commented that he might not of ever heard it before. No kidding ! He was ready to call it a wrap but decided to go for it, so twice we almost bumped it off the record through the recording process and it turns out to be one of my favorites. I love the opening groove, it is so powerful and sets the motion and the ending too. The power of the rhythm section and the whole unit really comes together.
B411: The opening smokes on that track. Overall it is a really fine release, one I have not tired of, plus it’s getting good overall recognition. It made Sirius/XM Bluesville 74 Picks to Click for several weeks, and had great legs on the Roots and Blues charts. Hope more people pick it up or go to your website and give it a listen. Once they do that they can join the Blues Foundation and vote for your release and all the other categories available.
Thank you Vincent for your time and your music, see ya in Memphis at the Blues Music Awards May 5th.
Oh yeh, I forgot to mention that Vincent has given us a free MP3 track for all of us out there to listen to, the aforementioned ‘Halfway Out The Door’ this track won an on-line poll by the Vincent Hayes Project as the favorite fan cut on Reclamation, so know you know the story behind it – get it and listen to it. You will dig it !
Ok in case you want to hear The Vincent Hayes Project live in the studio here is a link to them visiting WYCE radio, and playing two cuts, check it out, nice groove boys ! ! !
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos courtesy of Vincent Hayes Project, Craig Watson.