Keyboardist Rob Mullins receives Producer Of The Year Award, 2000 for Christmas, The Hymns.

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Greg Vail

Interview
by Laura Harrison

planetmullins staff writer

LH. Word is that you and Rob are celebrating the release of your new CD this month on the 23rd at Kikuya Japanese Restaurant. Are you excited?
GV. I am so excited about the release of The Gospel Truth. The concept for this CD has been in my head for 3 + years. I had gone to the planning stage many times, but never had the resources to make it happen. But, with the success of Christmas, The Hymns; I was able to reinvest, and record the Gospel CD. This is a big celebration for Rob and I since it marks the second CD we have recorded and released in 6 months. The Party is going to be at Kikuya in Huntington Beach. This is fitting, since Rob and I have been growing the musical depth in live performance to not only blow local fans away, but also take this magic into the studio. I am so proud of this CD. Great music for a great party...a win-win.

LH. How does this CD differ from other ones you have done?
GV. The Gospel Truth is primarily a collection of my favorite Contemporary Gospel melodies. Many people will not have any background with these songs, but the beauty of instrumental music is taking the heart and message of this music, and removing the barriers of Age, Race, and Language. The power of music really blows me away! I have recorded a lot of other people’s material through the years. What makes the project different and special for me is the emotional evolvement with the songs I chose. The last few years came with a lot of emotional pain, and the music I wanted to share represents that which served to sustain me during such difficult times. Europa made this CD because I finally wanted to record it, and this was the next CD scheduled, so I included it for all the fans in the clubs that have been bugging me for 15 years. I have played this song thousands and thousands of times; but with Rob found a new love for it inspired by his creativity. We took the Rob Mullins Band into the studio and simply recorded the magic we had created in clubs and concert stages for years now and it sounds great.

LH. Like Rob, you run your own record company. Tell us about some of the challenges you face doing that.
GV. The biggest challenge is time. I have my kids, Benjamin, 11 years old, and Vanessa, 2 years old this month; I have my responsibilities as Sax Player and Church Sax Player; and now have a website, products for sale, accounting, shipping, manufacturing, distribution, inventory, advertising, promotion, and all the problems each brings. Being a Dad and Sax Player was enough to keep me very tired. Trying to run this new business is exciting, personal (it's kinda running me), and humbling. Every time I turn around I am fixing a mistake I made at some additional expense, with no time scheduled for that mess. Classes at Greg Vail University begin each Monday morning, 8 AM...bring your checkbook.

LH. I see from Rob's schedule that you do almost all the dates that he does live with his band. How did you two meet and get to playing together so much?
GV. Rob and I met many years ago at a Newport Beach club, the Cafe Lido. It was maybe 1989 or so. I came to sit in with the band, and Rob was a sideman that night. We both did a lot of drinking in the 80's, so the only thing I remember him saying to me was, "What are you doing here...Go Home and Practice." I left crushed, stayed away for a month practicing all day, every day. I then returned after a shamed month of practice. I sat in again and Rob came to me after the set and said, "Are you the same guy from a month ago?" I said, "Yes"." Rob said, "You sound a lot better, what did you do?" I said, "Practice," and he said, "good." Of course he has no recollection of these events, but that is how I remember it. We worked together as sidemen for a number of bands the following few years that led up to Kikuya years. Rob called me to play in a rotational basis with his band in the mid 90's. Eventually this led to a full-time position in the Rob Mullins band that continues to this day. Rob was my keyboard player of choice when the Greg Vail Band was started to support my solo debut CD in 1995. Since then I have played on 4 CDs for Rob, and he did all the hard work on my last 2 CDs. I very much enjoy and value Rob's musicianship and friendship, and now owe much of my success with Greg Vail Music to him.

LH. I know you tour with Peter White, and do some gigs with Rick Braun. What is it about playing with Rob that is different?
GV. Rob is a very different leader. His musical background is extreme, and our musical adventure is always a challenging treat. Rob plays all jazz styles during a gig or show. He leaves the door wide open to stretch the music harmonically and encourages everything that makes this music artistic. Jazz is the only American art form that is indigenous to the United States. Playing with Rob's band feels like it is still an art form, and not a radio programmed, business driven money game. We want to be successful in this industry, but Rob does not define that by anything other than musical excellence. We don't have a whole lot of industry help getting our music out there, but the people that hear us love what they hear. Neither art nor artist are dead, they just scare the people that aren't gifted in playing music, and take the process from marketing, to touching listeners with something real. I think we both feel very successful, but also a little too poor at the end of the month.

LH. What do you think makes you stand out in the crowd of a million sax players doing smooth jazz?
GV. The extreme need to be me. No one else can do that as good as I can. I listen to everybody, and admire so many different Sax Players. I now know that the only thing I could possibly have over any of them is the focus and desire to be myself; to be real. Take it or leave it; this is me. My life is a lot more than just music, so I can't expect to see some of the fame that this extreme focus can bring. What I can do is grow, learn, explore, and share through music what I am. I think I said it best in the liner notes to my first CD, e-Motion back in 1995. "I believe that all we truly have to give in life is who we are. I thank God for the opportunity to share my heart and passion through His powerful gift of music."

LH. I noticed that your new CD has a lot of church music on it. Tell us about the song where the church band is featured.
GV. I have been playing at Saddleback Church in So. CA for 5 1/2 years now. My role at the end of every service is to play an instrumental version of one of the songs from the service to walk out to. I found many of the songs I was playing to be great melodies for sax, and began discussing recording a CD featuring this music if I could get financing. As I mentioned earlier, personal issues went from bad to worse, and I began attaching emotionally to many of these songs. When I was blessed with the chance to do this project, the song list had been in my head for some time. The opening track, People All Over The World, features clips off the original performance. I met with Rob to go over song selection and concept for this CD, and he really liked the energy of the Saddleback Church Gospel Choir on the original recording. Rob began sampling the choir and I said I need to make a call to see if this was going to be OK. I called my friend Rick Muchow and told him what we where working on and he said to go for it. This track represents many hours of computer work by Rob to line up Vocals, Brass parts, and the Church Rhythm Section to our recorded tracks to make the composite you hear on the CD.

LH. What is your favorite song on the new CD?
GV. This question is just not fair. I think this project as a whole, is my favorite. With Rob's help each song grew into something more than it had been. Each song is a favorite for a different reason, and as a whole, it is the best recording I have to date.

LH. What can the audience look forward to at the upcoming party?
GV. The party will feature many of the songs off the new CD. We will play much of the Rob Mullins Band favorites, and Jazz Covers we regularly play. We feature Europa almost weekly, and that will be a big hit to be sure. The party will mark the commercial release of the CD, and will be the first opportunity for many to buy this disc. And as always, this release party will be the social event of spring. Friends, Family and Fans from all over the state will be their celebrating, listening to great music, and enjoying a night that is sure to be talked about for some time. I hope you make plans to be with us June 23rd. Show times will be at 8:30 PM, 10:00 PM, and 11:30 PM. See you there!

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