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Gary Wright Interview: The 'Dream Weaver' Gets 'Connected,' Tours with Ringo Starr

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Gary Wright

Best known for his song “Dream Weaver,” musician Gary Wright began his entertainment career as a child actor, appearing in the 1954 original Broadway production of the long-running musical Fanny, playing Florence Henderson’s (The Brady Bunch) son Cesario.

Wright made his first recordings as part of a duo with Billy Markle and in 1967, joined the band Spooky Tooth as a singer and keyboardist. “Dream Weaver” was made famous during his solo career and the single peaked at #2 for three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA in March 1976.

“I met both of them (Lennon and McCartney), but never actually played on their records. John actually asked me to play on “Imagine,” but I was unfortunately on tour and I couldn’t do it. That was a shame.”

The Dream Weaver album went multi-platinum and included the songs “Love is Alive,” “Made to Love You,” “Power of Love,” and “Feel for Me.” In 1970 Wright met George Harrison and was asked to play on the ex-Beatle’s album All Things Must Pass that was certified 6x platinum by the RIAA, making it the highest selling of any Beatle solo album.

Gary Wright

Gary Wright (Photo by Rob Shanahan)

Wright’s last success on the Billboard Hot 100 was in 1981, with “Really Wanna Know You” (co-written by Al Thomson). In 2008, Wright toured with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. Two years later he toured with the band again, along with Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter, Richard Page, Wally Palmer, and Gregg Bissonette.

The legendary musician/songwriter released a new album in June 2010 called Connected, his first pop-rock album in over 20 years. Special guests on the record included Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Gary, why did the new album take two years to make?

Gary Wright: It’s not like going into the studio with a band. I like to take my time when I do an album. I’m very fussy. Since I played just about all of the instruments and sang all the vocals and produced the album, it took me a while to do it the way I wanted it to be.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s the story behind the name Connected?

Gary Wright: It goes along with some of the basic messages in the album. I believe we’re all connected through our thoughts and our consciousness to the degree that when we manifest negative thoughts or think negative thoughts, things happen like recessions and hurricanes.

I think that people who are cognizant of that think positive uplifting thoughts and that’s how we change the consciousness of the planet and the evolution of where we’re going. That’s what it’s about. We’re all connected.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The feel and the sound of the music takes me back to the 70s.

Gary Wright: That’s what it was meant to do (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you think that sound is regaining popularity?

Gary Wright: You know, I didn’t do the album consciously trying to recreate something that I thought would be coming back. I wanted to make this album in the same spirit as I had made the Dream Weaver album, which was a minimalistic kind of production, kind of a funky kind of a groove that would be in the songs and kind of spacey ballads. That’s what I wanted to achieve.

I didn’t consciously say, “This is going to be a 70s retro.” I think it’s a combination of that and a combination of modern sounds as well.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There is a song on the deluxe version of the album that involves George Harrison. Tell me about “To Discover Yourself.”

Gary Wright: George and I wrote that in 1971. He came over to my flat when I was in London. I was working on this song at the piano and played it for him. He had his guitar and started fooling around with it and came up with a lyrical idea. We quickly finished it within a couple of hours. I never did anything with it.

I just put it aside and I thought, “Well, one day I’ll record this.” But I never did and then the day when he passed away on November 29, 2001, I was in the studio. I decided to get on the piano and actually record the song. I memorialized that date and I put it in as a bonus track. I’m actually going to re-record it in the next couple of weeks and re-release another version of it which will be the more kind of produced deluxe version of that song.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You and George were close friends.

Gary Wright: We were very close.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did that relationship begin?

Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band 2010

Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band 2010 (Photo by Rob Shanahan)

Gary Wright: It began when I was invited by a friend of mine, Klaus Voormann, to come down and play on George’s first album, All Things Must Pass. Klaus knew all of The Beatles very well from Germany when they were playing there.

I played on the first track, which was “Isn’t it a Pity,” and George liked what I did and invited me to come back the next day. I wound up doing the whole album with him. We became good friends very quickly. We shared similar Eastern philosophies. He was very much into that and so was I. That was our immediate link.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you ever played with John Lennon or Paul McCartney?

Gary Wright: I met both of them, but never actually played on their records. John actually asked me to play on “Imagine,” but I was unfortunately on tour and I couldn’t do it. That was a shame.

I met Paul recently when we were doing the All Starr show in New York at Radio City. He came up on stage and sang “They Say It’s Your Birthday” to surprise Ringo. It was quite a surprise and Ringo wasn’t expecting that. To see him run onstage with his bass and sing that song was quite a mind-blowing experience.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’ll bet. One of my favorite songs on the album is “Under Your Spell.”

Gary Wright: I like that one, too.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It reminds me of “Dream Weaver.”

Gary Wright: Yeah, it has that kind of ethereal quality to it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I heard Stevie Wonder’s “Very Superstitious” in “Can’t Find No Mercy.”

Gary Wright: Yeah, people say that. It’s the clavinet part I think.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Many of your songs have the funky clavinet sound.

Gary Wright: That’s true. That’s what I did on the Dream Weaver album.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you one of the first musicians to use that portable keyboard on stage in the 70s?

Gary Wright: I was actually. Edgar Winter, when he did “Frankenstein,” used one of those. But I was the first artist really to have all keyboards on tour and Dream Weaver was probably one of the first albums to be an all keyboard album with the exception of a guitar on one track. But I kind of formulated that technology.

Edgar used the Arp 2600 keyboard. My technicians actually did the same thing with the Minimoog. They cut it down and I worked also with the Oberheim synthesizer.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was that keyboard heavy to hold on stage?

Gary Wright: The original one I played … yeah, it was about 10-12 pounds. The ones that are out right now are really light.

Gary Wright ConnectedMelissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Gary, you were a child actor and played Florence Henderson’s son before she became Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch, 1969-1974).

Gary Wright: On Broadway, yeah.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How would you describe Florence?

Gary Wright: I was only 12 at the time, but she was great, a real sweetheart.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was that your start in the business?

Gary Wright: Yeah, I had done some acting parts before then, some television, but that was the first major thing I did. I was also on The Ed Sullivan Show with Florence, which was a big deal back then.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You attended college in Europe?

Gary Wright: After I graduated I got my Bachelor’s Degree at NYU. I went to medical school for one year, then I went over to Germany to do post grad work in psychology before I got involved in what I really love … music.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How much of an influence were you on 18-year old-Steve Porcaro of Toto?

Gary Wright: Well, I would like to hope a big influence. That was really his first ever gig as a musician going on the road. He was only 17 at the time and all of a sudden he’s out on the road playing baseball stadiums and opening for Peter Frampton in front of 80,000 people.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you have any words of wisdom to share with him about the music business?

Gary Wright: Yeah, more so from an artist’s point of view, not much from the business side, but just from playing and showing him different sounds and stuff.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was the inspiration for the song “Dream Weaver?”

Gary Wright: “Dream Weaver” is really the consciousness of God and creation, weaving his dreams and making creation and moving our lives. That’s really what it’s about. “I believe you can get me through the night” shows the compassionate side of God, the loving side of God.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have a favorite song from all of the ones you’ve recorded?

Gary Wright: Not really. I like certain songs for different reasons, so I don’t really have a favorite.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are your sons involved in the music industry also?

Gary Wright: Yes, they have been in and out of the music business. It’s a tough business right now to get into with the down economy so they do other things as well, but they still love music and still play.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You just finished a tour with Ringo Starr and the All Starr Band. Does Ringo often speak of his time with The Beatles?

Gary Wright: Oh yeah. We get involved in conversations about that. Ringo is great. He’s a wonderful human being. He’s funny, just a lovely person.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you set to appear in George Harrison’s upcoming bio pic?

Gary Wright: Yes. It’s a Martin Scorcese film and will be released in 2011.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will it be about George’s entire life?

Gary Wright: I don’t know. I know that part of it will be about the spiritual aspect of George’s life. I think that is something Martin was interested in.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What is next for you, Gary?

Gary Wright: I’ll be touring and writing more music and I’m seriously thinking about starting a book.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): An autobiography?

Gary Wright: Yeah, it’ll be part autobiographical about the people I’ve met in my life, just sharing my experiences and my own growth.

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