Greg Dayton: I’m very proud of the whole album and I feel it represents a broad scope of what I do

By Zac DelVecchio
Photos by Kristina Zaidner

Sailing for the Sun is the second solo album by singer/songwriter Greg Dayton, produced and mixed by Adrian Harpham, and mastered by Greg Calbi in New York City. The versatile guitarist was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame shortly after the release of his debut solo album, Lonesome Road in 2016. He began work on the new album in January of 2018, taking his time to create a full album in the old school vinyl style.
While Dayton’s music has strong blues influences, his songs draw upon a much wider range of styles in the spirit of the great songwriters of classic rock, folk, and soul. The 12 songs on Sailing for the Sun are full of contagious grooves with intricately detailed arrangements from hard-hitting and funky to acoustic and intimate, all united by Dayton’s honest voice, hook-filled lyricism, soulful guitar layering and a powerful rhythm section led by Adrian Harpham’s creative drumming. Covering a broad musical landscape, the new album features Dayton’s present band which has been his regular lineup since 2016, with special guests on horns and vocals.

Greg will celebrate the release of Sailing for the Sun with his full band in New York City, Sunday, March 8th, 2020 at 8:00 pm at:
The Triad Theater located at:
158 West 72nd Street
Between Broadway and Columbus

Greg recently took some time out of his busy schedule to shed some insight on his latest album and here is what he had to say.

Guitar Connoisseur: What was your tonal inspiration for this album?

Greg Dayton: As far as tone, there were different goals for different tunes. I had several guitar layers, instruments, and arrangements in mind, as well as my band. I don’t use many pedals. When I decided to bring in producer/engineer Adrian Harpham (also my drummer and friend) to do the album, I realized that letting go and allowing other ears more sophisticated than my own to take the helm was liberating and expansive. The important ingredient was always the sound and the vibe of each song. His tonal landscape was another world. He loved the open tunings I was using. I just went with what he was hearing and it was a blast. He chose the songs we used out of an extensive list…some were old, some brand new. He turned me on to everything from old Lee Dorsey with the Meters to Radiohead. He was always inventive about choosing sounds using cool plug-ins, etc. that I never would have thought of. He knew I wanted to print it in Vinyl so we went for a true album sound.

GC: How do you feel about the ever-changing NY music scene?

Greg Dayton: Honestly, I grew up in Massachusetts and lived in Spain for most of the ’90s before coming here so I never really knew the old NYC scene nor was I part of it. However, I love the fact that any night of the week you can catch amazing world-class cats in small clubs here (even though most nights I don’t take advantage of it). I also love living near the Beacon Theater which is one of my favorite venues ever to see music and high on my bucket list to play at. I do wish there were more Blues clubs and more of a singer-songwriter community. What is beautiful about this place is that every performance you see is usually extraordinary and sends you home to practice! I also love it that there are so many amazing musicians to work with who are so truly dedicated to quality.

GC: What were your main instruments and pivotal gear used on this album?

GD: I’m not a gear head, so to speak. I do like using different types of guitars, though. There was a great variety of instruments on the album. We started with an old Yamaha 6-string acoustic Adrian has in his studio for the demos and kept it for many of the songs. That was interesting for me as I am so bonded with my Martin HD-28 which I bought in 1986. We weren’t going for a folk tone really so the Yamaha had more slap to it. I have a great Taylor 12-string which doubles the parts on many tracks and gives it a Jimmy Page layering effect we were looking for. A National Triolian resonator also doubles some tracks and plays a few slide licks here and there. It has a sweet, and haunting sound. That was a gift from my dad a few years ago. The electric tracks are mostly my Strat ’57 re-issue with a Warmoth neck (the original neck was twisted in a weird way). We used my Fender Blues Junior amp cranked up sometimes with my Fulltone ” Full-Drive 2″ pedal and a standard Cry Baby wah pedal, with the occasional use of a Boss Tremolo pedal. The electric slide parts on two songs are with my Gibson SG (it has ETune robotic tuner) matched with the same effects and amp. We tracked all the drums in a cool studio in Philly (Kawari Sound) and while doing so I tracked “Together Again” on a ’58 Martin and the “High on the Rain” solos with a bizarre pink “Frankenstein” strat through a Princeton amp.
The Martin HD-28 only appears on “Out of Your Element,” the live instrumental duet with Max Rifkin in open C tuning on the National resonator…and Adrian threw some beautiful, subtle reverse flange on us in the post-production.

GC: What track are you particularly proud of?

GD: I’m very proud of the whole album and I feel it represents a broad scope of what I do. It took us two years to make and we made sure we got what we wanted. Each tune was a journey. Song-wise “Sailing for the Sun” and “Catch Me Cryin'” Guitar-wise it would be “Out of Your Element” (acoustic and recorded live in my apartment), “Wish I Could Tell You” (slow blues with killer horns arranged by Steve Bernstein where Adrian made me get angry on the solo), and “Catch Me Cryin,'” with Anson Jones’s ethereal vocal floating throughout. I also just love “Cold Wind Blows” for the funky vibe, with Steve’s horns and Clayton Bryant’s vocal arrangements with Towera Smith and Nia Drummond. It picks me up every time I hear it. The opener “Change Your Ways” was our first experiment working together and I love it. It’s gritty, and the middle section is really trippy.

GC: What’s your next musical direction?

GD: I’m still writing always and many songs didn’t make the album that could come out on the next. I would like to do a live album since many of these songs are always a great vehicle to stretch out as a band. Many of the songs on my first album “Lonesome Road” are different beasts now live, with great energy so it would be fun to catch that. I also would like to do an album that’s more acoustic and intimate and have lots of tunes for that on piano and guitar. I’ll be ready to get to work on a new album soon…it’s addictive.

GC: What is your favorite part of the process?

GD: I love all the musical challenges of the recording process. I love writing the songs, figuring out parts and bringing together the incredible artists and friends I work with who each heightens the intensity of the songs beyond where I could have imagined. The songs grow and reveal themselves in the process which is the coolest. The editing is tough going for me but I still like to be involved in and witness every step.
On this album my favorite part was having such a great producer, knowing that he would do whatever it took to get an overall sound that moved us and that we could be proud of. Adrian did an amazing job of capturing the true personality of every musician involved in the recordings. Having Steve Bernstein (Levon Helm Band, Little Feat) do the horn arrangements were a bit of a dream come true as I had never had horns on my stuff before.
Having the legendary Greg Calbi at Sterling do the mastering was like a fine glass of champagne to celebrate a long journey on a musical sonic spaceship.

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