Gregg, numerous musicians have found spiritual inspiration though yours came as a result of your miraculous healing. How did your New York area upbringing still play a part in the music writing process?
I live in Norwalk now, but I didn’t grow up in the NY metro area. I actually moved from Philly to this area in 1999 after my band Shovelhead was dropped by A&M Records about a year or so before. I was the lead singer and lead guitarist in Shovelhead for about 8 years, and we got to open for some pretty cool bands… Fugazi, Goo Goo Dolls, Godflesh, fIREHOSE, Dread Zeppelin, to name a few. We got picked up by A&M during this time and they paid for us to record an entire album, but things fizzled out shortly after we completed the project. That kinda took the wind out of the sails of the band so we all went our separate ways. I moved up here to take an internet job in White Plains and that income helped me build my own recording studio where I started writing a whole batch of new songs. During that time, I started having these weird symptoms and it took two years for me to get diagnosed with Lyme Disease. That whole experience brought on a whole set of new tunes.
But to answer your original question about upbringing… a friend of mine turned me onto Deep Purple at an early age and from the years of 12 to about 16, the only records I owned were by Deep Purple. I became a pretty big Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan geek. Later on I branched out into liking Black Sabbath, Rush, UFO, Sweet, Robin Trower… as well as some great soul stuff by Al Green, The Temptations, Eddie Kendricks, and Curtis Mayfield. It was kind of a weird blend of influences… British invasion meets American Soul, but if you listen to the songs on this release (“Obrigado”), you’ll be able to hear some of those ingredients in each tune.
It appears you believe that your music has a healing effect on those who hear it. All jokes aside, how much added pressure then is there during the writing process?
Well, I didn’t get the idea that the music I was writing had ANY kind of effect on anyone until after it was recorded, and I don’t want to make too big of a deal about that. I guess I should put a warning label on the side of the CD like they have on vitamin bottles… “this product is not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any disease”… Ha! The idea came to me after I noticed that I started feeling different… even better… after listening to the finished songs. I played early drafts of the tunes for my friends and they told me there was something about the new tunes that made them feel happy. During the healing process for Lyme, I started investigating a lot of alternative medicines and there’s a whole field out there where practitioners are using sound frequencies to manifest healing changes in people. Not to get too metaphysical, but our physical bodies are made up of certain energies that vibrate (just ask a reiki, yoga, or acupuncture practitioner), so if you listen to certain tones that vibrate in a certain way, it can have a physical effect on you. I actually use tingsha chimes, which are Buddhist prayer or meditation cymbals, on the title track of the CD so I’ve intentionally created tones that will resonate well with listeners.
We’ve all listened to music to make us feel better when we’re feeling down… well, we’re doing that for a reason! Music can actually help change the way we feel.
You will be returning to Brazil to meet with John of God this month, which will be filmed as part of a documentary, will you also be working with others who have been healed by John?
I’ve already been to Brazil and back a second time… I went in March and we did some filming. The week that I returned, Oprah Winfrey actually went there to interview John of God and go through the whole experience. I have friends who work down there and they say she was pretty moved by it all. She said she couldn’t explain what she had seen and felt but that it was powerful and it was good.
One person I hope to work with is Dr. Wayne Dyer. For some of your readers who don’t know, he’s a pretty well-known spiritual guru who talks about the power of positive thinking and intention, and about two years ago he was diagnosed with leukemia. After having a psychic surgery with John of God two Aprils ago, he is now completely healed. I actually met Dr. Dyer at the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, NY last September and I gave him a CD of two songs that would eventually become a part of the “Obrigado” CD. He mentioned that our meeting was no coincidence and there was a reason I had given him the CD and we’d just have to see what that was. We’ll see!
In the meantime, I’m working with a few people who work at the healing center in Brazil as well as a few others who have gotten healed by John of God. They’ll be in the documentary in some shape or form and their stories are even more amazing than mine.
Have others who have worked with John of God followed your music, if so are any of them musicians? Any collaborations planned?
Several people who have been through the John of God experience are following the music. The song “Obrigado” (which means “thank you” in Portuguese which is John of God’s native language), is really about that experience and it’s good to hear the positive feedback from people who hear that song in particular and who have been through it. I have met a few musicians there and I’m trying to plan some remote recording where I get some of these people to collaborate on some upcoming songs. Good question.
Lyme Disease is prevalent in the north east, how much of your touring/promotions is to raise awareness for the disease? Many people don’t know that Lyme Disease is the fastest-growing infectious disease in the country, and there’s a lot of misunderstanding and controversy about its diagnosis and treatment. What doctors are finding out is that chronic Lyme, in particular, is a combination of infections that makes it really difficult to treat with a single drug… and it can take years. So early diagnosis is really important, and raising awareness that people should go to a Lyme-educated doctor if they’ve gotten a tick bite of any kind is kind of a mission of mine.
To touch upon the song writing process again, what is the process like when you are back here in the states?
A lot of the inspiration has started in Brazil but luckily that carries over when I return home. I feel like a door of creativity has been unlocked in me and I simply have to make myself available to the inspiration. I never need to force it… it always comes. Not usually at the most convenient times, but luckily with voice memo recording on cell phones now, I can be driving in the car and when the inspiration strikes, I can take a few minutes to record the ideas that come pouring in. I’m in awe of this process. I really feel like half of the songs on this recent CD weren’t even written by me. There were simply downloaded into me and I recorded them. The style of writing and the lyrics aren’t like anything I’ve done in the past, so I really don’t know where it all came from.