Robert Cray talks about his musical journey, touring and the music industry

By Catrina Satterwhite

There are many types of music, but there is nothing like the Blues gender. If you know songs like smoking gun, Nearby, You move meand Rear door slamming, then you’re probably a fan of blues guitarist and singer Robert Cray and the Robert Cray Band. Cray is five times Grammy Award winner and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and won the Americana Music Awards for Lifetime Achievement.

He has performed with artists like Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner and Eric Clapton. [that’s a stellar list].

I had the pleasure of chatting with Cray about his musical legacy that spans over 40 years. His love for music, like many musicians, began as an influence from his parents.

“The love of music came from my parents and their vast and varied record collection which included the likes of Sarah Vaughan and Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke, Bobby Bland, and so on, and then The Beatles hit, and I happen to be a boy at the time of 11 and after my parents’ music they wondered why I was going this way and it’s because everyone was, and the guitar was a very popular instrument at that time and also just listen to everything on the radio,” Cray said.

Photo credit: Robert Cray

He eventually returned to music which he first discovered through his parents, the Bluesjust before the end of high school.

I was curious how Cray developed their unique sound.

“I guess that’s a thing people say you. I just had a lot of favorites that I liked to listen to like Albert Collins and BB King of course, and I was listening to Jimmy Hendrix because he was the guy. When you start writing, I guess that’s when you feel you have something to say and people tell you they recognize your sound when they hear you. It’s something you just do,” he said.

The Robert Cray Band was formed in 1974, and although there have been many member changes in the band, Richard Cousins, who helped form the band, apart from a 12-year hiatus, is part of the group from the start.

Although he has worked with many artists, Cray has many memories with Albert Collins who taught him a lot about the music business.

“I had the pleasure of working with Albert Collins for about three years, off and on, whenever he was on the west coast at first. He was kind of like a father to us because we were very young and that we were on the road. He would ask, “Did you call your parents today and tell them where you are? He was instrumental in showing us how to get our money from unscrupulous club owners. J “Also worked with John Lee Hooker for a while, BB King, of course, and Eric Clapton. We’ve had a lot of great opportunities over the years,” he said.

Cray is both guitarist and singer, he does not feel obliged to choose what he likes the most. He loves them both equally.

“With the band and everyone listening and working together and getting a good groove and then trying to mix the vocals in between is a challenge that I really enjoy because every night there’s always something different in the way we play a song and you always hear different ways to sing the same song, so it’s a constant challenge that I like to try to improve, which you know will never happen, but it’s always challenging and great fun,” he said.

Robert Cray and the Robert Cray Bandaged | PPhoto credit: Robert Cray

Since Cray has toured for many decades and most of his career, he has learned that it takes a village to make a tour happen.

“You need a good team of people. It’s a big family here and then the people behind the scenes too, management, booking, just good camaraderie. It’s your team moving to a different location, settling in and doing their best, and moving to the next location. It takes capacity and strength,” he said.

It was difficult for Robert to specify his favorite city to perform, but I loved his answer.

“Whoever has the best food right now. You also travel with your stomach. And if you’re able to get any specialty in town, if you’re lucky enough to have that weather, it’s the best town right now,” he said.

As he is one of the greats of music. He never really thought of it that way but enjoys respect for his music.

With so much time in the music industry, Cray has seen change in the music industry like many artists.

“His [the music industry] changed in many ways. Streaming has changed things because people don’t have to buy music from a particular artist or band. I think if you are a tour musician you have a chance to stay there and make a living doing that but it’s really hard for those who are just getting into the business because you can look at your play count record that you get on a streaming service and you go, I only get two cents and they’ve played my song 10,000 times. It’s really disheartening. Also, people’s accessibility to internet services as opposed to concerts has also changed a lot because you don’t have to be there,” Cray said.

You can experience the Robert Cray Band here in Dallas on Friday, September 30, 2022, at Annette Strauss Square.


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