August 22, 2011 General News

Celebrity Cafe Interviews Mctrax Artist Andy Fraser

Interview with Andy Fraser

Andy Fraser is a legendary songwriter and bass player, probably best known for his 1970s hit “All Right Now.” Fraser has been through ups, downs, bands, songs, and is passionate about what he does. His joy comes from sharing his emotions and feelings through music.’s Diana Bierman spoke with Fraser about his long journey through his career and what the star is up to now. I understand you started your career very young, playing the piano when you were five, and switching to guitar at 12. Could you tell me a bit more about your childhood and how it helped you grow as a songwriter and guitarist?

Andy Fraser: I don’t know what it was about the piano that made me so decisive, but I was very fortunate in finding my passion so early on. There was absolutely no doubt that this was what I wanted to do. And in fact, I’ve never done anything else. I never had to work at a shoe store or anything like that.

And me, being precocious, I didn’t think I needed lessons, but that was a deal I had to make with my mother, who bought me a piano. I took lessons and starting learning Beethoven and Mozart, kind of like a typist really, because I wasn’t feeling it, just reading it and transcribing it on the piano. It wasn’t until I was about 11, around the time I started secondary school, that I met other people, who played the guitar, and realized the idea of music is to sort of express yourself. So I transferred all this technique that I learned on the piano, which I am now very grateful for, onto the guitar, and feel very fortunate to know how all the notes, all the chords, and all the keys relate to each other. The bottom line is to express yourself. Tell me a little bit about your band called Free before the split in the 70s. What was that band like?

Andy Fraser: Okay, so I’ve been thrown out of school for not having my hair cut, would you believe it? Those English grammar schools look a bit like a Harry Potter school where the headmasters wear their long cloaks and they scare you – kind of like Darth Vader moving along at the end of the corridor. We were supposed to wear the green blazer and the striped tie and the cap with no hair underneath, and of course I wanted to look like the Beatles. So, they expelled me and sort of did me the biggest favor of my life because pretty soon I joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, which was like, the biggest blues band in the country at the time, and I immediately started touring.

Shortly after that, I hooked up with some guys who were looking for a bass player without success, and when I showed up, it was kind of obvious to all of us that we had something going on here. I was still precocious enough to inform them that I was the leader, which they humored me on for the next four years. Everyone was a leader in his own way in that band. We all kept each other under control. I regard them as sort of my fellow brothers and commanders, and we thought we had each other’s backs. If anyone had a weakness, it was a strength in one of the others to substitute or make up for it. And I still have a really good feeling about what we did. Being a teenager is when you learn your sense of integrity, your views on the world, and your place in it. I thought they were the best people to be influenced by at the time. I still live by the sort of code of conduct that we kind of lived by at that time. So it’s obviously been a very valuable part of my life. Tell me about the transition to the band Sharks. Why did you split after your first debut album?

Andy Fraser: That was a bit of a mistake on my part. I wanted to sing, which most people would think was silly, because they had one of the best singers in the world, and I was told I could write my own songs, which I had intended to sing. However, The Sharks were formed around me, and then somewhere along the lines, the singer appeared, and before I knew it, I realized I sort of allowed myself to drift along with this thing without taking full responsibility of what was happening and not realizing that I wasn’t supposed to be here at all.

It ended rather interestingly. On the way home from a gig, one of the guitarists, drove the shark mobile (this big, American car in England with fins and a tail) into a tree going around a roundabout at five miles an hour, and I broke my thumb. And I said they had to get another bass player because I was going to be out of commission for a while – and that was my out. And then I went on to do a couple of solo albums. It was then that I started getting into my groove as a solo artist. It’s not that I wanted to be solo so much as I sort of failed to find a substitute family, which I regarded the band Free as being, so I kind of had to learn how to stand by myself. How did you move to the Andy Fraser Band? How did that one differ from the other two?

Andy Fraser: There were 3 people. The drummer was very, very young at the time, but a very spirited, great fellow. It’s interesting, I used to lend him bus fares to get to rehearsals, and after he left that band, he went onto co-manage The Police, had great success, and later on in my career, came back to manage me, so it was a great turn around of events. The other guy in the band was a very talented keyboard player who now works for TOBI’s parents in London, and it was her who hooked me up with TOBI recently and sent me a couple of his songs. And I thought they were very talented and I was interested. And it was the beginning of my involvement with Toby getting signed with my new label McTrax. He came over in January and recorded the album Spirit In Me. He was 16 and he went back to finish school while I finished the album. He’s out again now, since June, and we’ve been on a little promo tour across Canada and the US. We started in Vancouver in early July and ended up in New York last week. It’s proven to be very successful; our single is up to No. 4 on I Heart Radio’s Top 20. So we’re feeling really good about that. TOBI being so young, but so mature artistically, is quite the unique combination. As a label, McTrax was very happy to have him signed. We have very high expectations. I understand that you left that band to head west and concentrate on song writing. What prompted that decision and was that experience like?

Andy Fraser: I’ve always needed to write. Sort of like unbearably. Songs are like a personal expression whether if it’s when you get uptight, frustrated, happy, sad, or even needs to say a prayer. That generally expresses itself through songs. So, whether someone gets to hear them or not, it’s necessary for me to do. So I just write and write, you know, and have shelves and shelves of songs. And sometimes I surprise myself. Luckily for me some very good singers and artists have wanted to do them and have had good success for them. This has allowed me not to worry about having to work in a shoe store! So that feels good. What song or album holds dearest to your heart and why?

Andy Fraser: That’s a difficult question. Each song is like your child and you can’t pick your favorite child, can you? It’s very difficult. I’d have to say my most recent, TOBI’s album, Spirit in Me, because it’s the most current. TOBI’s album mostly concentrated on recording, producing it and getting it out. It’s the freshest in my mind, probably the best sounding technologically, because it’s the most recent thing I’ve done and I’ve gotten better and better as time goes by working in the studio. So I’d have to say that one. But then of course there’s the one before that…haha, it’s hard to pick. What is one of your most memorable moments in your career?

Andy Fraser: I suppose one would have to include the Isle of Wight Festival where there were reported 750 thousand people. Hendrix was playing, The Who, Bob Dylan, Tiny Tim, would you believe it…yeah, some great artists and bands, and we had broken through. We were probably in the top 10 worldwide and were suggested to find a heavy concert. Many of these festivals, even getting in, there’s so much energy expanded getting in, getting back stage, etc. It can suck the life out of you before you even get on stage! But we went on there and we nailed it. And it turned out to be a real winner for us. Time Magazine decided to make us the front cover when they reported on the festival, and countless videos and DVDs have been released on it. So I have to say that was good. When you’re up there, you focus like you’ve never focused before. You try to match the energy that’s focused towards you. And within 15 minutes you’re drained. And you come off and you’re like staring at the wall, vegging out until you get it all under control. But it’s all in the experience. So that has to qualify as one of my most memorable experiences. Where do you get inspiration for your songwriting?

Andy Fraser: Mainly from the trials and tribulations of life: where something isn’t working, when you’re frustrated about something, when you’re just upset about something, or someone, that you need to express. For me, I’ve gone through a big coming out period, which encapsulates living most of my life of thinking I was straight, marrying a great woman, having two daughters, then realizing I was gay, and getting AIDS. Now that’s a huge amount of things I encapsulated in 20 seconds. But coming to terms with it and coming out in a public way is an enormous step. So some songs express that enormous change in my life. So, things like that count as inspiration for songs. A sort of necessity to express all that’s going on about you and getting it off your chest. Sometimes one just feels lost and is crying out in prayer. Most of us have feelings bottled up, trying to be cool and looking like we have it all together, but as a song writer, I try and sort of get inside and be honest about what’s going on, and even getting in touch with those things, like the vulnerable side, and express them. Those are things that go into songs. Stuff that comes form the heart and reaches the heart. It’s constantly getting in touch with one’s self and trying to express it honestly. I feel like that’s my job. Sometimes I get on my political soap box, for example, I was pro-Obama and wrote a song about it. So as an art, music can be used in many forums, and I like to use all of them. For me, it’s wonderful because it’s a good way of expression, earning a living and fulfilling my passion – it’s my everything. It’s brought me everything. Who is your role model or someone you look up to?

Andy Fraser: Included among them, I would definitely include Stevie Wonder. When he came out, I was so influenced by him, I wanted to be him. I wanted to be Stevie Wonder. And he’s so great, even before that happened, he was great, but that was a particular time in his life that I found influential. Marvin Gaye is a great influence, too. But people like The Who, Hendrix…John Mayer currently, they all influence me. Even people I don’t like influence me from the point of view that I don’t want to be like that. Everything I hear I try to assess it and try to see where I fit in this picture. So it’s difficult to land it down to one person. What does the future hold for you? What do you wish to still accomplish in your career?

Andy Fraser: Well, TOBI and his new album are the current thing to do along with the label, McTrax. We’re sort of using that to bring on new artists that still feel they want to use music as an art form as opposed to a means to just be famous. And, you know, I’ve got a thing about the environment. Most people in America are going through catastrophic times, and have difficulty doing anything about it. Until a substitute energy is available, we’re still stuck filling up our cars with gas, which is polluted, have air conditioning in our house, you know, we’re all to blame. Islands of plastic in the Pacific are polluting fish – I can no longer eat tuna or swordfish because it’s so full of mercury. These are things that we can’t just ignore and hope to go away. We can’t live in a state of denial. So I would love with whatever power I have, and that will come through music, to have a voice to say ‘okay people, we need to focus on this.’ I would like to focus people’s attention about why we’re all here. I want to make a change for the better. We’re all here. We all have free will; we could all be greedy or we could all be helpful. I’ve decided to try to be positive. One thing that TOBI and I have been doing over a couple of months can be seen on It entails 60 to 70 artists who have done performances of their songs and posted it for free, and the message is if you like this, why don’t you send even a couple of dollars to a charity in Japan. Those people right now are just a complete mess – their houses are in rubble, testing positive for diseases. They can’t travel and they need help. We need to help them like we’d want to be helped in the same situation.