An Interview With Legendary Musician George Marinelli

You might not immediately recognize his name, but George Marinelli is one of rock and roll’s most talented and established musicians. With a career spanning more than four decades, Marinelli is best known as Bonnie Raitt’s longtime guitarist and band mate. He is also an original member of Bruce Hornsby and The Range, and has worked as a session musician, producer, or engineer for revered artists including Vince Gill, Art Garfunkel, Dixie Chicks and Joe Ely. 

George Marinelli has just released his third album, “Believe”, and his keen musicianship is on prominent display throughout the album. He played every instrument on the recording; contributing vocals, guitar, bass, keys, drums, mandolin, and percussion. From studio work to graphic design, the multi-talented artist handled all aspects of the project. Fans will enjoy an exciting blend of musical influences, running the gamut from roots to world to R&B.

George Marinelli is currently performing on Bonnie Raitt’s Slipstream tour until the end of 2013. He spoke to me during a break from the intense tour schedule.

KR:  You produced your new album “Believe.” What other projects have you produced?
GM:  I produced my previous cd, "Necessary Evil", and EP "Postcard from Kuala Lumpur". I’ve produced projects by a dozen or so other artists and I plan on producing more in the future.

KR:  How would you describe your musical style(s)?
GM:  I'd have to say my taste is pretty eclectic, running from rootsy to world to R&B, etc. I tend to get bored doing any one type of music, so I write in as many styles as possible while trying to maintain a consistent and genuine sound.

KR:  Where did you record the album?
GM:  "Believe" was recorded at my home studio, WingDing. I've done all of my projects there. It’s a pretty small, simple, and comfortable setup. My studio's motto is "WingDing Studio, where some of the gear works some of the time."

KR:  How many different instruments did you play for the album?
GM:  I actually played all the instruments (guitar, bass, keys, drums, mandolin, and percussion) on the album, and I did all of the vocals. I even did the album graphics. I enjoy all the aspects of it, and if I can keep the spontaneity and spark, I'm happy to do it like that. I don't always plan to "record an album”. I just write songs, one at a time, over a long period and then look at how many I've come up with when I feel it's time for an album. Most of the time, I find I’ve done it all alone. That was the case with "Believe”.

KR:  Can you give us some technical details on the production?
GM:  I use Protools 7.4, but I don’t use many tracks. I doubt anything on this album even hit 20 tracks. A couple of songs have a few mics on the drums. I did program drums on two songs. I mix in the box.  There’s nothing real special about my recording technique. If anything, it's pretty lo-tech and lo-fi. No super-expensive gear. It's what you play that people hear. If they like it, they accept it, and that's good. If they don't like it, they don't accept it, and that's bad.

KR:  When did you write these songs?
GM:  Some were finished at the beginning of 2012, right before the current (Bonnie Raitt) tour started, and some go back a few years.

KR:  How do you approach songwriting?
GM:  It varies. Usually when I'm writing alone, it's me and a guitar. On a rare occasion, it's the keyboard. I'll come up with a musical bit, and then proceed. I wrote about half the new album with a terrific lyricist named Rich Wayland. He's really flexible and can come up with great words after I dump music on him. He comes up with some terrific lyrics before we even have a note and he's a good piano and melody guy. There’s a lot of give and take and we don't pour over things for too long, which I enjoy. 

KR:  And tell us about your other co-writer, Jodi Siegel?
GM:  Jodi and I haven't yet met in person. She found me on MySpace a few years back, sent me her cd which I really dug, and then sent me some lyrics via email. We spoke on the phone, too. She actually lives close to where I used to live in LA but we'd never crossed paths. 

KR:  Can you give us the inspiration behind some of your favorite songs on the album?
GM:  "Believe"- When I wrote this, there were two couples who were really close friends of mine. They were both struggling with their relationships. One couple survived, and the other didn't. I tried to put myself in the position of a person trying to reach out for a little faith and trust from the other.

"Love Can Be Like That", written with Rich Wayland, is one of my favorites. It’s about thinking you're over someone when you're really not.

"Taller than Yesterday"is about not taking the easier path and not accepting repetition as success.  It’s about trying to improve who you are and what you do every day.

"State Lines”, written with Jodi Siegel is a bit cryptic, which I find kind of charming. And we both wanted it to be in that Afro-Pop style, which I really love.

"Tokens of a Broken Love”,another one of my favorites and was also written with Rich Wayland. I think his lyrics on this one are a gem. We came up with a nice, slightly Latin feel on it. What gives it a neat sound is that there isn't one guitar that's in normal or standard tuning. All of the guitars are high string, excepting one baritone.

KR:  You are in the middle of a huge tour with Bonnie Raitt. How long have you performed with her?
GM:  I first played on Bonnie's "Longing in Their Hearts" album back in '93. I’ve been with her since then, excluding a couple of years in the late 90’s. It's such a terrific gig for me because of the variety and depth of material, and everyone is extended family after all these years. We’re friends first, which is pretty rare.

KR:  You are really an exceptional guitar player. When did you first start playing?
GM:  I got my first guitar at age 15 and took two lessons. The teacher was a nice cat who was trying to teach me to read music, but I was faking it and playing it by ear. I lasted two weeks. The rest is self-taught.

KR:  Who were / are some of your influences?
GM:  As most in my age group, I was influenced by The Beatles, The Stones, Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, R&B, etc. But even at a young age, I was more drawn to songs and good writers. I've always been pretty open-minded about music, and never stuck to one genre. Like I said earlier, I bore easily. I am turned on by any really good music with depth and style.

KR:  What music are you listening to that you would like to turn others on to?
GM:  I often try to turn younger players on to Brazilian music.  If you go back to the 60’s and 70’s music of Brazil, there's a lot of cool stuff you can learn from and incorporate into anything you're doing. There's tons of great stuff from all over the world.  With the internet, it's not that hard to search around and get re-ignited.

KR:  What is your favorite guitar(s) these days?
GM:  I've always favored Fender Strats and Teles.

KR:  Tell us about other gear you use.
GM:  I’ve been using Roland Boss GT multi-effects pedals pretty exclusively since 1999. In the studio I use a Dr. Z Maz Jr, an old brown-face Fender Bandmaster, a couple of little Fender Pro Jrs from the early '90s. On this particular tour with Bonnie, I'm using a couple of the new Ampeg line, the GTV15-112 with a couple of 12" ext cabs, also Ampeg. Nice little 15 watt amps.

KR:  What is one thing that people don’t know about you that might surprise them?
GM:  Well, if they don't know by now, I'm nuts about NFL football! 

"Believe" is available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby

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Tags: Believe, George, Interview, Legendary, Marinelli, Musician, album, guitar, legendary, player, More…with

Comment by Jack Kidd on November 16, 2012 at 9:45am

Very interesting Katherine, many thanks for an informative interview. I didn't realise that he had recorded himself. I've seen him with Bonnie about 3 times in the past 10 years and have my tickets for their visit to the UK, June 2013 (can't wait). I'll now try and listen to "Believe". 

Comment by Katharine Richardson on November 16, 2012 at 1:36pm

Thanks for the kind words Jack!   I just saw the sold-out show here at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and it was outstanding!  This tour is amazing.  Looking forward to hearing what you think about George's solo album.

Comment by john mobley on August 30, 2013 at 5:57am
George is awesome in concert (seen him many times with Bonnie Raitt and also with Bruce Hornsby and the Range). He's also great in the studio, a real technician and very collaborative and creative. He's giving my current project a little help in guitar and mandolin, and it's a real joy to work closely with this musical genius!


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.