The Music Box (quickly becoming one of my fave venues) was aflutter last night, everyone waiting eagerly in anticipation for the grade A list lineup to get started. Whereas most L.A. kids show up fashionably late to shows, intentionally choosing to forego the opening acts and get there right in time for the main attraction, the Music Box was jam packed early- and when George Stanford started his slow onstage serenade, I could easily see why people in this semi-superficial city were leaving their egos behind to make being early a little cooler than fashionably late.
Stanford’s vocals were immediately soothing, and as the crowd was lulled into an enchanting entranced state, you could see that even the too cool for school kids loitering at the back of the venue were suddenly being pulled closer to the stage, under the spell of Stanford’s hypnotic voice.
In between soundchecks and other pre-performance venue regimes Stanford led me down a dark corridor and to the subterranean venue area designated for performers only. Fully aware that I may soon be face to face with the phantom of the opera in the area I’d never ventured too before, my somewhat seasoned expert and I sat down for a little preshow chat about what’s up for this not so new kid on the scene that L.A. will not be able to get enough of after tonight’s performance. (Note to reader, I was right- I expect the Hotel Café will be packed on January 30- care of George Stanford and his addictive song set!)
LN: You and Lissie sing the song “Don’t Be The One” together- was that written originally as a collaborative effort?
GS: Well I actually wrote the song, and my wife Nicole actually helped me finish the lyrics- and Lissie’s just kind of, the greatest female singer I know. So I called her up, and that’s kind of how she decided to do the song with me!
LN: Is that what led to doing a tour together?
GS: You know- we’re actually not doing too many tour dates together!
LN: So how’d you guys meet in the first place?
GS: It’s kind of an interesting story! My old band from Philadelphia, Townhall, we were on tour doing a show in Colorado, and I met her like ten years ago. So she came to our show and we just kind of hung out after the show and partied and had a really fun night. So years later I moved to L.A. and came to find out that she’s here, and dating a good friend of mine- so it’s just kind of a small world in this business!
LN: Yeah, very incestuous!
GS: It really is!
LN: So now how is the songwriting process different- or how has it evolved- since leaving Townhall and going solo?
GS: It’s kind of more selfish I guess- in a good way. I can just really cater the songs to my strong points. I don’t have to worry about other people’s opinions. I don’t know- in some ways it’s changed- in other ways it’s the exact same process for me.
LN: So the trombone was kind of your gateway drug into the music world at a young age- would you say you were more Glee, Empire Records, or Almost Famous?
GS: I’ve gotta say Almost Famous!
LN: Nice choice- and who would you die to have an Almost Famous moment with?
GS: That’s a tough question- it changes day to day. Maybe Paul Simon.
LN: Going along with that question- who would you say your main musical influences are?
GS: I grew up listening to a lot of classic R&B, Country, Blues, and Rock. Like the first tape I ever had was the soundtrack from the Big Chill- like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Creedence Clearwater Revival- so I think my sound really comes from those kinds of records.
LN: Definitely hear a little CCR in your music.
GS: Yeah cool! That kind of guitar style is close to my heart.
LN: Any pre-show vices or rituals?
GS: Hmm….I like to have vodka before I play. Not “drink,” but I lik to have a drink before I go onstage- kind of chill out a little bit.
LN: Any pump up music going on backstage before the show?
GS: You know, I’m making music so often that I really value my quiet time.
LN: Alright so you just finished your set- what’s it like backstage for George after the show?
GS: Oh man, strippers and blow.
LN: Oh of course- I don’t know why I even asked!
GS: Haha, no- it’s pretty mellow. I’m a pretty laid back guy so maybe a couple beers, good friends, a couple laughs.
LN: So you now live in L.A.- what’s been your favorite venue to play?
GS: The Music Box is pretty awesome- I’ve never played here before so this might be on the top of my list, we’ll see. I like playing the Troubadour a lot and Piano Bar, and Cranes which is now closed down- I loved playing there.
LN: You’re stranded on a deserted island and can only bring 3 CDs- go!
GS: That’s a tough one. Maybe Graceland, Paul Simon, Moondance, Van Morrison, and maybe Kenny Burrell, Round Midnight.
LN: Now how many instruments total do you play- because you play a few!
GS: Yeah, I play guitar, bass, keyboard, trombone.
LN: That’s enough to start a one man band!
LN: How’d you get started on the trombone- were your parents like here- go conquer the world, or did you decide?
GS: No you know I was really fortunate that my school had a great music program and in fourth grade when I was nine years old the music teachers come in and they show you all these instruments and I was like that one looks cool, it’s got this thing and it’s big and metal and shiny…
LN: Love at first site.
GS: Love at first site!
LN: Goals for twenty-eleven?
GS: Well I’m scoring a few movies. In 2010 I produced a lot of records for other people and I got to work with a lot of different people. So 2011 I really want to refocus my career on my original music, play a shit ton of shows, etc.
LN: So you’ll be playing locally a lot more?
GS: Yes definitely, and hopefully venture back out onto the road as well.
LN: Craziest/favorite show or tour story to date?
GS: I did a tour back in 2008 opening for Babyface- and it was an incredibly intimidating audience! It was like showtime at the Apollo for me every single night. I started the tour in Minneapolis just getting the shit heckled out of me- and I ended the tour in Chicago just feeling at the top of my game! Just playing for challenging audiences every night and just trying to win them over.
LN: So you didn’t have to up the amount of pre-show vodka then?
GS: No, no- I had to reduce!
LN: You have a song called “Meet me in L.A.”- that song must be really close to your heart, listening to the lyrics.
GS: Yeah- it’s just kind of about everyone comes to L.A. to follow their dreams, and kind of about dealing with that.
LN: Yeah- because you just kind of picked up and left Philly one day and ventured out here with…not much!
GS: Yeah, more or less, exactly. It was a big move, and challenging- but I’m glad I did it!
LN: Closing remarks to friends and fans?
GS: Just….I love you!
Stanford’s show was absolutely more than I had anticipated, and even though after listening to his songs in preparation for that evening’s performance, I found that seeing him live only amplified the beauty of the intricate songs- weaving through them like a skilled driver able to effortlessly navigate his way between cars on the always jam-packed 405. To keep updated on the latest and greatest with the solo singer you can feel free to cyberstalk him at www.myspace.com/georgestanford !
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