Is there a formula for fame and fortune that a talented singer can study and utilize to achieve these results? Why are some bands and/or singers successful and others are not? Is it talent, a certain look or is there an intangible element that is far below the surface and beyond our grasp to understand? I had an opportunity to examine these issues and others with singer, songwriter and composer, Bray Gurnari right before one of his performances with cover band, Duran Duran Duran in San Mateo, California.
I initially met Bray Gurnari through guitarist and friend, Bobby Cannon whom had invited me to view his cover band, “Duran Duran Duran” at a venue in Pacifica, California. My thoughts on his band were published in an earlier review and interview with Bobby’s band mates before that particular show and it can be read again at the link below this article. Initially meeting Bray, I immediately noticed he had the classic appearance of an “alternative” rocker with his impossibly perfect hair, his classically gaunt rocker build and his movie star good looks. Beyond his very handsome appearance, I noticed he had that difficult to obtain quality known as charisma. His stage moves, wonderfully irreverant facial gestures and powerful vocals also contributed to what I perceived to be that most rare of occurances to witness-a future superstar being born in front of my very eyes! I decided to chronicle the band and Gurnari’s performances when I could to continue to witness the growth of the band and Bray Gurnari.
I decided to finally interview him and publish the interview before his solo appearance promoting his single and video release, “Clone Me” which will debut at the “Rockit Room” in San Francisco, California on November 5, 2011. Interviewing a singer is a sometimes tricky task because some singers truly do not have anything to share beyond what you see on stage. Bray Gurnari had no such problem and his impressive intellectual nature proved to be incredibly refreshing contributing to my painful task of how to contain all that he had said to this article without sacrificing too much of his bantor.
Bray begins, “I grew up loving my parents number one and my brother, Adam. I grew up admiring a childhood best friend, musician Quincy Ramone who was into that Funk, R & B kind of thing. In high school I started bands and performed a little. I then got into some more experimental stuff with turntable maestro, Malcom Marshall who is really an amazing D.J. and songwriter. We had a band called 13 for five years”. Bray continues with an amusing grin on his face, “that was in ’93 and I have been at this for a while! Music is like a bad rash for me”.
Musicians will inevitably be influenced by other musicians and this fact also applies to Bray Gurnari. “There is something magical about a memorable melody. Something that you immediately love! I always liked David Bowie. I have been drawing and painting all my life and have always liked artists that are strong on visuals like Prince. Lest he be accused of just being influenced by performers from the past, Gurnari adds, “I like The Hives, Block Party, Lil’ Wayne and Ryuichi Sakamoto”.
The conversation veers into a surprising direction on the mention of film composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto. Bray Gurnari continues, “one of the things I like about Sakamoto is his delicate stuff like this movie he did called High Heels and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. The score for Mr. Lawrence involved David Sylvian who is another favorite of mine who influenced Duran/Duran when Sylvian was a member of the group, Japan. That group in turn influenced Bowie who was also on the score for Mr. Lawrence”!
As the interview continued, I was continually amazed and impressed by Mr. Gurnari’s vast knowledge of music and how there exists an amazing amount of dots that can be connected to form a coherent picture which tied into Bray’s visual comments. “Because of the visual and audio sound marriage is so important in film, I decided to take film score composition in college. In fact it would be one of my life long dreams to compose a score for a movie! I would totally immerse myself like a marathon runner”.
A fair amount of musicians have gained fame in other parts of the world quicker than in the United States. The fact that Gurnari is very well known and loved in Europe speaks well of that continent and ill of ours. “I have to say it has been better for us over there! I have to say I am a bit of a Europhile. I would say they are more appreciative of the art and texture of my music”. Bray adds this intruiging comment, “I think we(in the United States) are a little bit spoiled with so much influx and stimuli. I think they appreciate more, in fact they just savor and chew their food more for instance”.
Bray Gurnari’s amazingly eclectic amount of interest have been slow cooked for a good portion of his life, so the question begs to be asked-how would Bray classify his own music? Gurnari responds, “I do have a title for my music and that involves Pop for sure. I do like this title that a German journalist came up with and that is Hot Love Rock Action! Bray continues with the notion of classification, “it is hard to classify music. If you say Art Rock, people will say King Crimson! If you say Pop Rock, people will say the singer, Pink! In a way it is nice because perhaps I am doing something a little different, but then again it may be difficult to market it”.
As a performer on the stage, Bray demonstrates a quiet confidence that instantly connects with the audience. He exudes a playful charm that goes far beyond his matinee idol appearance. His timing is impeccable and his sense of humor is genuinely entertaining. Above all of these remarkable traits is his incredible command of assured musical vocal delivery. He has all the proper genetic material that should guarantee his place as singer that could easily sell out a Wembley style venue. Bray Gurnari is a singer that many will be saying to many of the friends, “I was there when Bray. . . . . ” Stay tuned and be sure to jump on this train before it has left the station!