Interview with Gwen Guthrie

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active
Gwen Guthrie Gwen Guthrie, frustrated with the music industry in her native America has opted to find a new recording home here in the UK, with her single just released and album due to follow. B&S talks to the singer songwriter about her music and work with her local children's theatre group.

THE last time I spoke with Gwen was over the phone in 1990, when she was celebrating the release of her "Hot Times" album with those wonderful Brian Jackson productions "Sweet Bitter Love", "Say It Isn't So" & "Hot Time In Harlem". This time she was in London, resting briefly at The Mariott in Swiss Cottage (formally the Holiday Inn) , before commencing rehearsals for a show at Le Pallais in Hammersmith.

Her circumstances had changed since our last discussion, primarily the focal point of her recording career which had moved from just outside her New Jersey home to right here in London.

"It all started with a phone call", reflects Gwen, following a tale or two about how things hadn't been working out too well at Reprise/Warner Bros.

"Sly Dunbar called and said he needed me in London, there and then. He was working with Erskine T on the production of a Maxi Priest album and, wanted me to come over and take care of all the backing vocals. Because of my relationship with Sly I came straight away and got deeply involved in backgrounds and vocal arrangements.

Just prior to my trip to London I had laid down the foundations to my production company/label Hot Times but, while working on Maxi's album, I was contacted by a UK distributor which wanted to invest money in the company, to put an album together on me. Quite honestly it was an offer I couldn't refuse and, I started work straight away, firstly on the single "You Never Really Cared", and a remake of "Rent" for a B- side.

"In New York they still play "Rent", as if it were a new record, so it seemed harmless fun to do it again, especially as the lyrics are still so relevant, and times still so serious,"
"As I proceeded with the album, I did have to ask myself whether working as an independent was really what I wanted, especially as I was getting calls to get involved with another major label. But to be honest, I decided that this route was something different and would at the very least, be an invaluable learning experience.

"Things are much harder in the music business, you've got A&R men at major labels who don't come from a particularly musical orientated background and, make some incredibly strange decisions, then you've got to battle for a budget to promote your releases. My last album came out the same time as Prince, Quincy Jones and Al. B Sure and I felt ignored.

"You've got to look at different ways to survive, and being independent could be one way that works for me".

GWEN'S new album has been produced jointly in New York and London, with the help of Sly Dunbar, but this particular visit was purely for promotional purposes, for both the single and album "You Never Really Cared", which is now ready for release (on the Hot Times Label via Jet Star/EMI).

I've had a great deal of fun, especially up in Warrington at a club called Mr Smiths. I performed the record up there for DJ Kev Edwards who teased me a little just before I went on. In return, on learning it was his birthday, I called him to the stage and got the audience to sing him Happy Birthday before opening a bottle of champagne and christening him John The Baptist, as it soaked him!" Poor Kev is still recovering (bless him).

Shortly Gwen will go home and prepare for her return visit in October, when she will be doing some live shows with an English band at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town. She'll also be devoting some time to her children's theatre company which she both runs and supports.

"I nearly lost my house over it once! It seems all the money I make, I spend on the theatre, something I've been involved with since I got my BA in children's education

"There are so many kids with talent out there, and it's no good sitting around waiting for a grant to get programmes going. I don't make money with this, but it's worth it just to see the smiles on their faces. (RT B&S)

Copyright © 2004 - 2024 SOULANDFUNKMUSIC.COM. All Rights Reserved.