Gary Dranow – Liz Dranow Photography
We are so excited to catch up with troubadour Gary Dranow for a full in-depth interview. Enjoy below!
Hi Gary, tell us about yourself?
I was born in 1954 in Santa Monica, California. Spent my first six years in West Los Angeles and attended Warner Avenue Elementary School. I had a difficult childhood which I will elaborate on later. I got my first experience with music at Warner when I signed up for the band and was given a Clarinet and sheet music.
I didn’t know how to read the music or the foggiest idea of how to play a reed instrument. I was quite frustrated with the whole thing, and I believe the music teacher at Warner expected the parents to get their child into music lessons which at that time, apparently, my parents didn’t have a clue how to get me started with lessons, so my first experience with music was an abject failure.
I was quite athletic, which both my parents recognized, and they got me into martial arts quite young and then, around the same time, into equestrian training. I got my first horse shortly after we moved to the San Fernando Valley in Woodland Hills. My new school was Collier Street Elementary School.
My parents got me hooked up with very good equestrian trainers, Jack and Linda Baker Stables, out of Thousand Oaks, California. While I immediately started to excel in my horsemanship, primarily Stock Seat Equitation, I was being bullied as the new blondish-red-haired kid at my new school.
My martial arts training came in quite handy as I regularly punished the kids that bullied me, mostly because I was Jewish, which was not the norm when we first moved to woodland hills. I started competing at horse shows at around ten years old. I won the very first class I was entered into by my trainers.
My parents took notice and would have me stay at Jack and Linda’s ranch every weekend and all summer breaks until I was about 14 when my interests shifted to motorcycles. My Motocross career is a whole other chapter which I will spare for readers. Just leave it that I excelled again and turned pro at 15 years old.
What is your songwriting process?
When I started writing in the ’70s, I would come up with a chord progression, record it on my Tascam two-track recorder, work out a melody and then came the Lyrics. In 1978 I met a kid that had a studio with a four-track recorder. Called Spoiled Brats Studio, a name I would later take and use for my first apparel company, Spoiled Brats of California, a girls 7 to 14 manufacturer; he recorded my first LP, and we became friends.
His name was Britt Bacon. We shortly formed a group with a drummer named Shaun and a Keyboard player named Fred Rehfeld. The band was called The New Invaderz. We wrote a lot of songs, but what we did that was a bit groundbreaking was we shot an early music video directed by a friend of Britt’s who was studying film at the University of Northridge. If I recall, it was shot on a 16-millimetre film. It was 1979, three years before M-TV. Here’s the video of The New Invaderz Anthem: https://ww…WeAcn0_DRE,
I digress; 20 years later, I had perfected my songwriting process. I used a Tascam 4-track recorder and would, as before, coming up with chord progressions and various guitar parts like Intros. Motifs, Solos, Melodies, and vocals. In 1996 or so, I had a very vivid dream of me moving to these Emerald Hills far away and would also meet the love of my life, a world traveller, who I would marry. That next morning with the dream fresh in my head, I wrote the title song to my current album, Destiny Road. From there, my writing became rather prolific.
Shortly thereafter, I met a man named Markian; he and I formed a band and played many venues in West Los Angeles and surrounding areas and would play only his and my original music.
He had a 16-track professional studio. Though we stopped playing together when I formed Gary Dranow and The Manic Emotions, we remained good friends. He agreed to record and produce my now finished ‘Destiny Road’ Album.
In comes Jerry Manfredi, my bass player and musical director for The Manic Emotions. He helped me polish and arranged my songs for which I have given him credit on the now-released singles and the Album due out May 12th of this year
So I did collaborate with various composers from the late ’70s to the mid-’90s, primarily Britt, Markian and Jerry.
Tell us about your latest release, ‘Fool Outta Me’?
I wrote this about a girl who I had feelings for. We dated for about four months, but she would never let our relationship move to the next level. It was very frustrating for me. The song is about angst and unrequited feelings, and my belief that I would finally win her love. I didn’t.
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
Life lessons, especially dealing with personal struggles and how that affects your relationships, and also about following your dreams to fruition, which I feel is very important to live up to your potential. To be always vulnerable and to be brutally honest with yourself and others in most situations. Just not when dealing with haters and trolls, which you always encounter if you put yourself out there, especially artistically.
What draws you to the rock genre?
Lol, I never evolved musically with the business past the ’70s. Okay, that’s not true 😊 I just love organic guitar-driven music, which in my case is rock and blues-based songs. Though I was exposed to Jazz fairly early on I never outgrew my roots. As I grew as a musician, I listened first to Clapton, Hendrix and even the Beatles and Rolling Stones, but the deeper I got into music, I discovered, with the help of one of my teachers and a roommate I had in the early ’70s, I started to discover the roots of the rock bands I so revered.
I was surprised to learn, as I was introduced to Blind Lemon Jefferson and then Robert Johnson that much of the blues I discovered from the ’40s were the genisys of the bluesmen of the ’50s and early ’60s. They were so influenced by these early Delta pioneers. And many of the songs from artists like the Three Kings (Albert, Freddie, and BB) were covered by bands like Cream, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zepplin. It is because of this musical journey of discovery that my chosen genres are Blues and Rock. If you listen to my release, (Made It) Another Day you can really hear my blues influence and also in my soon-to-be-released Day I Was Born.
Who are your musical influences?
Clearly, Hendrix and Clapton initially, then the great blues men from the ’40s, 50s and early ’60s. Examples would be Freddie and Albert King, later SRV, Steve Morse and Satch (Joe Satriani).
Who are your non-musical influences?
My wonderful wife, Carlos Castaneda. Ayn Rand, my parents, Kim Kimbal; Montessa Motors, Dick Kun; Snow Summit Ski Area, Steven Gordon; RIP. Paul Crain, and Chris Riddle.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
Rusty’s at The Pier, Santa Monica, Halloween, 1995
What scares you most when releasing music?
I am not scared about releasing new music or playing it live. I look forward to both and get great satisfaction when I pull it off live or get any engagement to my new music, which seems to be the norm.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
Building a vibrant fanbase, especially with the vast amount of new music that is coming out daily. Also, staying relevant in the era of machine-produced music. Today, unlike years past, the record deal is a pie-in-the-sky proposition, and if you don’t have the right people around you, like for me, Ariel Hyatt of Cyber PR, Michael Wallace of Modern Musician, Chris “Manafest” Greenwood, and a host of other marketing and promotion services I for one would have no chance raising above the herd.
A musician who wants to throw their hat in the ring would need tens of thousands of dollars to support themselves and their music as well as a host of professionals all working together to achieve a common goal. And that means a musician today needs to be very goal-oriented to achieve any level of success in the industry today.
But having said all that, because social platforms and tools like Facebook and Instagram ads make it possible to achieve success as an Indie Artist, Chris “Manafest” Greenwood is an excellent example. I believe Ed Sheeran is as well.
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
Number one, learn your instrument, whether that be Guitar, Piano, or your voice. Practice until you have complete command of your instrument(s). Then started learning the art of writing songs. Learn how to create a hook that grabs the ear of whatever your audience is. Define and know your audience and connect with them. Get them to connect with you, one by one and grow the relationship you have created.
Can’t stress this enough, COLLABORATE with artists in your genre that already have a following and builds on their followers by making the artist the primary artist in your collaboration, even if you must pay them. I am currently seeking an artist to collaborate with on one of the songs off my second album, being released in the winter of this year, so yes, I am following my own advice.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
When I have both albums out and properly promoted, to start touring in the western eleven regions to continue to build my following and have my music career support itself and me, I’m giving myself until I’m 80 to get it.
FVMusicBlog January 2022