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David Gates - The Story and the Exclusive Interview
As the music of the 1970s has enjoyed its renewed popularity, most baby boomers have no trouble remembering such classic hits as "Make It With You" or "Baby I'm A Want You" or "If" among many others. These songs were all written by David Gates as a member of the group Bread.
The story of David Gates is an interesting journey through Rock & Roll and pop music, beginning with its inception in the 1950s through the British Invasion, through Punk... well through it all. 1996 finds Gates back with us again after more than a decade of semi-retirement. For those who loved his soft, floating tenor voice and personal songwriting style, his newest album Love Is Always Seventeen won't let you down. His new music keeps in style with the songs he wrote over twenty years ago. No heavy guitars or drum machines, just well crafted melodies, soft vocals and lyrics strong on feeling. Exactly like his music from the 70s but with the production techniques of the 90s.
Before we explore David Gates' new music, let's take the proverbial slip back into the past. Gates grew up in a musical family. His father was a band leader for the high school David attended. By the time Gates was a teenager, he could play several instruments and read and write music. While this is no different from thousands of other people, it is different in that as a teenager growing up in the 1950s he was watching and experiencing Rock & Roll as it began developing its identity. Also like thousands of other teenagers of the era, Gates was bitten by the Rock & Roll bug and formed a band. Interestingly, that band also included pop legend Leon Russell. As a band they backed legendary Rock & Rollers Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins among others.
In the late fifties, when Gates had gone as far as he could in Tulsa, he packed up and with his wife and moved to Los Angeles where the pop music scene was really taking off. It was there where Gates really began learning the "music business." Already proficient as a musician, he began to develop his skills as a composer, arranger, and producer. His list of accomplishments is both impressive and long and included working as a session musician and arranger for the instrumental group The Ventures. He also worked with Buck Owens and Merle Haggard as an arranger. As a writer he wrote the song "Popsicles and Icicles" for The Mermaids which became a Top 10 hit in 1963. He also played on a couple of sessions for the Beach Boys. He has commented that after the British Invasion happened it was an extremely difficult task to get American pop records played with the exception, of course, of "Surf" and "Hot Rod" music, which was what the Beach Boys were releasing at the start of the British Invasion. In fact, in 1965, Gates wrote a song called "I Don't Come From England". The song was released under the name The Manchesters and was also sung by Gates - sort of a British Invasion "protest" song.
Anyway, the British Invasion passed and in 1968 Gates produced an album for a Los Angeles pop group called Pleasure Faire whose members included Steve Cohn, Michael Coltrane, and Robb Royer. After completing the album, Royer immediately introduced Gates to James Griffin and together the three of them formed Bread. The Pleasure Faire album is very much in line with Bread's music and could be called "pre-Bread."
Regarding Bread, their history is an amazing success story. From their first chart single "Make it With You" released during the summer of 1970, until "Lost Without Your Love" in 1976, they racked up twelve straight Top 40 singles and seven Top 40 albums. This doesn't even include the period between 1973 and 1975 when the band was not together.
As a band, they featured a great wealth of popular music experience. James Griffin for instance recorded an album in 1963 called Summer Holiday which although not very successful, featured a worthy rendition of Eddie Cochran's "Summer Time Blues". Griffin also co-wrote a song called "Love Machine", an excellent rocker by the group The Roosters, released in 1968 and extremely difficult to find. Larry Knectal was one of the most talented and experienced session players around when he joined Bread in 1971. Knectal had played on several hits for the groups including The Byrds, The Grass Roots, and Simon and Garfunkel. A studio perfectionist, he played the lead guitar on the Bread song "The Guitar Man". Bread singles were almost always ballads. These ballads, how the public associated with Bread's music, shaped the image of the band. This image was of a "soft rock" group and they were often strongly criticized for being "light weight, sappy, and ultra commercial." Initially they were written off as irrelevant. Over the years, however, Bread's music has withstood the test of time and continues to be very popular. Indeed, although they were known for their ballads, Bread also charted in 1971 with "Mother Freedom", a classic rocker penned by Gates. Actually, "Mother Freedom", and "Let Your Love Go" were the only up-tempo Bread songs released as singles showing the group consciousness for what the public expected.
Following Bread, Gates enjoyed further success having songs of his recorded by others. Actor Telly Savalas actually turned the song "If" into a Number 1 hit in England with his strong monologue narration version in 1975. "If" has now been recorded by over 200 artists. Ken Booth also had an English Number 1 song with "Everything I Own" as well as Boy George topping the English charts with the same song in 1987. The list goes on and on. So eventually Gates got the music bug back and began to ship demos around in Nashville. In 1993 he was offered a contract to do another album by Jack Holtzman, who had originally signed Bread to Elektra Records in 1969. Love Is Always Seventeen released in 1994 is very much a continuation of David Gates' previous material, strong on melody and vocals. The record features many new romantic ballads and includes the single "Avenue of Love" as well as a tribute song to James Taylor. All in all a very listenable record showing that no matter what the fad or craze a good romantic song will never go out of style.
And now, the exclusive interview by Bill Kornman:
Go2Music.net: Tell me about your move to LA. What prompted it? And once you were there, what was your primary focus?
Gates: The reason I moved to Los Angeles from Tulsa, Oklahoma.... I'd gone about as far in music as you can go in Tulsa. There's not much to do there, you know. You work clubs and play dances and fraternity parties and so forth. And I wanted to go to Los Angeles where all the action was and try my hand as a musician and songwriter. My main focus was really to become involved right in the middle of the music scene if I could possibly write songs. You know the movie and television industry were there, Las Vegas was close and the Reno, Tahoe, that whole circuit. So I had eyes to play some live performances, to get into the clubs, to write, produce, anything I could. I just loved music and I could read and write music which gave me a bit of a leg up on a lot of the guys who were there that were good players but they couldn't read or write. That got me into arranging and doing lead sheets for people. And that was all very, very helpful.
Go2Music.net: Could you talk about some of the artists you worked with - what you got out of those experiences as they would later relate to your own career?
Gates: I went through just about the entire roster at RCA Records and Capital Records as an arranger - this would have been 1963, '64, '65. People like Ann Margaret and Bobby Darrin and Rod McKuen and Glen Yarborough - I did "Baby, the Rain Must Fall" for him as an arranger. A lot of Glen Campbell stuff. I just really cannot remember all the people...Shelly Fabares...Sally Field of all people - I did a couple things with her...Davy Jones of The Monkees.... All of these things opened my eyes to all the different things they were doing in films and television, and each one I learned a little something from. I could see what I thought they were doing well and what mistakes I thought they might be making career-wise. I just sort of noted it away in my mind for later use. Some of them were really outstanding singers and musicians. I never wrote with any of them, but I'd learn little things from them as they were working in the studio.
As far as arranging and production techniques, I learned from Ken Nelson, who was a country producer of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, to keep it simple. He believed very strongly in that...don't cover up your really good song, keep your background simple, don't distract the listener from what you want them to hear: the music and the lyrics, or a particularly good vocal performance. It's been pretty much true in my findings over the years that the weaker the song, then the more glorious the arrangement and production has got to be to cover up for the weakness of the song. If you've got a good, beautiful song, just kind of stay out of the way.
Go2Music.net: How did the group "Bread" form?
Gates: At the time that Bread formed, I was individually looking for a solo artist contract and I was going around to all my various A & R people that I arranged for and I'd walk in and say "Hey, I want to be an artist," and I can remember Jack Gold at Columbia said "Neh, you don't want to be an artist. Too hard of work. You gotta go on the road, all this stuff. Just stay home and arrange. Take care of your family. Don't be an artist." And I couldn't convince him that I was serious. But a few of my friends up at Screen Gems/Columbia Music, at that time being Roger Gord and Lester Sill said, "Yeah, you ought to consider it." And I was frustrated with the way that songs that I had written were being recorded by others. I was feeling they were getting lost. And gee, I thought, you know, I might as well try and do these myself. Although I never really believed that I was much of a singer, I could sing well enough to bring my own tunes to life. But I certainly didn't represent myself to be some Pavarotti.
In the course of this, I'd worked with a group that was recording for Uni Records, called Pleasure Fair. And Russ Reagan was the head of Uni at the time and he hired me to arrange and produce a Pleasure Fair album. In Pleasure Fair was a guy named Rob Royer and when the album was almost done, he said that he'd been writing with a fellow named James Griffin and I should come over and listen to some of their stuff. He said James was from Tennessee and that he was a good singer and they had written some things together and maybe we'd all throw in and maybe try to have a group. At the time, groups you know, were quite a bit more popular or becoming more popular than solo artists. Since I'd run into some resistance with my A & R friends at trying to get signed, I went over and listened to Jimmy and Rob one day. James and I harmonized well together. He was from Tennessee, I was from Oklahoma. So we kind of thought a lot alike musically. I liked some of their songs, they liked some of my stuff so we put the three of us together. The idea was that James and Rob would be one half the writing and vocal entity and I would represent the other half. And we'd have hopefully twice as much material and twice as good a chance perhaps to break through.
So we went to Al Sleshinger, who'd been my attorney, and asked him if he would help shop us around to some labels. And it turned out we kind of liked Elektra Records because they didn't have anybody like us. And Crosby, Stills & Nash had just gone with Atlantic Records. They were closest to that sort of acoustic guitar and lots of harmony and vocal idea that we had also, so we wanted to stay away from Atlantic. We ended up on Elektra.
Go2Music.net: What was the most positive thing for you personally as a result of being in a group? And was there anything you disliked?
Gates: The good thing about groups is: if it works good. There's a kind of camaraderie there.
Go2Music.net: And was there anything you disliked?
Gates: I'd say the negative thing is you tend to lose a little bit of your own identity. It's a compromise and you can never do it exactly the way you want to do. Although, with some exceptions, I was able to ramrod things like "If" and "Diary" and some of my songs that were quite close to me and more individual performances. I was able to get those through the group gamut without too much alteration.
Go2Music.net: What is the ideal situation for you when you're performing songs on stage, composing, or recording in the studio?
Gates: The ideal situation on stage is probably everyone's dream: to be able to hear yourself and your musicians, or your guitar or whatever you're playing. Under ideal circumstances, everything's crystal clear, has a nice tone to it and you have a receptive audience. It doesn't have to be large, just people that are good listeners and really want to hear what you have to say. I'd say just about every other concert is that way. The crowds and the people are always good. You're fighting the technical problems that you have on stage. And we all have it and we all deal with it. But you can always hear and you can do fairly well, but there's some nights that it's just a dream situation. Everything sounds so good to you.
The ideal situation on composing would be if you're trying to write a ballad, that you were just in a wonderful frame of mind that matched the kind of song you're trying to come up with. I've had that happen a number of times. And my best songs have come out of situations where I was in the correct frame of mind, I had a little time and I had some peace and quiet. "If" was like that. I started at 9:30 one night after my wife and kids had gone to sleep. By 11:00 I was done with the song. Everything just worked, it clicked.
As far as recording in the studio, that's something that comes pretty easy most of the time - once you get your technical little blurbs out of the way and everything is sounding good. I try not to rehearse the song too much until all the technical aspects have been covered. So the minute you start to really seriously record the song with your musicians, or yourself, or do your vocal performance or whatever, there are no more technical glitches standing in the way. And then you can get your performance within four or five takes.
Go2Music.net: Could you give some thought and memories about a few of your songs? Starting with "Been Too Long on the Road"?
Gates: That was strictly just like it says. You know, when you've been out there a long time you kind of wish you were at home. It was just some things that I put together from things I'd heard other people on the road say. It wasn't necessarily all my thoughts. It was sort of a compilation of all of the things that we all think about. I love to play that song. The mood changes and the length of it is really neat. It was fun to do on stage - you can really get into the mood of it.
Go2Music.net: "London Bridge"?
Gates: That was strictly taken from the fact that they sold the bridge, took it down and moved it to Lake Havasu, Arizona. The synthesizer on there was one of the very first uses of a Moog synthesizer. At the time in Los Angeles, there were only 2 of them. Paul Beaver was the owner and programmer of one of them and we got Paul to come over and kind of help us. I knew what I wanted to do with it musically, but I didn't know where to plug in all the cords and twist the dials. Later on "If", we also got Paul to come over and that was one of the very first times a guitar had been played through a synthesizer. Up until that time you could only use a keyboard. But I wanted to run this electric guitar through the synthesizer. And that is an effect on "If" of two synthesizers going back and forth - two tone generators bouncing off of each other to get that little sort of tremolo wa-wa effect. I remember when Paul packed it up and went home, he said, 'I hope you liked that because I could never get that again.' It's the way that they triggered each other back and forth.
Go2Music.net: "It Don't Matter to Me"?
Gates: That was interesting...I had written that song over a Christmas and New Year holiday along with 3 or 4 other songs. I'd gotten kind of tired as a Screen Gems writer - of writing all the time as a staff writer for other artists - and I thought, I'll just go up there over Christmas and write some things for my own use. Things that I like, and that I can sing. And "It Don't Matter to Me" came out of that. We recorded that hurriedly on the first Bread album without strings. And after "Make It With You" was a hit, we went back and re-recorded "It Don't Matter To Me" a second time in the key of D instead of E, did it slower and added strings to it. Basically, I think we got it right the second time.
Go2Music.net: "Baby I'm a Want You".
Gates: "Baby I'm a Want You" is a frustrating thing. I'd written that on piano, went into the studio and just couldn't get it to work on piano. So I went back and did it on guitar and changed the key on that. Suddenly it just came alive. Thank goodness.
Go2Music.net: "Mother Freedom".
Gates: When I wrote that, I'd had 2 or 3 or 4 of the first Bread singles - songs I'd written and sung - and it was now time for James and Rob to go home and come up with something. It was to be their single and they just didn't have anything. And we needed to have a song ready for the next single. So the night before the session, I sat down in my living room with a Telecaster guitar and wrote "Mother Freedom". We went in the next day and recorded it.
Go2Music.net: "Guitar Man".
Gtaes: "Guitar Man" is about the guy you know that just can't quit...just got to keep playing and being on the road forever. After we got that track done, we started playing the guitar work. I couldn't get a good guitar solo on it and James tried, and he couldn't get a good solo. So Larry Knectal, our keyboard player, he said, "Well, give me a try at that thing." And Larry went out and he plays a little bit of guitar. He ended up playing that whole lead guitar thing all over "Guitar Man".
Go2Music.net: "The Clouds Suite".
Gates: "The Clouds Suite" is something that runs 9 minutes. I had to do it in three different installments to be able to put it together. I spliced it together and tried to make the piano match. That song is still the most lengthy orchestral thing I've ever done.
Go2Music.net: "The Goodbye Girl."
Gates: I'd gotten a call from Herb Ross and Ray Stark, respectively the director and producer of The Goodbye Girl movie, and they wanted a song in the film to be the theme song that was something similar to style in which I write. I went and looked at the picture and came back up here to the ranch. I started writing while I was out raking hay and driving my tractor around. Then I came rushing in at lunch time and finished it off - I'd gotten some pretty good inspiration while I was out in the field.
Go2Music.net: "Lost Without Your Love."
Gtaes: I don't have a great strong memory of how that song was written. It was a comeback song for Bread and I knew it had to be fairly good.
Go2Music.net: What do you consider Bread's best album?
Gates: Gee, it's a tossup between Baby I'm a Want You and Guitar Man because they both had so many strong songs in them.
Go2Music.net: What do you consider your best solo album?
Gates: My best solo album was the first one, I think. I love more of the songs on that first album. "The Clouds Suite", "Anne and Laura Lee" and "Sail Around the World". There are just a lot of wonderful things for me on that album.
Go2Music.net: Do you feel Elektra Records did enough to promote the group?
Gates: I think so, I think they did the best they could.
Go2Music.net: When you were with the group or on your own, was, or is, there pressure to write or record songs that the record label wanted? Or did the studio give lots of creative freedom?
Gates: That's one thing I will say about Jack Holstman and Elektra Records - they never, never tried to tell us what to do. We were free to go in and do pretty much what we thought was best. One song led to the next which led to the next and we became branded a soft rock group. We did quite a bit of rock and roll and up-tempo things but when "Make It With You" was the big million-seller hit it sort of forced us to consider that. We had to remember these ballads were what got us where we were and we needed to come back to them from time to time. My strength as a writer has always been the ballads although I do enjoy the rock and roll.
Go2Music.net: Have you done any rock, say demos, that you never really went any further with?
Gates: "Mother Freedom" was the closest I have come to writing, singing and playing, and being involved in something that's a little harder. I like that stuff but my voice is not well suited to it. I can play it better than I can sing it.
Go2Music.net: If your current or future records are successful, do you see yourself touring again?
Gates: Well, as we speak I'll be going out in August and probably going out again in the fall. So I'll be doing some touring. It'll be mostly on acoustic guitar only at this time.
Go2Music.net: Going back again... you experienced the British Invasion and saw the affect of that music, what are your thoughts on that? What did you think about the songwriting ability that came out of England?
Gates: I thought it was very valid. Of course, The Beatles were outstanding. It was really tough on a lot of us in L.A. when that thing happened. All the radios started playing all English groups. We like starved to death from about '64 to '68. People didn't know that, but it was tough. You couldn't get a record. Anything from England or that had a British accent got played. Even the disk jockeys came across. And that's okay, but I think they overdid it. But I think the ones that are still getting played today are the ones who were the really good ones.
Go2Music.net: During the time from '64 to '68, surf music was big and you played on some of that as well?
Gates: Yes, it was really taking off. I was on the first TV show The Beach Boys ever did. They were singing songs about surfing and we were just cracking up - you know, who cares about surfing? - it was so funny. Sure enough, between Jan and Dean and The Beach Boys, it got huge. I would have never believed it. It was a southern California phenomenon and I thought people in Oklahoma could care less. It's very interesting because it's hard to figure out what's going to be successful.
Go2Music.net: Were you working with The Beach Boys?
Gates: I played on a session for Brian Wilson one time. He came out and told us what all he wanted us to play. The interesting thing I remembered was when he went around to each musician to describe what he wanted you to play, he would take his hands and form them around the imaginary instrument. He would go up to the sax guy, he'd put his hands like he was playing the sax, then he'd sing the part. He would then go to the guitar person and he'd strum with his right hand, the piano he'd use both hands. He would physically demonstrate the instrument.
Go2Music.net: That was around '62?
Gates: Yes, something like that. We got along really good. I also knew Jan and Dean. I knew Jan Berry best of all before the accident. He was a bright guy.
Go2Music.net: Who were some of your early influences? I know you backed up Duane Eddie and people like that.
Gates: Like most, I think Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard and all those guys. Chuck Berry's lyrics were real interesting and hard-driving. The ballads - some of those early things like "Earth Angel", kind of made you want to go out and do the same thing and form a band.
Go2Music.net: What about particular style of playing - such as Duane Eddie's style which was considered a sloppy guitarist, but very creative?
Gates: Nobody imitates him much. We all loved James Burton. He played Ricky Nelson's solos. So we would wait for the next Ricky Nelson album so we could hear James' solo. He was probably more idolized than Chuck Berry and his licks. In that time there weren't really tremendous guitar players. They all played well - there just were no Stevie Ray Vaughns at that point.
Go2Music.net: What type of guitar do you use and why?
Gates: I'm a big fan of the Martin acoustics. I have a D-28 and a D-35. I've also got a Takamini which is real good. The pick-up on it and the way that I can adjust the sound on it when I have to go through a PA system or an amplifier is good on the Takamini. But for acoustic sound and recording I prefer the Martin.
Go2Music.net: How do you normally tune your guitar?
Gates: I use just the regular, standard tuning. Occasionally I'll tune the whole thing down a little bit just to get a different sound. When I say a different sound, it's just the lower tonality of tuning it down to say an E-flat instead of an E and it gets a little fuller, deeper sound. I use capos quite a bit just to stimulate a different sound. As a songwriter it sort of spurs you to think a little different than just the conventional tuning.
Go2Music.net: Did you actually give up on the music business in the 80s after Take Me Now, your last solo album?
Gates: No, I kept in touch. I listened a lot. I kept up my subscription to Billboard, watched MTV and Video Hits One and stuff like that. I sort of backed off on the writing and performing part of it and I would jot down some ideas once in a while. But I really kind of got away from it for awhile. I had been at it so long that it was time for me to get on and do a few of those personal things I had wanted to do. And I just couldn't do everything at once, you know. So I decided to jump into this ranching full time and enjoy it - something I've always wanted to do.
Go2Music.net: What do you think about today's music?
Gates: A lot of it is simpler musically and doesn't have the staying power. It's not as complex, therefore it's not as interesting to me. I like a song that's got more than just 3 chords in it or doesn't just beat me over the head. Although I do like some Nine Inch Nail stuff. But the music from the 60s and 70s has a lot more meat on the bones. It's structured a lot better. There are a lot more chords in it, the lyrics mean more, you can hear what the people are saying a little bit better.
Today I think we're oriented a lot more to the visual aspects. Videos have taken the forefront. How you look and how you appear and your ability to function in front of a camera can sometimes make up for some musical weakness. That doesn't mean that there aren't good songs today. But when I look at this year's Grammy nominees for Song of the Year, it's pretty sparse. I don't think the quality is there like it used to be. Even, I believe, the country music award shows, ACM and the CMA. Those top five nominees for Song of the Year in the country field are considerably more competitive and probably stronger than in the pop market. That's one of the reasons I've been drawn over to country. I think the best songs are being written in country today. They're under more of a spotlight and the lyrics have to be stronger - it's far more competitive. And beyond a few people: Michael Bolton or Phil Collins or Richard Marks or Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, where are the really good songs coming from today? What copyrights would you like to own of the Top 20 on today's board chart? You don't have as many choices as you did 20 years ago. You know, I did a thing here not too long ago in Nashville - it was a bunch of kids from Vanderbilt University - 18, 19, 20-years old - coming up for me to sign their Anthology of Bread albums. It was one of their favorite albums and they loved the music on it. Good songs will always survive.
Go2Music.net: Do you feel now, looking back on the music, that Bread's music has withstood the test of time?
Gates: I definitely think so. It's the fact that it is still getting played much more than I had expected. I thought one or two of the tunes would last for a while but there are six, seven, or eight that keep getting played. I think it's because nobody is doing anything like that anymore. For that type of music, if you want to hear something like that you have to go back and play those tunes from the 70s.
Go2Music.net: It does seem that around the country, music from the 70s is really popular, especially with teenagers.
Gates: Yes, it was quite musical. There was a lot of good harmony, a lot of good chords - you know, Crosby, Still and Nash stuff. There was some pretty good music that came out of that era. It wasn't all great, but there was a lot of good things like Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor stuff - good music. There's nothing quite the same today, although there are good things done now.
Go2Music.net: What's your method of song writing...what usually comes first, words or melody?
Gates: For me, the music comes first, the chord structure comes with the melody, then I'll normally add the words to that. Hopefully, I get as many words as I can as the melody is coming but usually the song is all finished before the lyrics are.
Go2Music.net: Do ideas for songs usually come in bunches?
Gates: Yes, ideas for songs do come in bunches. When I write a good song, it builds my confidence and I'll write several more. The hardest is when you've laid off for a while and you have to come back. Getting that first song that has good quality that you can hold your head up and be proud of and play for somebody is the hardest to come after a layoff. Then the second or third songs seem to come easier. This last album that I did for Discovery, it took me awhile to get the songwriting machine cranking again. But once I did, they seemed to come along pretty good. And I think "Love is Always Seventeen" on that album is the second best song I've ever written - after "If". I love that song. I love to play it and I'm very proud of it. Someday it's going to break through in a big way.
Go2Music.net: Speaking of your new album, how do you feel about "Love is Always Seventeen" and how it's been going?
Gates: Well, I think that it's got the best collection of songs I've ever had. It's really excellent, I'm real pleased with it. We had lots of good musicians there and Nashville helped me out. It has not reached the public yet in the numbers that I hoped it would. That is primarily because we can't get adequate radio play on the singles to make people aware that there is an album available. So it's fighting that battle.
Go2Music.net: After this album, do you plan on following it up?
Gates: I'm not quite sure. It's hard to say. If it's not going to do a whole lot better...if this one doesn't get up and move, I probably won't stay with these people. I'll do something different but I don't know what.
Go2Music.net: But you are back in the business now for a while anyway, right?
Gates: Oh yeah. I will probably do a lot more writing because I found out when I went to Nashville that everyone wanted to write. You know, it's really a songwriter's town, which is my first love anyway. Whether I record or not, I will for sure be writing more stuff. I'll be going down at the end of the month to write some more with Billy Dean.
Go2Music.net: Don't you usually write on your own? Do you prefer it?
Gates: Yes, I do, but Billy has some specific needs for his album and he is getting ready to do another one later this year. It is a goal-oriented thing where I can find out what kind of thing he wants to come up with, and try to help him - steering in that direction and writing specifically for his next album. It's kind of challenging to do that kind of assignment writing. Once I get started I may run off and start some stuff of my own, too. I was writing with him before, then went home and I wrote "Love Is Always Seventeen" for myself. Writing with someone sometimes gets the adrenaline flowing to write. I prefer to write alone. It does take a little longer that way. Then you can't blame anybody but yourself.
Go2Music.net: If you do decide to continue in the business, will it be strictly as a solo artist?
Gates: Yes, solo.
Go2Music.net: Not forming your own new group?
Gates: No, I haven't even thought about that. I don't think so.
Go2Music.net: Do you see anything happening where you'll get back together with James Griffin?
Go2Music.net: Not even for a TV special?
Gates: No way. I have no interest in that whatsoever. I don't have any desire to go back and rehash old ground like that. It would not be pleasant. There would not be any real reason to do it.
Go2Music.net: Even though the group's music is still popular?
Gates: Well, it can stay popular without us getting back together. I haven't really seen anyone get back together and really be successful and recapture the original spirit just yet. I've seen The Moody Blues, watched The Eagles and it just is not the same when you are gone. You just can't pick up from where you left off. Unlike the Beach Boys because they have never been gone really, and the Rolling Stones - they have continuity. But you have to be careful how you handle that sort of thing. You can't just get back together and expect it to all be wonderful again.
Go2Music.net: What about James Griffin now...what do you think of his version of "Everything I Own"?
Gates: It was interesting. I did not feel they changed enough from the original to have a successful country record out of it. I don't know the exact motivation. I talked to Josh Leo a little bit about it, but I would have done it differently. Although James did a fine job on his vocal, I thought the arrangement and the production was too much like the original to stand out. It's tough. A number of people have done that song and nobody has really caught the emotion in it just yet. Mickey Gillie and Crystal Gayle have done it, Scott Hendricks has it now for one of his artists...I don't know who is going to do it, but somebody has got to catch it just right and will have a country single hit with it. They are going to have to put the emotion into it, they can't just sing it.
Go2Music.net: After a group or artist has been successful and then is out of the business for several years, why do you think it's so hard to get re-established since the people who originally bought the artist's records are presumably still out there and buying records?
Gates: Well, it's not quite that way. When you've been away, you lose your place in line. So when you come back, you've got to get at the back of the line and work your way up again. And the people who originally bought your records are now older and a lot of those people don't like to be caught dead in a Blockbuster or Tower Record store. They would prefer to buy through the mail or sneak in quietly in a disguise, buy their records and go out. That's just the way it is. And people that tend to spend money on records are between 16 and 30. It's always been that way for 30 years. It's always going to be that way. After 30, the dollars go for different things. I don't know what...golf, sports cars. And yes, people still listen to the radio and they still buy records, but they're not motivated and driven by music and record buying like those really core 16- to 30-year-olds always are. They just live for that.
So an artist like myself who's coming back after a bit of a layoff...yes, everybody remembers the Bread songs, and they like that and everybody who's gone out and gotten Love Is Always Seventeen, my new album, loved the songs on that. But you are fighting a war with the people who are currently on the radio, who have never left the radio or are new to radio. And you know, the 25-year-olds tend to buy records made by 25-year-olds. With some exceptions. The Rolling Stones never went away. And certain people have been able to break through this difficulty. But that's just the way the game is played, and I live with it.
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