Award-winning Singer, Songwriter and Producer Gregory Abbott who is best known for his #1 Platinum selling debut single “Shake You Down” has been a regular fixture to music for over 30 years from chart-topping hits, writing for artists and releasing new music including his latest single “On & On”. I caught up with Gregory Abbott to discuss his music, how he’s evolved, what’s next and much more...
Terrance: First talk a little about your earliest musical beginning and when did it all come together.
Gregory Abbott: An important part of my formative years were the piano lessons which my mother gave me. She wasn’t a professional musician, but she played very well and made sure there was always a variety of music around the household. My father, who is from the West Indies contributed his love of Caribbean music with it’s charming story lines and rhythms. In college and Graduate school, I learned how to play the guitar; and that’s when I really began writing songs. I played in a variety of Latin and R&B bands and began to see that music could be more than just a hobby and that you could actually make a living doing it.
Terrance: Awesome. When you heard your debut single “Shake You Down” on the radio for the first time, where were you and your reaction to it?
Gregory Abbott: I don’t remember exactly the first time; but I do remember one incident when it came on the radio while I was riding into Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry. When the DJ mentioned my name, my fellow travelers who knew me, gave me a standing ovation. It was quite a ride. As we passed Ellis Island (and the Statue of Liberty of course) I was thinking of my father who came here as an immigrant and I felt such pride. When the boat docked, he was the first person I called.
Terrance: Creatively and musically speaking how have you grown in the past 30 years?
Gregory Abbott: Over time I’ve begun to employ more complex chords and rhythms. Also I’ve begun to explore other subject matter (not exclusively love relationships). I’ve come to see that there are many issues that impact people’s lives that deserve representation in song.
Terrance: As music has evolved technologically, do you feel it has gotten better or worse in the way that it’s consumed by the public in contrast to when you first started in the business?
Gregory Abbott: There’s no doubt that music is both created and consumed differently than when I first began. Much of that is beneficial.... if you can adjust to the changes that have taken place and reformulate your game plan. The advancement in technology has given the musician unparalleled freedom and control in creating music. We can do things today that was just unthinkable 15 years ago. On the consumer end; we songwriters concentrate more on streaming and downloads and licensing to film and television etc. While the monetization isn’t perfect yet, it is constantly getting better and more fair to the songwriter and artist.
Terrance: Talk about the creative process behind your latest single "On & On".
Gregory Abbott: "On and On" is a song written by 70’s folk singer Stephen Bishop which always had a warm place in my heart. And, since I don’t typically do covers, I thought I’d try this one out for size. I hold an Antiguan passport (I’m a dual citizen); and Caribbean rhythms and themes have always permeated my music. I love the theme of the song and the first line which goes: "Down in Jamaica they’ve got lots of pretty women"….". So…. after that first line I was hooked. I must admit I did change the second line which originally read: "steal your money then they break your heart". That was never my experience so I changed it to: "Oooh they’re so sexy they’ll just break your heart" (laughs). It’s a good solid song about persistence and the value of never giving up yet rolling with the flow of life. A message which I think can really be heard during these challenging times.
Terrance: Which do you ultimately prefer - Recording studio or stage performance?
Gregory Abbott: They each offer a different reward. It’s always exciting to work with other musicians and background singers on stage and entice the audience to become part of the music and therefore part of the creation of the nights fun. It’s wonderful to see the effect your music has on bodies.....faces etc. Creating in the studio is fulfilling in another way. It’s not as relaxing because you’re trying to "get it right" and you’re aware of the importance of doing so. But that challenge has always been very attractive to me. And when you DO get it right it’s MAGIC.
Terrance: If there’s one thing you could go back and tell your younger self starting out in the business, what would it be?
Gregory Abbott: Excellent question! Actually, I was told some things very early on that have served me so well that I would simply re-tell my younger self these very things. Three of them which I can share are 1. Practice, practice, practice, and perfect your craft. Learn everything you can about it. 2. Learn the business side of the music industry BEFORE you stick your toe in the water. Set up the right structure for yourself in which to operate. 3. Check your motivations. Be in it for the joy and passion of doing the work and not just for the money because that is what will sustain you over time.
Terrance: What are your hidden talents outside of music that the world aren’t aware of?
Gregory Abbott: Well... people may not know this, but actually I’m a closet nerd. Before I got into music as a profession I was in the academic world. I got my Masters Degree and did all the coursework for my PhD. I read constantly and also write a lot and plan on delving deeper into writing in the near future.
Terrance: What’s next in store for Gregory Abbott?
Gregory Abbott: I intend to release four new singles of original material along with videos. And I’m planning some shows in the UK and Australia. I also have some collaborations (duets) in the works.
Terrance: That’s interesting and we look forward to that. Is there anything you would like to leave with your fans, the readers?
Gregory Abbott: I thank all your readers for their support over the years. To hear what I’ve been up to you can reach me at my official site www.gregoryabbott.com
Download the new single "On and On" HERE!