Robbie Gladwell Interview

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Robbie Gladwell is a well-known musician and singer and has performed with many famous bands and artistes. During his career he has played and toured the World with Steve Harley’s Cockney Rebel, Suzi Quatro, Sister Sledge, BB King and many more. He regularly plays around Suffolk with his band covering songs from across the decades and brings along ‘special guests’ to wow the audience. I managed to ask him some questions ahead of his big gig at The Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe on 30th March:

HC: You’ve had a phenomenally long career, how does it feel to still be playing after all these years?
RG: OK…. I haven’t got too many aches and pains yet – ha ha! 

HC: How did it all start?
RG: I was given a plastic Beatles guitar when I was a child, but I was a fan of the Shadows and wanted a Fender Strat but couldn’t afford it. My parents bought me a classical guitar and for 3 years I had classical guitar lessons. After that I had lessons with the BBC Radio orchestras jazz guitarist. My sister Marie and I did a mini tour of the UK with the orchestra as a cabaret act – I was 13 and Marie was 11. 

HC: Who were your influences when you started out?
RG: The Shadows, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and later the Beatles and Rolling Stones. 

HC: What was the role of music in your early life?
RG: Playing with friends and writing songs.

HC: Who are your influences now? / Who do you admire now?
RG: Where do I start with that one? As a session player and player with well-known bands over the years, my influences range from pop, rock, jazz, blues and country. Who do I admire? It will be a few – Larry Carlton, Tommy Emanuel, still the Beatles and most of the Jazz greats. 

HC: Do you have a favourite song/album? Is that even possible to answer?RG: On my desert island I’d take the Beatles White Album and a massive sound system.

HC: How does the magic work – how do you put on a fantastic show time and time again?
RG: Simple – I love it….

HC: How would you describe your fans?
RG: Tone deaf and wonderful – ha ha!

HC: If you could choose any singer/musician (alive or dead) to join you and the band for one gig, who you have yet to play with, who would it be?
RG: I’ve been lucky enough to play with some of my heroes over time but I suppose my choice would be Bonnie Raitt. 

HC: Is there any country you’ve yet to perform in but want to?
RG: I’ve played all over the World including most of Europe, USA, Russia, China, Japan, Australia and Scandinavia so there’s not many places left where I haven’t played.

HC: You have supported/played with some huge acts, such as The Rolling Stones, BB King, Percy Sledge, Suzi Quatro, I am sure the list is endless – was it as awesome as us mortals could possibly imagine? Any standout memories?
RG: Playing ‘Country Boy’ in front of Albert Lee, who was very kind and said “I have problems with that song too” ha ha!

HC: What do you enjoy most about being a musician?  
RG: Definitely not drugs, but there have been a few too many girlfriends!! Seriously though – the alternative would be to get a real job – and I’m unemployable!

HC: Any special skill/talent outside of music that we don’t know about? 
RG: Science is particularly one of my main interests as I studied it with EMI Electronics and still act as a consultant today to some of the industries manufacturers.

HC: How many guitars do you own?
RG: Ummm! In truth I’m not sure

HC: Which other musicians have you learned from?
RG: Most everybody I’ve been lucky enough to play with

HC: What challenges do you face after being around for a while?
RG: Getting enough sleep and remembering words to songs (thank goodness for iPads)

HC: Do you think it is easier or harder these days to be a musician?
RG: It’s harder for new comers to become famous unless they’re on Tik Tok

HC: Have you played any festivals? What are they like for you?
RG: Yes I’ve played most of the European festivals including Isle of Wight and Glastonbury (many times). Literally in and out the same day! There is very little glamour in reality – especially when it rains!

HC: Are you self-taught taught?
RG: I had lessons when I was younger (both classical and jazz) and the rest I’ve taught myself

HC: Which song do you most like to perform, and why?
RG: Make me Smile – because it does.

HC: What made you chose your current instrument?
RG: Luck!

HC: Do you play other instruments?
RG: Yes – most stringed instruments except violin – I could even get a tune out of that if I tried hard enough!

HC:What types of music do you enjoy listening to when you are hanging out?
RG: Jazz, Classical and good pop rock.

HC: When you are not making music, what hobbies do you enjoy?
RG: Walking my 2 Bichons Dolly and Lola.

HC: What are some of the high and low points of your career so far?
RG: Highs – playing with some of my heroes and Lows – playing with some of my heroes.

HC: What’s different in the music industry today compared to when you first started?
RG: Technology is now so advanced.

HC: What would you do differently if you were just entering the industry today?
RG: Put my prices up!

HC: If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
RG: The people running it…..

HC: What was the first tune(s) you learned?
RG: It takes a Worried Man by Pete Seager

HC: What are your fondest musical memories? 
RG: Falling off stage at a festival and not being able to get back on again. I had to leave the festival site and go to the main entrance to get back in again!

HC: What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
RG: It would be more advice to the teachers rather than the pupils. Be sensitive and empathetic 

HC: I know you teach the guitar – do you enjoy this part of life?
RG: Yes very much!

HC: Do you have the opportunity to mentor young talent and how do you find this process?
RG: I have mentored many young players – some of whom have become famous in their own right.

HC: You also run a custom guitar workshop – tell me more about this.
RG: My guitar surgery is in Bulmer, near Sudbury and I repair, sell and build instruments to order and also hold courses on guitar building and set up.

HC: What’s the least cool thing you’ve done recently?
RG: Eaten liquorice. No really – going to the NAMM show in California, meeting up with old buddies and visiting Hollywood.

HC: What album has got you through some hard times?
RG: I’ve never needed to resort to an album to get me through hard times. Playing the guitar, on the other hand, has.

HC: What is the most irrational superstition you have?
RG: I haven’t got any.

HC: What is your main inspiration these days?
RG: I think the thrill of still being able to play for a living.

HC: Looking back on your life so far, what would you wish you had done?
RG: Nothing else – I think I’ve done it all somehow

HC: You seem to gig quite a bit so I assume you love it – do you?
RG: Of course, why wouldn’t you.

HC: What can the audience expect from the gig at The Spa Pavilion?
RG: A variety of great players and great songs ranging from the 50’s onwards.

HC: You have a knack of bringing a plethora of talented musicians to the stage for a show, how do you ‘select’ who will join you?
RG: Blackmail! Really just having a bunch of good mates who enjoy playing as much as I do.

HC: Can you give us any information on who is joining you for the show at The Spa Pavilion?
RG: Yes – amongst others Neville Marten from Marty Wilde’s band and the amazing guitar virtuoso Steve Laney, who was once my pupil. I’ve also got an amazing horn section. 


Rosy Carrick

Shrek – The Musical


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