Greg Paquette BTD Artist Interview
Written by Matt Zin on March 9, 2021
Boy do we have lot’s to talk about. I can’t wait to dig right in and talk about it all… but I need to ask my standard question that all listeners like to know… where are you from?
I was born in Boston and lived in that area and New Hampshire most of my life. But I’ve been in North Carolina for the last 15 years.
So you began playing the guitar at the age of 6, sweet! Do you still have your first guitar?
I don’t have the original, but there is the exact model at my brother in law’s house that I play when I’m there.
Do you remember what brand it was?
It was a Stella and had Mahogany neck and body, and some sort of plied yellow pine. It was made in Brazil. It was the first guitar for a million kids.
Did playing a melody come to you instantly or did you have to take lessons?
I figured it out pretty naturally and started making melodies. But my grandmother was there the first time I saw the Beatles on tv and for Christmas she paid for my guitar lessons for years starting around 6, and my mother drove me every Saturday. So the lessons came from the beginning.
What was your first tune that you could play all the way through on your guitar?
Down in the Valley
Do you remember the first song that you ever wrote?
Yes. And I still remember some of it. It was called “Have Mercy on the Land.” So I guess I was an environmentalist from around 12 or so.
So how many guitars do you have now?
I have three basses and around a dozen or so guitars. All different. I like different guitars and their various tones, and the one I play depends on what the song wants.
I know, we aren’t here to talk all about guitars but it sounds like this lovely instrument played a big part in your life. Speaking about your life, who are your life long influences. Someone had to encourage you to play music.
Well, there was the early lessons, and the encouragement by my family, but my early years were very solitary, up in my room doing scales and practicing chords, but when became a teenager I immediately fell in with a great group of musician friends and that’s when I really developed. Playing and jamming for hours every day. And we’re still close today.
In terms of musical influences, they break into two categories; writers and guitar masters. My favorite writers are Pete Townsend, The Beatles, JJ Cale, Todd Rundgren, Dylan, Ray Davies, Carol King, Jackson Brown, Paul Simon, Prince. And many more.
My guitar idols are Doc Watson, John Fahey, Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck, Lightnin Hopkins, Jimmy Page, Dwayne Allman, Mississippi John Hurt, and a bunch more.
Lets talk about your music today… in about 20 words or less, how would you describe your music?
Songs that are crafted with a love of for lyrics and stories, honoring the American Tradition, and played with a passion for guitar.
You have a new album out, “Greg Paquette – Retro Active.” What’s the story behind this rockin album?
My family rented a mountain house for a couple years in Northern California and I was up there about half the time, going back and forth a lot between NC to CA. It’s a tiny, remote mountain community with lots of cool musical friends and neighbors. I was really inspired and wrote most of the album there. I was going to record it out there and have some of the musicians out there on the album, but COVID changed all that. It was hotspot and the whole family retreated to NC. So I ended up doing all the guitars, basses and vocals.
How long did it take you to create it from beginning to end?
About 6 months. The fun part is the recording and mixing. But there’s a lot of things that come after like mastering, cover art that take time also. I worked with old friend DC Langer to do the cover, and she did an amazing job. And ole pal Michael Stern from LA Mix Labs did the mastering. He’s a great old friend and tremendous professional. He actually worked on my first single in the 80s, so that was fun, bet then there’s the legal, publishing, distribution, and obviously the publicity. But I’m learning to like that too.
What’s your most favorite song from this album and why?
If I had to pick, I would say Coming Back For More. I love duets because you get to write from two different dimensions, so there’s character development in the stew. I love invoking images from nature to create atmosphere, so there’s that. Joey Hovey’s drums are really dynamic and very subtly set a variety of different grooves. I also like the clean Gretsch tones on the main guitar, the Chet Atkins style guitar solo, and the arrangement in general.
I read that this album took a very different path, like how so?
I styled my last album from 2018, “Single Stone,” as a digitally remastered classic rock album, even though it was neither. Nobody was releasing great guitar albums and I wanted one, so I decided to make one. Most of the songs are built around guitar riffs, with the lyrics following.
With “Retro Active,” the lyrics came first and the music followed. And I wanted 10 very different songs to make up a voyage; a total listening experience, like they way when I was a kid. I wanted to bring my love of different genres together.
Think back to when you were creating this album, if I was a fly on the wall… how many hours would I have spent in the studio listening to retakes and dub overs. Be kind to the fly. LOL
Not many overdubs. I like getting real performances, not pieced together stuff. I was ready when Chris hit the record button. There were a couple of solos where he just said play “just along and have some fun with this” and I thought he was just getting tones, but he hit the record button and those solos were light hearted and fun. The bass goes down fast. Usually 1 take. Guitars usually take longer get the tone than it does to record it. Which guitar? Which amp? Which pickup combo? etc.. But I don’t take long to burn tracks. Mixing takes way longer.
I see your son, Chris, produced the album, nice. Great to have some local help, right? How did all that come about anyway?
When COVID hit, he came back from CA, where he’d been for years producing hip hop artists and selling beats. When we put the two studios together, I just asked him if he’d produce me and he was excited. He’d heard me cooking up the songs and had definite ideas about how to produce them. He also has a great reverence for guitars and tones and took a purer approach that I would have. He did a great mix, and I said very little in that process.
Did your son also help with the other album?
He was living in LA when I produce that, but he played guitar on one track.
Could you give us the scoop on your 2018 album “Single Stone?”
It was more of a collaboration. Joey Hovey did drums and engineered, and Jake Miracle did vocals. They had a lot of say in choosing and arranging songs. They are both pretty high energy guys and that came across. It has a band quality, whereas Retro Active is a solo songwriter album.
How has COVID changed things in your music world?
I had a few nice gigs cancelled, changed my album production, fortunately for the better, but I lost my Hippie Gypsy lifestyle. I had been living on two coasts and loving it. But that’s all over, and I can’t complain. Things are really okay for me, and a lot worse for others.
What other projects to you have coming up that you can tell us about?
I wrote a musical play some years back called “The World in Blue.” I put it on the back burner but included 4 songs on each of the two albums, but I never tried to get it produced. So I’m pulling it together and will have it presented to theater groups to get it staged.
I’m also writing my next album and planning the production. I have a lot of supremely talented friends that I am collaborating with, and am roping in a few more. I’m excited about that too. I really crave playing with other musicians. Musically, I’ve been pretty self-centric in the past few years, and that’s not natural to me.
Well Greg, I told you I had lot’s of questions, I could probably go on and on, but I will stop here. Could you tell our listeners where they can find your music?
Both albums are available on iTunes, Amazon and all of the major digital music outlets.
Thanks for your time!
T Dawn and the BTD Radio Staff