Though Greenville native Rickey Godfrey has always had an ear for the blues, he’s never really been a blues musician. The pianist, guitar player and band leader has spent his career infusing his unique, souful style into bands that extend well beyond the genre.
With the release of his new solo album, “Nasty Man,” Godfrey has decided to return to his roots and go full force into the music he loves.
“People always said to me ‘Rickey your strong suit is that your were born and raised a blues musician’ and so I finally went out and made as close to a pure Blues album as I could,” he says.
Godfrey will make multiple appearances in the area this weekend to celebrate the release of the album and take part in the Carolina Beach Music Awards weekend. ListenUp spoke with Godfrey recently to discuss the album, the blues and where he fit into the beach music crowd:
How did the new album come together and why did you decide to make it a blues record?
The time seemed to be right to do it and I sat down and wrote 10 of the 12 songs that are pretty much squarely in the blues genre. And as I did it I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just 10 or 12 songs that we the typical “oh my woman left me and now I got the blues” style. So I tried to do something with a little twist, and I think several songs on the record are story songs that fit that.
It’s been a long time coming this album. I started it in Feburary and left it alone fro awhile before picking it back up in July and putting in some 14-16 hour days there for awhile. Then, when it was all finished it was kinda a let down because now I’m having to gear into becoming a promoter and learning now about all the tools to do that nowadays.
Ten or 15 years ago, there weren’t so many options when you try to market your own product, but now with all the social networking tools and things there’s a lot of different way to do it.
How has living in Nashville all these years shaped your career and your sound as a musician?
One thing you find out, is that no matter how great a musician is they still have the same hopes and dreams. Just because your successful, doesn’t mean you’re music is better than someone else’s it more just a matter of having a bit of luck and seizing the opportunity.
If anything living here teaches you is that it probably comes down to who you know instead of what you know. And the skill level for musicians here is higher and your networking is quite often going to be the thing that gets you noticed.
For me I think it’s helped me become more punctual and better organized about the business life, because if you want to take advantage of these opportunities you have to do that.
You’ve played with a lot of amazing musicians in your career. Are there any particular groups or performances that stick out as they highlight for you?
The most important single day in my life was in 2002, at the Hilton in Las Vegas for an event called EATM (Emerging Artists & Technology in Music).
Sam Moore from Sam & Dave was there and I was on stage with Billy Preston on keyboard, Gary from The Box Tops on bass and on drums was Narada Michael Walton and I was on another keyboard.
[Walton] came over and gave me his drumstick and said that he just wanted to let me know my music meant something. And he’s this huge producer with all these great record, he wrote the score for “The Bodyguard” and did all this with Whitney Houston and I think that at some point in 1986 he more hit records than anyone in history.
I was just out there doing my job and when your so busy like that you forget to be nervous, but it was just kinda a moment that let me know there’s not really that big of a gap between obscurity and total fame.
It’s a bit of luck and being in right place at right time. I’m not a household name by any means, but I’ve been given the opportunity to be around some folks that were, and what it taught me is that it’s not as much about being talented and as it is about being nice and treating folks right.
They say nice guys finish last but they stay longer when they get there. It’s an example that I’m always going to keep in mind and hopefully no matter what I do I’ll always be accessible to people who want to talk with me or fans who enjoy the music.
Catch him live
Thursday | 5 to 9 p.m, CD release party at Boom Boom’s Raw Bar on 13th Avenue N. in North Myrtle Beach.
Saturday | 7 to 10 p.m., Papa’s Pizza Wings & Things in Little River
Sunday | 9 a.m. to noon, Godfrey will appear at the CBMA band fair at O.D. Beach & Golf Resort.
I had my own band for several years and from about 2002 to 2008 we were doing the Rickey Godfrey Band. As far as being in the spotlight, I felt like it was about the same comfort-wise for me.
But I’ll tell you what, being a band leader, there’s a whole lot more to worry about and more responsibilities and in some ways that makes it more stressful. With that, you don have any time to reflect beacuse there’s always a new challenge.
But it’s nice to know that I can make things happen as a band leader.
You have a very distinct style of playing guitar, was that something you worked hard to develop or did it just come naturally to you?
For me it came naturally. It was something where I was probably honing it when I didn’t even know it. But when you love it that much it doesn’t feel like work.
I’d say my guitar style is a cross between Django Reinhardt and Johnny Winter and in my music there’s also an emphasis on the vocals. But right now what I’m really trying to do is get the website and business aspect of it down and trying to make the Blues.
That’s actually one thing I learned from the whole beach music experience is how to market. You gotta be extroverted and out there showing your face at get togethers and constantly exposing yourself, not just sitting home waiting for phone to ring.
How did you get involved with playing Beach music?
In Greenville, growing up in the 60s and 70s, they didn’t call it beach music it was just soul music being made by folks like The Tams and the Chairmen of the Board which later became beach.
I started working with Clifford Curry and in 2001 and he wanted us to do a record at Bradley House, and they said to come out and sing with the new incarnation of a band called The Sugarbees and I told him that’s OK, but there was some songs I wanted to sing.
He said “OK, as long as you can shag to them,” and next thing I knew I was in Beach music. I met Bobby Simmons and from 2002 to end of 2007 we had the Rickey Godfrey Band whic played Beach music.
Up until that point I hadn’t really taken it seriously — I always considered myself a soul and R&B artist never really considered myself a beach music artist. But I come at it from a different point of view than most.
Tell me a little about the CMBA’s, as a past winner, what did getting that sort of recognition mean to you?
Well it was really flattering for me and just let me know that people cared about what I was doing, and that’s something that’s nice and that makes anybody feel great.
For me, I though that getting some awards might have led to more work for me in beach music, but it didn’t necessarily happen that way. There are artists in the genre like Band of Oz, the Embers and the Shakers that have been doing it 30-35 years.
For me, I can’t imagine staying in that niche for that long, but I can do what those folks like. I think to be accepted as a full-fledged member of the beach music community it seems like you really have to be at it for quite some time.
In your opinion, what is the difference between Blues music and Beach music?
The blues and other musical art forms, it’s very much about the lyrics and musicianship, that's what sets blues apart from the beach, it’s about “How good can he play?” and “How good are these songs?”
Beach music is more about the shag than it is about the music. You could even see country artists out there that if the play with certain rhythms can be considered beach because you can shag to it.
At Blues festival it may be 10 bands all playing different songs, whereas at a Beach festival chances are that all 10 of those bands are all going to play the same three songs “Miss Grace,” “Summertime is Calling” and “Carolina Girls.”
What do you think about the future of beach music?
When I first got into it, my thought was that people would adapt to the newer beach music, but from being there in the last several years I’m not sure.
It almost seems like there’s no respect for anything over three years old and under 35 years old. It’s like when something gets a little older its almost like its forgotten unless its a classic.
When you go to these festivals, they keep playing stuff that’s 35 to 50 years old, and its a huge gap that may keep some folks from accepting the music as a whole. You see that SOS crowd gradually get smaller and smaller each year and I think that what makes music live on is people paying attention to the music and not just the scene.
Although its a very unique culture I think it’s going to slowly die out simply because there’s not enough acceptance of the newer stuff and it’s not about the musicians.
What can folks expect from you this weekend?
Well, I’m gonna be ready. I’m very excited about the new CD, and that will be reflected in what I sing and play.
There’s a lot of really cool songs that I’m ready to share, and expect that I’m gonna be showing off on the guitar and singing and cutting up a bit. They’re going to see a happy guy doing what he loves to do 110 percent — and not just your average boring blues, its blues with and edge.
For more on Rickey Godfrey check out his blog or hear the full “Nasty Man” album at Facebook orMyspace. His album will also be sold online at CDBaby.