We caught up with George Winston (www.georgewinston.com / www.dancingcat.com ) via email, as he is on the road. George’s album Autumn came out in 1980 and literally changed the face of instrumental music. He doesn’t call his music New Age as he explains in the interview, but his music truly spawned a whole generation of people who played and composed differently once they heard the music of George Winston. I put together eleven questions for him and he graciously answered them all. I tried to download a picture from his website, but you need a password and a user name. So as soon as they get back to me with that info, I will get his photo up here. And you can always go to his very informative website. In the meantime, here’s the interview:
George, the apocryphal story is that you had played some guitar for Will Ackerman in an effort to get him to record you as a guitarist. At some point, you sat down at the piano and began to play freeform. Wil allegedly laid down under the piano while you played and at some point said, “hey, I would put out an album of this kind of music.” So how true is that? What really happened?
I WAS CORRESPONDING WITH WILL ABOUT SOME GUITARISTS I WANTED TO SEE RECORDED---HE WAS PLAYING IN LA WHEN I WAS LIVING THERE----HIS PLACE TO STAY FELL THROUGH AND HE STAYED AT MY HOUSE------I PLAYED HIM SOME GUITAR FOR FUN, AND THEN SOME PIANO (NOT LAYING UNDER THE PIANO---IT WAS A SPINET)------HE THEN SAID THAT IF I EVER WANTED TO MAKE A RECORD TO LET HIM KNOW, AND KEPT URGING ME OF A YEAR OR YEAR AND A HALF. I FINALLY HAD THE AUTUMN ALBUM READY
You started a genre of music which evidently didn’t exist before you recorded it. How did this music come about?
THAT WHOLE THING IS A MISNOMER AND I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT-----I PUT TOGETHER THE MELODIC STYLE IN 1971 WHEN I HAD SWITCHED FROM ORGAN TO PIANO (INSPIRED BY FATS WALLER, AND WAS WORKING ON STRIDE PIANO ALSO) AND ALWAYS CALLED IT “FOLK PIANO”, AND HAVE BEEN PLAYING IT SINCE---THAT IT WHAT IT IS CALLED---NOT THE OTHER NAMES-----I JUST PLAY
Is this extemporaneously composed or do you work these things out? Or to put it another way, are you an improvisateur or a composer? ( and there is no judgement call here, just technique)
WHILE PRACTICING, I COMPOSE SOMETHING OCCASIONALLY ONCE OR TWICE A YEAR THAT SEEMS TO WORK AND STAY AROUND---MY TEMPERMENT IS AS AN INTERPRETER OF OTHER COMPOSERS’ SONGS
Perhaps you could give us an idea of how you put your music together?
JUST HAPPENS OCCASIONALLY—SEE ABOVE
What kind of music do you gather your inspiration from?
MAINLY NORTH AMERICAN---CAJUN, HAWAIIAN, ANYTHING FROM THE 1920S--------BUT CAN BE OTHER PLACES AS WELL---CHANGES ALL THE TIME
What artists make you want to create?
ESPECIALLY NEW ORLEANS PIANIST HENRY BUTLER—AND SEE ABOVR
What artists do you listen to for the joy of it?
WHOVER I AM LISTENING TO LOOKING FOR SONGS---CHANGES ALL THE TIME
Do you practice every day? If so, what is the routine?
DREPENDS ON SCHEDULE
When you record, how involved in the process are you? Do you choose the engineer, the mic’s, the studio, the piano?
ENGINEER AND PIANO
If you could do something else with your music, go someplace else, is there another genre that you would be interested in tackling? I mean, a concerto, a musical, big band? Is there anything else you’d like to do with music?
NO—JUST SOLO INSTRUMENTAL---THE 5 SHOWS I PLAY-----SOLO PIANO (SUMMER SHOW AND WINTER SHOW), SOLO GUITAR, SOLO HARMONICA, AND SOLO PIANO DANCE (WITH R&B AND SLOW DANCE SONGS)
Finally, are there any helpful hints you want to give to the up and coming?
I WOULD SAY TO LEARN CHORDS AND MUSIC THEORY