On the Road with Alastair Greene

Alastair Greene is a musician who currently resides in Austin, Texas but was originally born in Santa Barbara, California. He considers himself more of a rocker than a blues musician, but he draws heavily from blues music in his unique blues rock style. His biggest musical influences include Johnny Winter, The Three Kings (BB, Freddie, Albert King), the Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, and Peter Green.

Alastair’s love for music began at a young age when he received his first instrument, a violin, in third grade. He then moved on to the saxophone, bass, and finally guitar. He discovered blues music through rock music, and his passion for the genre only grew from there. Alastair picked up a guitar and never looked back, evolving into the blues rock musician he is today.

Alastair recently kicked off an eight city tour in Kansas City to play songs from his album, The New World Blues. The set his band played was a blend of southern blues and southern California rock, and the audience loved it. Alastair is not only a talented musician but also a personable one. He worked the merch booth himself, shared a laugh, and shook hands with fans. Alastair is a musical aficionado and cavalier all the same.

Allison Scavo caught up with Greene on the road.

AS: Who are you really influenced by? People that you look up to?

AG: There’s so many. It really kind of depends on what part of blues and blues rock history you’re talking about. I mean, I love a lot of the old, I guess more traditional sounding stuff, the Chicago Blues as well as like guys like the Three Kings, BB and Freddie and Albert. I love all that, and that’s influential as far as what I do from the rocking side of things that comes from Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule and Johnny Winter. I’ve been doing a trio for a long time, so, the famous power trios like Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix Experience, or early Stevie Ray Vaughan kind of stuff. And Gary Moore is a big inspiration as well. I’m a big Peter Green fan from Fleetwood Mac. I mean, it’s hard to kind of nail down like who my favorite guy would be. I’ve sure studied a lot of those guys and a lot of their things. And then, and over the years, just trying to kind of come up with my version of what I love about all of them.

AS: I really love that. I really appreciate that you do. Pretty much everyone that you just said into your own thing. I’ve been a fan for a long time and I’m personally influenced by you, so it’s nice to know who influences you. Tell me about when you got your very first instrument. 

AG: My very, very, very first instrument I made a feeble attempt at playing violin in third grade and then after that I took piano lessons for a few years. My mom had a piano growing up and I played saxophone actually for quite some. So that was kind of my first instrument was the saxophone, but I played all the way through, you know, junior high and high school in my first year of City College. But when I started playing guitar, I actually played bass a little bit before I played guitar. But when I started playing guitar, I think I was a freshman in high school. And that was really kind of when I was like, I mean, I always loved music and I knew I wanted to play it and I loved listening to it and stuff, but I wasn’t listening to a lot of like saxophone music. I started listening to my mom’s record collection, like Beatles and Stevie Wonder and stuff, but I started when I found my music originally, it was like hard rock, you know? So I was into Van Halen and Ozzy and yeah, iron Maiden and stuff and then I discovered blues and I was kind of starting to play guitar at that time. And so I kind of started off a hard rock player and I still have a lot of that in my playing, but I got turned on to a lot of the guys that I just mentioned, and that’s when everything kind of made sense to me. So it’s kind of hard to answer like my first instrument, cuz it’s technically… a violin when I was, yeah, 6 years old or something. But it’s a progression.

Alastair Greene

AS: Were you introduced to blues or did you discover blues? 

AG: I was kind of introduced to it a few different ways. When I was taking guitar lessons early on, my first teacher was like, well, if you wanna play rock and roll, you gotta listen to Freddie King, Hendrix and stuff. And, and so I kind of was exposed to it a little bit then. And then a friend of my dad’s loaned me some records and it was, BB King Live at The Regal and a Buddy Guy record and some Allman Brothers and stuff. And that’s when I kind of like started making the connection about like, oh, I really like the way that Jimmy Page plays. Oh, well Jimmy Page is getting all that stuff from these guys. Right? Really the way Eddie Van Halen plays guitar and Eddie Van Halen got a lot of his stuff from guys that got their stuff from Booth. Everything started to make sense when I got turned onto the blue stuff.

AS: Where are you from originally?

AG: I’m originally from Southern California. I was raised in a town called Santa Barbara, which is north of Los Angeles and pretty much lived there. I went to school in Boston for a couple years. I went to the Berkeley College of Music just for a couple years and then I moved back to Southern California, and I started playing in bands in the early ’90s and then I moved to Austin last year just to kind of take a whack at living in a real music town and being closer to where the touring is. When it comes to touring and playing this kind of music, it’s really the Midwest and it’s basically from the Mississippi River to the eastern seaboard. You know, once you start getting west of that, the, the towns are fewer and yes, farther between. And, and I didn’t really make that correlation for a, a while, but there is, at a certain point it was just like, man, I’m starting to get more gigs and doing a little more touring and driving. Two or three days to where the first gig is at is, it’s just a long way to go. Hotels and gas. So being in Austin’s a little better. I mean, Kansas City’s a great location for the music. It’s pretty central, St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville. I mean, those are all the places where they’re music cities, first of all. And then they’re also in the center of kind of the touring.

AS: When you first recorded your live album what was the motivation behind it?

AG: I just put out the studio record that I was supporting that was, that Tab (Benoit) had produced and so when Tab does a record for his label, he tends to play drums on the album, and his bass player plays bass. So when that artist goes out on tour to support the record with him, he plays drums and stuff. And so I just put the record out in October, 2020. So it was still during kind of lockdown and stuff and I saw my first tour with Tab was May, 2021, and we actually did five nights in a row in Chicago at the City Winery and so that’s where it was recorded. So I actually got to listen to five nights worth of material and kind of pick the best stuff. Okay. So the record is 10 songs and it’s accumulated from five nights of recording, so that’s beautiful.

AS: Yeah. I love that. 

AG: Yeah. So that’s awesome. So, it gave me a chance to kind of pick versions. There was a few songs we did every night, and then there was a few, we did, you know, just a couple of nights. And so I just tried to kind of grab the best versions and and stuff.

AS: Yeah. It’s almost like a Dick’s Picks for the Grateful Dead, right. The best of live was used to make a new album. 

AG: Yeah. So that’s the best, it’s the best of the five night stand in Chicago.

AS: Oh, that’s phenomenal. I love that. 

AG: Yeah. And then I will be back out on tour in April with tab I’ll be going out with him mostly kind of like the south and in the southeast I guess. And then we’re gonna do another tour, I think in June with my band and try and get back out. The East coast, and then maybe sometime later this summer, we’ll see. Maybe we can come back to Kansas City when it’s not, I mean this isn’t bitter cold, but for me, this is fairly cold.

AS: Yeah, it’s a lot. My dad’s a truck driver and he tells me people think that when you travel you get to go to all these exotic places, but really it’s just a lot of fields.

AG: Right. Well, it depends on where you go. When you have a day off somewhere, you can go and get out and go and see stuff, but yeah, typically it’s drive and hotel and venue and hotel and go do it again and that’s fine. It’s all good. You get to see a lot of pretty scenery along the way and I used to tour with Alan Parsons for seven years. And I did that for a little bit. And so we wouldn’t do tons of shows in a row and some of ’em we’d fly in and have a day off somewhere. So I actually got to see a lot of places when I was doing that. But for doing this with my band it’s driving and occasionally there’s a day off and you don’t want to go crazy on the day off, but at the same time you want to see something. Or if I can, for example, if I had a day in Kansas City, I probably want to go, I’d ask, you know, everybody about their favorite barbecue restaurant, which I’ve done. I’ve gotten to have a lot of great food here, so I’ve had a lot of great food. But you know, when you have a day off somewhere that’s famous for something. Yes. Sometimes it’s cool to go do. I’ve been lucky. I don’t have tons of horror stories, really. I mean, I know guys that have had, you know, vehicles break down or things stolen or yeah, blah, blah, blah. And so I’m, knock on wood, been fortunate. I’m not a young man anymore, so I mean, I have to try and take care of myself and sleep and not carry on all night. Get the rest and try and eat healthy and that kind of stuff.

AS: So, you mentioned Alan Parsons, you were the talk of the teacher’s lounge today with Alan Parsons Project. 

AG: Well, we played Kansas City a couple times when I was playing with him. It was a while ago. I left the band in 2017, so I think we played here in 2015 and 16 maybe. We played here a couple different places. We played a casino gig here. Maybe another gig. I know we played here at least once when I was playing with Alan. I dig it. Kansas City’s awesome. There’s such a great music scene here too. I’m friends with a lot of the musicians from here. I love Danielle Nicole Band and her guitar player, Brandon. I think they’re fantastic. Obviously Samantha Fish is from here. Levee town, I’ve, I’ve actually sat in with him one time on a Sunday Jam.

AS: So what was your biggest motivator for the blues? 

AG: I loved the music and I loved how it had influenced rock and roll. And so I would never claim to be like a blues musician. I’m an enormous blues fan. And I try to Blues the best I can, but I’m a rock guy.

AS: I can appreciate that. 

AG: And so I play blues rock, or rock. However you wanna say it. And I respect the guys that started this music so much and I’m just trying to kind of pay respect to them. And at the same time, just kind of be honest to myself, like I said, I’ve heard Eddie Van Halen, but before I heard Howlin’ Wolf. That’s just in my DNA as a musician. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t still love Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and all those guys and respect the hell out of him and, and have that music, you know, influenced me as well.

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