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Gregg Karukas Interview Page 3

Gregg Karukas Jazz MusicianSmitty:  Yes, those were great times, too.
 
GK:  Yes, in fact, I still talk to some of the guys who I played with back then.  My buddy, Shannon Ford, a drummer I played together with in high school, is coming to my release party tomorrow night.  He’s been very successful working with Paul Simon and the Gatlin Brothers, and he worked with Roger Miller and Robert Gordon.  So he’ll come by and sit in and it’ll be great to play with him again.  He lives in New York City now.
 
Smitty:  Well that’s got to be a cool reunion.
 
GK:  Yes, when I’m on the East Coast I usually call some players I’ve known for years.  We either played in a band together long ago or we’re just friends and now they’re the top guys in town and they make it to one of my shows.
 
Smitty:  Well I’m really excited about this record.  I think you did a fantastic job with this...the mix is really nice and the tunes are well selected.  The title is “Looking Up”.  Talk a little about what you were feeling with this title.  I know there’s a story there and I’d like you to share it with the fans.  Looking Up is quite an interesting title, especially during this day and time.
 
GK:  Well I think at this point, in the last few years, I have been much more aware that we live in a world that is not so pretty a lot of the time.  I’ve always been a positive and easy-going person, and try to stay level headed.  Now I have a couple of kids, and my boys are growing up, and we try to shield them from what’s going on in the world, but they do learn about it in school…you take what’s happening in the world and what’s happening in your daily life, like you have a problem with your homework, or with other kids in school, or whatever…and the idea of having a positive attitude and being able to get through some tough times, and just looking up and being positive, and keeping yourself strong so that you are able to handle anything that comes your way.  That really does seem to couple with what we all have to do in the world today, because there’s some heavy stuff coming down all over the world and at home.  So let the music speak in that kind of a tone.  People always say my music is happy and uplifting and moving.  That’s what lifts and can grab somebody, not only in the ears but also hopefully in the heart.  To get to the gut of things.  If you’re going to grab somebody, you don’t have to try to impress them as much as you want to give them a good feeling.  That’s the kind of goal I have with my music and what I try to do.
 
Smitty:  Yes, and that’s a cool thing.  So how strongly do you feel music plays a role in the calming affect of the world’s conditions?  I know you just talked about that, but give me an idea of how much you think music plays a role or the potential that music has to play a positive role in calming the effects of the world’s situation.
 
GK:  I think music is very powerful and fans tell me all the time that my music means so much.  They say, “I come home from work, I had a terrible day.  I get in my car and drive home from work in traffic, I put on your CD and BAM…I’m transported, or I feel better already. That’s the greatest compliment that anybody could have.  It could be just a few people who say that, but it’s a great reward for what it is I’m doing.  I’ve felt that same way, at times.  When we’re growing up, we all go through adolescence where we might get into one type of music and get into the lyrics, and we could have an emotional time with family but we can escape into our own favorite music, whether it’s a song, writer or singer, or instrumental music.  It fills a place in the soul that nothing else can do. There’s room for music in everybody’s soul, to have some kind of an effect, and if it’s a calming effect, that’s great!  If there are just a few people who respond to it that way, it’s a great reward.  Even better when it’s a live concert and I can do a range of material…not all funky but some sophisticated and jazzy…once you open up people’s ears, with their fresh ears, it’s great to give them a taste of a lot of different stuff.  Sometimes I’m surprised when people come up to me and say, “Man, that jazzy tune was my favorite.”  All the other stuff might be exciting or super funky.  We do this really snaky groove with this jazzy thing and people say they like it.  It’s hard to tell what kind of song it will be but I hope that they all have some sort of quality that is a little deeper than just the surface of a catchy tune.
 
Smitty:  Yes, and I think people feel it deeper and may not be able to express it in deeper terms, but it reaches the deep parts of the soul.
 
GK:  And we always joke about when people come up to us after a show and they say, “man your stuff sounds great and I don’t like jazz.”  I say, “Ok, whatever you say.”  But that’s why it becomes sort of a problem when people put labels on things. You’ve already closed the door on certain kinds of things that you might like.  You already have a preconceived notion of what you like or don’t like.
 
Smitty:  Right.  So talk about what Gregg Karukas listens to when maybe he’s had a rough day.
 
GK:  It’s either Brazilian music, or nothing that has anything to do with smooth jazz.  John Mayer or Sting…
 
Smitty:  Now you’re going to be a part of this 2005 All Star Smooth Jazz Cruise out of Galveston, Texas.
 
GK:  Yes.  Rick Braun asked me to be the musical director for the band for the cruise.  It’s not only his show, but we’ll be backing up five other artists.  That’ll be a nice weeklong rehearsal project.  I think it’s Peter White, Mindi, Michael Lington, Rick Braun, and Joyce…they’re my um…

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