This Australian artist with a deep musical background has seen and done a lot in his career and still going strong to this day! Goes to show that you can’t keep a good thing or good man down and Rhett May is here to stay! Still making great records and pushing himself and the music further is what drives the Rhett May engine. With a new album in the works called ‘Fast Cars and Sitars’, Rhett May has a BIG surprise in store for listeners/fans everywhere, so stay tuned!
J Rae: So Rhett, we’ve worked together numerous times over the years with the first being a review I did back in 2009 for Skope on your EP ‘Calcutta Boy’ (http://skopemag.com/2009/01/12/rhett-may-calcutta-boy). And the latest was last year when I reviewed your EP ‘Insatiable’ (http://skopemag.com/2013/07/03/rhett-may-insatiable) so as always great to be working with you again! I guess my first question would simply be what have you been up since then?
Rhett May: Yep…good to chat again Jimmy….it’s been awhile. Apart from writing and recording I’ve been pretty busy enjoying life living by the beach in Black Rock Australia….just relaxing and having a ball!!
J Rae: One of your recent singles off of the EP ‘Insatiable’ is called “Jenny” and I have to say that I really love this song and its style. The track has a very 60s, classic rock vibe with a Beatles influence present. Interesting fact is that your former band The Flint Stones had a song titled “Be Mine (Happy By My Side)” that got the attention of the late, great George Harrison and Apple Records at the time. Jumping back to the present and your single “Jenny”, I’m dying to know; did George Harrison OR The Beatles have any major influence/impact on you when you recorded and performed this particular song?
Rhett May: This was the first song I ever wrote….. Totally inspired by the Beatles at the time….the feel and sound is indeed Sixties…because it was written in 1967.
J Rae: Who exactly is this “Jenny”? Is she a real person and if so why write a song about her?
Rhett May: Yeah…Jenny was a real person…. She was the daughter of the Hungarian Commissioner to India at the time…and she was shall we say ‘infatuated’ with me…… My mother would open our front door in the morning and go “Rhett…she’s sitting on the doorstep again” It was young love…first love….teenage love!! But…it never lasted…as the song goes…!!
J Rae: So I saw that your other single “Cocktails and Cannabis” on ‘Insatiable’ is doing extremely well with over 2.2 million views on YouTube and counting! So just want to say first congratulations on reaching that status as I’m sure that has to feel pretty darn good. Why do you think this specific song/video is so popular among viewers of Today?
Rhett May: “Cocktails and Cannabis” was a surprise actually…. It came out better than I expected….but I must say I absolutely LOOVE the GROOVE….still find myself singing it almost every day….it’s got one of those really catchy tunes….AND I FEEL THAT IT’S SIMPLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG…..I feel that with enough exposure it could be a mega hit……the soundtrack for a movie or TV series perhaps. Everyone out there can put their thinking caps on and throw me a contact or three if they think that it has the potential!! The ladies in the video definitely had a lot to do with the popularity on Youtube….I thought it was superbly put together as a piece on entertainment that is non-threatening….non-violent…and SEXY !
J Rae: The title track off of the EP, ‘Insatiable’, is a terrific number that offers such fine precision in the areas of vocal performance and acoustic guitar playing. The guitar parts on this track really stand out to me as being the true force behind the song. These were my favorite sections on ‘Insatiable’ and wondering if they were also yours and how did this idea come about originally?
Rhett May: The song started off with a totally different feel….more poppy than introspective. Stephen Wrench suggested we strip it away and simply sing it with emotion and passion…forget the quality of the voice….’FEEEL’ the lyric and just go for it….. The guitar work…you can hear the two acoustics working together…twisting…turning…linking and caressing each other throughout…beautiful work….and all mine! I’m kidding….by the way…I wish!! I love the song…it’s not very commercial and sounds pretty raw. Most people who hear it at first don’t give it enough time to get ‘inside’ their gut…their core….it’s a song that you need to listen to a few times before it dawns on you that WOW….here’s something deep that most of us at some stage in our lives have had the pleasure…the hurt…the twist in the lower belly….and if you care to remember…it’s still there???
J Rae: One other single I’d like to talk about that is not on the EP is called “Heaven or Hell”. This song had a very deep impact on me due to its sensitive, direct and even personal content. Lyrically you were definitely tapping into an emotion here and wonder what inspired you to write this song and what does it all mean?
Rhett May: Actually ‘Heaven or Hell’ is a song I wrote many, many years ago….you are right…it has a very deep and sensitive side to the lyric. In fact it’s all about someone in extreme emotional pain who doesn’t know which way to turn in life. Seriously contemplating suicide…but because of strong and heavy religious beliefs….questions where he/she would end up…..and….IS THERE something else out there as most of us believe.
J Rae: Early on in your music career you had the pleasure to open up and meet members of the iconic band Queen. What a feeling that must have been! What was going on in your head at that exact moment? And would you care to share with us any other stories that stand out to you about past music acts you may have opened for and met?
Rhett May: It was an exciting time in my life….opening/supporting a band like QUEEN in Perth, Australia. However we were leaving immediately after the gig for our Eastern States tour that the opportunity to catch up for more than around 20 minutes was a short one. A few words with Freddie and Brian May backstage…nothing meaningful…but it was nice to hear their compliments on our performance!!
J Rae: You have a passion for Rock & Roll that stems back to your childhood. What started this love of Rock Music and who did you listen to early on that really got your wheels turnin’?
Rhett May: It was people like Elvis Presley, Fabian, Ricky Nelson, the harmony groups like The Inkspots, who my father absolutely loved. Mum and Dad were always spinning records and dancing and singing….I guess it was inspiring to see them having so much fun…there was no TV or mobile phones around…and we always had fun together as a family….everyone would visit each other and we would have ‘get togethers’. I sang in the school choir…formed a trio with a couple of buddies…then was asked by the church to be part of The Flint Stones for a charity performance…and it took off from there!
J Rae: Staying with Rock & Roll, I’m not sure if you follow the goings on of the Rock & Roll of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio but they just announced the 2015 Inductees and the list includes: Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, Lou Reed, Green Day, Ringo Starr, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Bill Withers, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and The “5” Royales. What are your thoughts on these Hall of Fame inductees and any in particular that you’re a fan of? I feel that they definitely got it right on many of the acts, some a long time coming and one or two groups in particular I feel it is way too soon, so what is your opinion on that? And finally, so many other well-deserving artists, groups and important music figures still not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and curious as to who may be on your list of dodges?
Rhett May: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…WOW!! It seems so sad that more artists cannot be inducted…..the few that are inducted every year, certainly deserve every accolade that comes their way….it’s absolutely amazing what artists go through every day….physically and emotionally….to get their creativity heard. The pleasure that people receive from an artist’s blood, sweat and tears… (now there’s a great band)…is so huge, it’s immeasurable. And YET….we try to appropriate their works at every opportunity….without payment. Every artist…regardless of genre…who has ‘paid their dues’…deserves some form of recognition.
J Rae: You were born in India and later moved to Australia where you now reside. Do you incorporate both cultures into your music and how does this affect you as a musician/artist? Are you able to take it to places maybe other artists can’t because of your background?
Rhett May: It was exploited…nicely…in the sixties…by the psychedelic and ‘flower power’ movement….which opened up a huge crossover between pop/rock and Indian classical music….but unfortunately it didn’t last long enough for it to become an established genre. I personally love the potential the blending of both cultures have…and if I had more time, my passion would take me to studying the Indian Ragas and the sitar and incorporate all into more mainstream pop/rock/R&B…..I’m not a fan of what’s happening with the fusion called Bhangra…. My next album ‘Fast Cars & Sitars’ definitely has the ‘FEEL’ of a fusion/crossover in some of the songs. I think you…and hopefully millions who hear the album…will be pleasantly surprised
J Rae: Have you ever been to the United States and any plans of touring in the states? I for one would love to check out a Rhett May show and I know many of our Skope readers would too!
Rhett May: Oh sure…. I’ve been to the US many times…..Nope…haven’t toured or performed in public….but might do one day. To be honest Jimmy…these days I’m in a comfortable groove that allows me to write, record and jam whenever I want to…without the hassles of touring. I’ve become a bit of a recluse and enjoy my lifestyle enormously…but you never know….someone somewhere might tempt me into getting back on the road.
J Rae: What’s on the agenda next for Rhett May and what do you have to say to all of your fans out there?
Rhett May: As I mentioned earlier…..I’m nearly done with my new album ‘Fast Cars & Sitars’. Hopefully we’ll have a release date in a couple of months. Look out for what I feel will surprise everyone!! Thanks for taking the time to chat Jimmy. All the best. Rhett
By Jimmy Rae (firstname.lastname@example.org)