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Greg Nagy: Our Time Has Come

By Published: October 15, 2008
AAJ: One of the truly remarkable things regarding Root Doctor's sound is the way each member of the band contributes to the total sound without any one member usurping the others efforts, without any one member stepping on the others lines or showboating. This is truly the sign of team work. Can you describe Root Doctor's practice sessions?

GN: What's practice? We rarely rehearse unless we have a recording session coming up, or if we wish to add something new that is involved with vocal harmonies. Our sound? No egos and big ears. We really feed off of each other, and truly listen. Many bands try to out-volume each other. We are kind of figuratively dancing, reflecting, supporting, and cooperating up there, when it is going right. Steve over at Chord On Blues in Chicago seemed really taken with us. He said, "You guys are a real band." We pride ourselves in that.

AAJ: Another thing is the remarkable harmonies you guys share on these tracks. Was an ability to sing and sing in harmony with the other members of the band a pre-requisite, as each new member entered the band?

GN: The first guitarist didn't sing at all. The second, Steve Frarey, brought a developed sense of harmony and some strong vocal ability to the table. I think that is when things started to move in that direction. I believe they thought it was a bonus when I came in as a vocalist and guitarist.

AAJ: How long had Root Doctor played together before the band achieved the sound it has today? Do the individual personalities of Root Doctor mesh as well when not playing?

GN: It has been reported by a few that, before I joined the band, it was more of a bar band. Nothing wrong with that at all, but when I came in and insisted on recording and writing original material, things started to change. I think the recording process got everyone listening harder to each other. Writing built some confidence. As co-producer and one of the principal writers for the two records, I have to say that I am very proud of my fellow musicians and friends.

AAJ: Jim Alfredson, your organist, has contributed a large number of tracks to both albums. How does he introduce a new song, or are they in fact a group effort?

GN: Jim brought three songs, two on one album, one on the other, in from the outside. Great tunes. He is a talented cat on so many levels. He and I co-wrote several between the two. Each song is really different. The songs I have writing credit on I pretty did the lyrics and most if not all of the melody. Jim and I often go back and forth on arrangements. We come from different backgrounds as I am more deeply steeped in the blues, and he has his jazz thing. But we work so well together that we compromise out a nice blend of influence. He has also become one of my dearest friends ever.

Oh, also, when somebody suggests a line that really takes the song up a notch, they get writing credit with this group. Fred is a master of melody and he can really tweak my concepts too. So, in many ways this is a team effort. James and Rick lay a solid bed for all of these ideas to develop.

AAJ: How are the tracks Root Doctor will perform chosen for the CD? For performance?

GN: If they sound good on the gig, they will likely make it on the record. Though, I will say with this last record there were some songs that were musical moments created in the studio." Lucky One," "Change Our Ways" and "Wish It Would Rain" were never performed before, I think there were a few others too.

AAJ: Whose idea was it to bring the strings in on "Wish it Would Rain," the closing track of Change Our Ways? It's an incredibly emotionally charged track, and the strings really add to it. Who does the string work on this track?

Greg Nagy / Root DoctorGN: Jim said Fred wanted to do the tune first off. So I told him, it has to have that vibe Mississippi blues had on the last one. Slow, sparse, etc...Nice break in the programming of the material. I was thinking that it would get placed in the middle of the record. Also thought it would be not as creative to try to mimic The Temps. After all, they did so dang well with it!

Anyhow, at the time I was listening to a lot of Holmes Brothers stuff. I told Jimmy that we should make it a slow dirge, gospel number and I was hearing maybe an upright bass. Jim got hugely inspired when he sat down at the piano as it reminded him of his mom who passed away from cancer just a few years ago. I believe they had a very similar sounding church piano in their farm house in Mason.

Anyhow, that was the one song that I was not present for...not sure what happened, but it was, in my opinion, one of those musical moments you can wait a lifetime for trying to create.

When Jim emailed me the track, I cried. It floored me, I'll admit it. Jim had the middle set up for some kind of solo, and then he created that wonderful counter-melody. Glenn, Jim, and I all tweaked it a bit, but honestly the heart and solo of that number is all Jim and Fred. Glenn said he had goose bumps while tracking that. And he has over 500 albums credits to his name, so I think that is saying something.

The string players are local musicians to Flint and Lansing. I believe they play in the Flint Symphony. I was there for the tracking of the strings. That was awesome.

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