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BWW Interview: Grammy-Winning Guitarist Laurence Juber on Whitefire, VERY BRADY & Hope

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BWW Interview: Grammy-Winning Guitarist Laurence Juber on Whitefire, VERY BRADY & Hope

Guitarist Laurence Juber, with a musical resume longer than your arm, will play his first full-length concert since the beginnings of our stay-home orders in AN EVENING WITH Laurence Juber, a virtual benefit for Whitefire Theatre June 13, 2020. LJ graciously took some time for this interview between his prepping a musical Broadway-bound and making musical musings with Hope, his wife and frequent collaborator.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, LJ! Is it ok for me to call you LJ?

LJ is fine, thanks.

How did you first get connected with the Whitefire Theatre for this virtual concert?

We go back more than decade with Bryan Rasmussen and The Whitefire - my wife Hope and I launched IT'S THE HOUSEWIVES! and WITHOUT ANNETTE in the space.

Is Whitefire one of the first in your series of benefit concerts?

It's the first in their series. I'm hoping that it kicks off some more virtual concert activity for me. I've been doing regular mini-concerts on Facebook Live from my studio. It's a great way to keep myself in musical shape and provide some pro bono entertainment. This is the first show where I'm doing a full concert set, since I stopped touring in March.

Have you figured out your set for your June 13th concert? Will we be hearing your Grammy-winning take on "The Pink Panther Theme"?

"Pink Panther" is one of the tunes that I've revisited recently. I have a concert set that is structured, but flexible, with a number of tunes that are audience and personal favorites. I've done four albums of arrangements of Beatles tunes, so there will be a handful of those. I regularly visit the "Great American Songbook," plus there are a number of my original compositions. I tell some stories, engage with the audience - it's a show, rather than a recital.

Your Grammy for "The Pink Panther Theme" was your second Grammy. Can you take us back to the night when you won your first Grammy with Paul McCartney and Wings?

BWW Interview: Grammy-Winning Guitarist Laurence Juber on Whitefire, VERY BRADY & HopeTotally unmemorable... We were distracted by Paul's infamous 1980 cannabis bust in Japan, and nobody told the band we had been nominated. I found out later in London, when a box arrived in the mail with a Grammy inside. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what it was! The second time was more fun, being there...

What cosmic forces brought your talents together with Paul McCartney and Wings?

After I graduated from London University, where I studied music and musicology, I became a studio guitarist, fulfilling my teenage aspirations. One of the more memorable projects was playing the score for The Spy Who Loved Me.

I worked with Wings' Denny Laine on a TV show with English pop star David Essex, and Denny recommended me to Paul and Linda. As it turned out, I 'fit the suit'...

Cosmically, some substantial gears must have been in motion: I joined Wings a month after my father passed away in '78, and I met my wife Hope in New York the day after Wings officially folded in April '81.

Beyond the obvious thrill of working with a Beatle, it was an education, a 'Masters in Music' from McCartney University.

When you were first hired to do studio work, was the emphasis for you to, besides play well, to blend in?

To be professional: have the right gear, attitude, musicianship and, in time, experience. Most of all, understanding musical style.

Today, at this stage of your career, do you get hired for studio work to bring your own sound?

Studio work is more than the sound, it's also the 'feel' and the creativity. Between the versatility, professionalism and sight-reading ability, it gave me a career.

Outside of my own projects, I do very little studio work these days. I had many years of TV, movie and record dates, playing on the scores to Roseanne, Home Improvement, 7th Heaven, Pocahontas, Good Will Hunting and Dirty Dancing, among many others. Additionally, I've composed for TV, movies and video games, as well as working with Hope on her comedy rock band The Housewives, and the stage musical that developed from that.

BWW Interview: Grammy-Winning Guitarist Laurence Juber on Whitefire, VERY BRADY & HopeTypically, I get hired to play fingerstyle acoustic guitar, which is the center of my artistic identity, but I still play electric guitar and, until the shutdown, was playing around L.A. with my friends T Bear & Root 66 - a killer ten-piece band.

You must have established early on a reputation of a musician with solid technique as you played all different genres of music for Seal, Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, Sylvie Vartan. Can you remember you very first time in the studio as a studio musician?

My first album session was in London, for the British jazz singer Cleo Laine. I was a sight-reading veteran of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, but a novice in the studio. The producer was the Beatles studio guru, George Martin who put me at ease. He certainly set the bar high when it came to my experiences with producers.

I'm not really a technician - it's a means to an end. My technique takes me where I need to be musically. I understand musician style and function, which is a foundation of my work as a composer too.

What gives you more satisfaction? Hearing a live audience applauding after your solo? Or successfully laying down a complicated track in the studio?

Being truly in the musical moment is satisfying whether on stage or in the studio. Parallel with my studio work, I've had a long career as a concert soloist, so there's plenty of 'sense memory' of enthusiastic audiences.

Among the challenges of the virtual stage is that there is no applause, and there's no audience ambience to direct the performance. Performing in a theatre after some months of Facebook Live sessions in my studio will be a refreshing change of pace.

We've already acknowledged that your music covers all styles of music - folk, jazz, blues, pop, classical. What type of music do you play in the comfort of your home to soothe your own soul?

It's all the same - playing guitar is balm for the soul, whatever the style. Hope and I do a lot of work together - she's my creative partner and producer.

Hope is the daughter of Brady and Gilligan creator Sherwood Schwartz and has a background in theatre, performance and comedy writing. When I play at home, there's typically some exploration and improv.

BWW Interview: Grammy-Winning Guitarist Laurence Juber on Whitefire, VERY BRADY & HopeHope might call a tune and I'll whip up an instant arrangement. There's always a sense of the 'humor' of the work, the creative space and dimension: when the elements combine into something guitaristically, musically, dramatically cool, with enough pop culture resonance to perhaps have a life of its own, whether live or in the streaming ecosystems.

Beyond my guitar playing, we spend a lot of creative time in our studio together. We are currently polishing our score to A VERY BRADY MUSICAL, in anticipation of a production and tour, after a successful reading in New York last year.

How hands-on are you in the creation of your signature orchestra model OM guitars? Do you try out the latest guitar model before it makes its' first manufacturing run?

Martin Guitars have been around since 1833, and have quite a history. It's an honor to be associated with them. I took the basic design of their early 30's orchestra model and customized it to suit my style. We started with a prototype and it evolved from there. After almost 20 years, my needs require a custom shop build, so it's no longer in regular production.

Is there any musician that you haven't played with/for that you'd loved to collaborate with?

That's a long list - too long to quote...

Thank you again, LJ! I look forward to hearing your concert June 13th!

For tickets for this one-night only benefit for Whitefire Theatre, log onto www.eventbrite.com/e/an-evening-with-laurence-juber-tickets-106509914020


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From This Author Gil Kaan