From Bruce to Bonnie, George Marinelli adds to the beauty of song
Nineteen years being in the same band, how do you keep it fresh?
We re-arrange the songs a bunch. Certain songs have to be structured and we have to honor the melody and arrangements. Other songs are pliable rubber and you can play them in a different style and they still come across. Her first album came out in 1971, so that helps that she has so many albums to choose from. We can mix it up like crazy.
Are there certain songs that you love to play when you see them on the setlist?
There’s a lot off the new album that I really enjoy playing. We’ve been playing seven or eight songs off the new album; and I’m sure there are some oldies that I love too if I thought about it more. There’s a bunch of funky rock ‘n’ roll songs that I love when they come up. There aren’t any that I go, ‘Oh yuck, I don’t want to play that.’
Have you co-wrote any songs with Bonnie?
On the new album, we co-wrote “Down to You,” which has a Stones, Faces kind of vibe.
Can you talk about the song-writing process for “Down to You”?
I’d given her a CD with a whole a bunch of songs that I wrote and there was one song that she really liked but the words didn’t fit because it was more of a guy song. I kept saying, ‘Why don’t you re-write the lyrics,’ but she never did. I gave her another piece of music that I had written but it had no lyrics yet. She said, ‘I really like this part of that one, and the rest of this one here — 80 percent of this one and can we squeeze this part of the new one into the old one?’ And we did, and I think she finished the lyrics, the night before we cut it for the new album.
Have you played it live yet?
We’re playing it a lot. It’s pretty smoking. It’s good for the end of a set. It’s one of the rowdier rock ‘n’ roll songs. And hopefully, we’ll do some more for the next album.
George on George
How does a New Yorker make his way down to Nashville?
This New Yorker made it to Nashville via LA. My folks moved from Staten Island to LA when I was about to turn 14. Then I lived out there for a long time and then I moved here. I didn’t want to live in LA for the rest of my life. A lot of friends here who kept saying “you got to come down here, you can really tear it up in the session scene.” I lucked out and moved down here and somehow got my foot in the door in the recording scene. I almost felt guilty because I was playing on records as soon as I moved down.
How would you describe the Nashville music scene?
It’s an amazingly healthy music scene even with the music business falling apart. For years, I’ve been telling people it’s not all about country music and now people are starting to get it. Jack White and Sheryl Crow and other musicians have made Nashville their home. The best studios and engineers are here.
How did you get into music?
Nobody in my family played but big band music was always playing in my house. And my two older sisters were force feeding me: jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, Afro-Cuban music. I started on drums and then when we were in LA , my parents said, ‘You’re not getting a set of drums, we live in an apartment,’ so I got a guitar.
How did your guitar playing evolve?
I got my guitar on my 15th birthday and I took two lessons and he was trying to teach me to read music but what he was trying to teach me to play, I could play by ear already. So I was faking it. I was telling him, I was reading it, but I had no idea what was on the paper. After a couple of lessons, he told me ‘There isn’t a whole lot I can teach you. You’re better off finding someone else or listening to records.’ So basically, I would come home from high school, get my guitar and play along to records.
What records did you play along to?
I was listening to the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, Albert King and Freddie King.
Speaking of records, what inspired your recent solo record Believe ?
I write a lot but not for a particular project or album. I’ve been writing a lot with a lyricist named Rich Wayland. I amassed all these songs over the last three or four years. I whittled it down and tried to put together 11 original songs that hang together well and make sense.
How did you come up with the name of the album title?
I thought it sounded like a good album title and then a month later than Justin Bieber came out with an album called Believe. That was a big help. I know I helped him out a lot.
And on a final note, having grown up in Staten Island, any thoughts on Hurricane Sandy.
It’s heart-breaking. I had heard how much damage had happened but when I saw the interviews with the people and the aerial photos I fell apart.